British dreams, Punjabi tunes

October 18, 2018 12:00 am | Updated 04:17 am IST

The Namastey London album would have scaled a musical high with better selection of vocalists, says Vipin Nair

Return vehicle:The Namaste England album is a commendable comeback from Mannan Shaahspecial arrangement

Return vehicle:The Namaste England album is a commendable comeback from Mannan Shaahspecial arrangement

Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s 2007 hit Namastey London gets a sequel of sorts after 11 years with a total overhaul in its cast. The director also goes for a change on the musical front, replacing Himesh Reshammiya and Salim Sulaiman with Mannan Shaah (who debuted with a movie Shah produced) and Badshah. Javed Akhtar, who penned most of the songs for the 2007 film, is retained as one of the lyricists.

Mixed bag of tunes

Guest composer Badshah gets two songs in Namaste England – both adaptations of older Punjabi pop songs. First up is one of his own, ‘Proper Patola’, one among the earliest hits in the rapper’s career. And I quite like what he has done with the song here – increasing the tempo and introducing a more engaging reggaeton-esque groove. Diljit Dosanjh’s lead portions in the original version are reduced in favour of Aastha Gill who gets a new set of lines to sing. For his other song, he picks up a Rishi Rich composition from his album The Project – ‘Bhare Baazaar’ . Once again the lyrics get a tad modified, with Hinglish elements replacing some of the Punjabi bits, apart from the rap. It is not just the song that borrows from an older version, even Badshah’s remix elements seem to occasionally reference his own ‘ Kaala Chashma ’ remix from 2016. While the song does benefit from the better production value (original came out in 2006) and the vocal replacements (Vishal Dadlani and Payal Dev), it still is something of a mediocre affair.

In musical form

The rest of the album belongs to Mannan Shaah, making his third Bollywood appearance as composer, after a promising (largely owing to one song) Commando and its disappointing sequel. This time round, he has a veteran lyricist on his side. In the raag hameer influenced qawwali ‘ Tu Meri Main Tera ’ he gets Rahat Fateh Ali Khan on vocals. Except that with all the processing, Khan sounds far from appealing. It’s only when Shadab and Altamash Faridi join him around the choral portions that the vocal department gets a boost. It’s a pity, because the composition is really nice otherwise, once again bringing to the fore the composer’s skill with raga-based pieces. In the breezy ‘ Tere Liye ’ too, the vocals present a bit of a downer with Atif Aslam being the man introducing a déjà vu element. The improvement is owed to Akanksha Bhandari’s brief chiming in for the second half. The number boasts of a fabulous arrangement from the composer again, especially in the interludes.

In the immersive ‘ Ziddi Hai Dil ’ (loosely based on raag khamaaj), the composer gets behind the mic. The rendition is not without flaws, but Shaah manages a passable delivery even as the orchestration proves to be the highlight once again. It is in his last two songs that the composer gets his choice of vocalist spot on as well, making these two numbers my favourites of the album. The sensual jazzy ‘ Kya Kahoon Jaaneman ’ offers a lovely retro throwback, led by Shashaa Tirupati’s spectacular rendition of Javed Akhtar’s finely worded lines. While Dabbu’s guitar work finds fabulous usage throughout the song, it is Inapakurti D Rao’s saxophone that wonderfully accentuates the song’s seductive feel for the duration that it comes into play. ‘ Dhoom Dhadakka ’ is the surprise package, appearing to be a regular Punjabi dance track at the outset but turning out to be a nuanced composition, carrying shades of raag miyan malhar. Leading the singing is the incredible Shahid Mallya. The composer features Omkar Dhumal’s shehnai in splendid fashion in the backdrop – it is only the second interlude that sits a bit odd, but that’s just a minor quibble. The Namaste England album is a commendable comeback from Shaah that would have been more tuneful with a better choice of vocalists.

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