Templated sound, disappointing vocals

Running riot:A still from Sonchiriya special arrangement  

With the exception of his last film – the crime drama from 2016, Udta Punjab – director Abhishek Chaubey has always handed the composing duties for his films to Vishal Bhardwaj. In Sonchiriya , the pair reunites, though without lyricist Gulzar – Chaubey retains Varun Grover from his Udta Punjab crew for this one. Last year, was kind of a mixed bag for Bhardwaj, with a few memorable songs among the two movies he did, but also a bunch of mediocre ones. Let’s see if he’s bounced back with Sonchiriya .

Monotonous vocals

A Twitter friend made an observation last week (before the release of Sonchiriya’s music) about the pattern that Vishal’s soundtracks have fallen into of late – in terms of the choice of genres and singers – which has made the prospect of a new album from the veteran less exciting of late. It’s unfortunate, that Sonchiriya ’s soundtrack pretty much sticks to Vishal template for most part. The song where that monotony has the most detrimental effect is the folksy dance track sung by Sukhwinder Singh and Rekha Bhardwaj, ‘ Naina Na Maar ’. While Singh’s singing reminds of you of the multiple similar numbers that he’s rendered, even Rekha sounds out of sorts, and not just in this song. Singh’s other song is a better affair – ‘ Saanp Khavega ’ has great potential, marked by powerful lines from Grover, and a momentous, almost eerie orchestration (Budapest Film Orchestra at work). But sadly, the end product falls short of anything worth writing home about.

Ruan Ruan ’ checks the “pensive melody” box, formerly handled by the composer himself but taken over by Arijit Singh in recent soundtracks. This is however a case where the quality of the song lifts it above the déjà vu aspect, to make it a winner. Arijit is in good form, delivering Grover’s neatly written verse, but it is the arrangement – the guitars (Ankur Mukherjee, Dhruv Visvanath and bassist Saurabh Suman) interspersed with that whistle hook shadowing the ‘ Ruan Ruan ’ refrain – that really drew me to the song.

Unrealised potential

Another number that had the making of a terrific piece, but doesn’t quite get there is the title song. The composition is something of a surprise to begin with – a gentle, lullaby-ish cadence at complete odds with the fierceness that dominated the film’s promos. The interlude features a lovely classical-flavoured solo on the guitar (played almost like a slide guitar) by Chintoo Singh. It’s the vocals that let the song down – Rekha sounds better here than she did in ‘ Naina ’, but is still nowhere close to her best.The Budapest Film Orchestra joins in the party in the song’s reprise version and the backdrop gets more elaborate. The singing though, disappoints yet again, but I will take this version for the sweeping instrumental passages by the orchestra. This version of the song occasionally takes me back to the composer’s brilliant ‘ Shaaradendu ’ that he composed for the Malayalam movie Daya (1998).

Baaghi Re ’ is the track that actually feels like the film’s theme song. The rock-flavoured arrangement follows along the lines of other songs in the genre, that Vishal has created in the past, except with a touch of the Wild West in keeping with the film’s Chambal settings. The decision to hand vocal duties to the folk powerhouse Mame Khan helps escape the tedium to an extent, as he brings in his brand of improvisations to the rendition. The song has another version, and given the current trend, it’s a welcome change to have the remix in the same album. The Groove Room Producers’ spruced-up arrangement, is nicely done, though I prefer the touch of hinterland in the original.

Sonchiriya’ s album is uncharacteristically middling fare from Vishal, that feels particularly ordinary coming on the back of two recent soundtracks – Gully Boy in Hindi and Kumbalangi Nights in Malayalam, both of which are exceptional.