Shantanu Moitra composed some good melodies for Shoojit Sircar's maiden directorial film, Yahaan, so we expect a progression in quality since they have come back together.
Sadly, the soundtrack disappoints – in more ways than just one. To enumerate in order from greater to lesser, the four music tracks 'Madras Cafe Theme', 'Conspiracy', 'Entry To Jaffna' and the 'Title Theme' (hello, isn't the title of the film Madras Cafe, for which we just heard a theme?) rob the soundtrack of a lot of its audio appeal. There is nothing distinctive in this (background) music, not in the orchestration, nor in the emotional expression quotient. Let us not forget that good background stirs, moves, inspires and rouses, when it is not cheering or soothing us.
If any local flavour is there in the music, as the film is based in the '80s in Sri Lanka, it is sadly not heard here in these four tracks – and we certainly cannot relish so much of background scoring in an audio album of the film's soundtrack.
The 'Madras Café Theme' attempts some fusion in a 'modern' way, while Monali Thakur exhibits some emotional alaaps (that sound more Western than Indian) in the 'Conspiracy' track.
Less disappointing and a shade more melodic is 'Ajnabee' (written and sung by Zebunissa Bangash, as Zeb). Again incongruous to the film's setting like all the songs, it further suffers because of silly lyrics like 'Gar Faasle Darmiyaan Na Pad Gaye / Isska Kya Gham / Tham Loon, Peeche Se Gar Main Tujhe / To Mudke Milein, Phir Ek Ho Hum'. Ho-hum is right! Zeb's voice is sweet and supple, clearly meant for better stuff, if she sings deeper than here, that is.
Papon's lead track, 'Sun Le Re' (written by Ali Hayat Rizvi) treads familiar Sufi-ana territory, complete with the omnipresent term maula, and the vacuous verse gets by, if we can separate the song from this film and imagine it as part of a Sufi-Pop album! The reprise has a faster pace, the same lyrics, and a lot more of the guitar. Frankly, it works more than the lead version.
Papon sings as is expected of him, but the Western inflection again jars because the film did not warrant the flavour. It is clear that this song, like the other compositions, has been created along with a guitar. No issues with that per se, but a film score is also about thematic veracity as well as commercial appeal.
The music seems to be functional and a concession to commercial compulsions. Though two of the songs are melodious, they seem completely out of sync with both the timeframe and backdrop of the film, a shining example of which was Shoojit's last film also produced by John Abraham, Vicky Donor.
'Sun Le Re' Music: SHANTANU MOITRA
Lyrics: ALI HAYAT RIZVI, ZEBUNISSA BANGASH & MANOJ TAPADIA
Music label: T-SERIES