2015, the year of indie invasion

The experimental redefined the conventional as soundtracks pushed the envelope.

December 26, 2015 12:30 am | Updated 11:19 am IST

Indie took over Bollywood Dibakar Banerjee set his stylish period movie on the iconic dhoti-clad Bengali detective against an explosive indie soundtrack. With leading indie names playing genres ranging as wide as funk, electropop, nu metal, hip hop and Hindustani classical, the sheer anachronism of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! made it the most experimental soundtrack of the year. Banerjee didn’t overuse it but amped up certain scenes. Such as ‘Jaanam’, that Hemant Kumar-style oldie sung with a drunken irreverence by Peter Cat Recording frontman Suryakant Sawhney. Accompanying images of Sushant Singh Rajput looking out of the tram window into a bustling North Calcutta street from the ’40s made for a great opening sequence.

Bengali musician Anupam Roy brought his indie, singer-songwriter sensibilities to the largely song-less Piku . While his comforting, breezy ‘Journey Song’, ‘Teri Meri Baatein’, ‘Lamhe Guzar Gaye’ and ‘Bezubaan’ grew, the standout track didn’t feature in the album — the sarod theme of Piku played by Prattyush Banerjee.

The songs of Masaan , a fine collaboration between Indian Ocean and lyricist Varun Grover, felt like a breath of fresh air. While ‘Tu Kisi Rail Si’ spoke a new language, ‘Mann Kasturi Re’, a signature Indian Ocean composition, became a meditation on “life, death and everything in between”.

The tragedy of the Bombay Velvet album The best album of the year was also the most underappreciated, falling victim to the film’s disastrous fate at the box office. The Dev. D team of Anurag Kashyap-Amit Trivedi and Amitabh Bhattacharya gave us something we hadn’t heard before — Hindi jazz. Whether it was ‘Aam Hindustani’ or Darbaan, Trivedi extracted Salil Chowdhury-like melodic depth from big-band jazz, while Bhattacharya skilfully brought alcohol prohibition and the sensational Nanavati murder case to quasi-philosophical lyric writing that invoked Sahir Ludhianvi. It was Neeti Mohan, though, who was the real surprise channelling “Nina Simone meets Asha Bhonsle” through her vocal artistry, nailing it with the intoxicating ‘Mohabbat Buri Bimari’, the devastating ‘Dhadam Dhadam’ and the dramatic ‘Sylvia’.

Imtiaz Ali. A.R. Rahman. Irshad Kamil. Period. A lesser album than the trio’s previous Rockstar and Highway but the music of Tamasha was a slave to its narrative — or was it the other way round? The music worked much better as a post-movie experience. Like their other work, Tamasha was a rich audiovisual treat, the lyric, music and images deeply connected and realised with imagination and a madness that we now associate with Ali. Especially outstanding was ‘Chali Kahani’ that got into the mind of a fickle storyteller. While Kamil brought in Kansa-Vasudev, Mughal-e-Azam and Helen of Troy in the same paragraph and Rahman seamlessly changed gears, Ali created the most dazzlingly beautiful opening credits in Hindi cinema this year.

Old-fashioned but not outdated With a musical filmmaker at the helm, and a talented composer-lyricist duo in Krsna Solo and Raj Shekhar, Tanu Weds Manu Returns had some of the year’s warmest melodies with ‘Old School Girl (Haryanvi version)’ and ‘Ho Gaya Hai Pyaar’, although it was the incredibly catchy folk number ‘Banno Tera Swagger’ recreated by Tanishq-Vayu that broke the charts. The unexpected appearance of the Geeta Dutt oldie ‘Ja Ja Ja Bewafa’, playing from a distant radio in a small-town beauty parlour, was an instance of how a song can elevate a scene, an instance of how Hindi film songs become the soundtracks of our lives.

M.M. Kreem is the best composer from the South that Hindi film music never had. The man who gave us the enduring songs from Criminal, Jism and Paheli created the perfect soundtrack for the epic, fable-like Baahubali . The goosebumps-inducing ‘Dheevara’ — set to a mindboggling sequence of a waterfall climb — captured our imagination; other standout tracks were the fun and frivolous ‘Manohari’ and the compelling Baahubali theme.

It’s uncool to like anything associated with Himesh Reshammiya today. But Reshammiya, the composer, along with lyric writer for all seasons, Irshad Kamil, reminded us of the pleasures of popular Hindi film music with two solid tracks from Prem Ratan Dhan Payo — the infectious title track where he went full blast ’90s-tabla-dholak and the joyously old-fashioned ‘Prem Leela’.

There are few filmmakers as musical as Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who took one step forward in taking full control over his ambitious audiovisual canvas in Bajirao Mastani . While the powerful ‘Gajanana’ amplified a crucial sequence to a great extent, it was the left-out-from-album Bajirao theme, the war cry-like chant ‘Ji Ji Re Baji Ji Ji’, that gives the film an electrifying energy. The album favourites included ‘Deewani Mastani’, ‘Ab Toh Jaane Na Doongi’, ‘Mohe Rang Do Laal’ and ‘Aaj Ibadat’.

Special mention Ilaiyaraja brought a retro coolness to Balki’s Shamitabh , yielding interesting results.

Sachin-Jigar, although largely underwhelming this year, showed flashes of brilliance in the riotous ‘Happy Birthday’ from ABCD 2 and the haunting ‘Judai’ from Badlapur .

Arijit Singh is a phenomenon that refuses to fade away. Practically singing in every film, for every composer, and every star this year, Singh had his finest hour as he sang for Trivedi, Rahman.

Mohit Chauhan role-played Dev Anand mouthing a Kishore Kumar song in the last act of ‘Matargashti’ from Tamasha .

Pritam and lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya continue to have some nonsensical fun, that started with ‘Pungi’ and ‘Badtameez Dil’, with ‘Afghan Jalebi’ and ‘Tukur Tukur’ (that bizarrely got replaced by a newer version before the release of Dilwale ).

The album of Dum Laga Ke Haisha for the audacious mix of ’90s Bollywood and indie — Kumar Sanu, Papon, Anu Malik and Varun Grover. While the results were mixed, it gave us ‘Moh Moh Ke Dhaage’, one of the year’s earworms.

sankhayan.ghosh@thehindu.co.in

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