This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
A Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, especially in music, creates humungous expectations among lovers of Hindi cinema. With a flawless track-record of Khamoshi – The Musical, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, Saawariya and Guzaarish and even the musically strong Rowdy Rathore as producer, we cannot but expect something brilliant. And also – as the cliché goes – hatke!
Sanjay Leela Bhansali, one of our most emotionally sensitive directors, debuted as a full-fledged composer with his last directorial outing Guzaarish, a dark saga of human suffering. Here the filmmaker lets his fetters go, as the songs are about a vibrant lead pair, intensely in violent love amidst the environs of a violent feud.
The story is based in one of India's most colourful states, Gujarat, with its distinct and foot-tapping rhythms and cadences that are percussion-heavy. Bhansali gets into his home ground with a flourish to produce one of the most evolved music scores in recent times.
In times when tin-can assortment of sounds with plebian verse pass off as temporary chartbusters aimed at short-time life in the pubs, Bhansali nurtures, almost caresses, every note in each song with care, paying special attention to his sound production, the choice of instruments, apt words, nuanced singing from genuine playback singers and the smooth flow of his compositions. When folk is used, it is impossible to know which notes are completely original and which are inspired. But if this did not matter when the caliber of the result was as a high as Baiju Bawra in 1952, why should that matter here when the score stands tall too by current yardsticks?
Siddharth-Garima's lyrics adapt to the tunes seamlessly, making it impossible to decipher whether their verse came first or the composition. Many of the songs here have just a single antara, so that they seem to be situational musical interludes within the film, which is what, ideally, a film song should be. There is nothing path-breaking or brilliant in them, but nothing banal either.
The bulwarks of the score are the authentic arrangements and orchestration, and Tubby-Parik, Shail Hada and Jackie V. deserve encomiums for fitting in – again seamlessly – with Bhansali's compositional vision.
The score has two prime aces, the title-track 'Ram Chahe Leela', sung impressively by Bhoomi Trivedi and the now-fast-rising-to-cult-status 'Nagada Sang Dhol' expressed by Shreya Ghoshal with Osman Mir. Bhoomi has a husky and earthy voice that goes well with the folk ambience. The lyrics of 'Ram Chahe' has a smattering of English words besides a rich chunk of Gujarati and the orchestration is duly like a fusion of folk and Western styles with a dollop of raagdaari.
The piece-de-resistance of the album, 'Nagada Sang Dhol' is perhaps a textbook to many successful professional composers on how to create a dance number wherein the emotional intensity pours out of the very tune and is further doubled by the words. The electrifying vocals that can only happen with the casting of the finest playback singer for it are the icing on this confection of melody, whose tempo increases towards the climax.
Shreya Ghoshal, a Bhansali discovery in Devdas, is fantabulous in this ultra-kinetic mix of Hindi and Gujarati and if she emotes as if born for this song – well, the vice-versa seems true as well! The sound – superb to begin with – is enhanced multifold by magnificently 'aural' verse that starts evocatively from the mukhda itself with 'Hey dhin tadaak dhin tadaak / Aaja ud ke saraat / Pairon se bedi zara khol / Nagada sang dhol baaje, dhol baaje / Dhaayn dhaayn dhum dhum dhaayn'.
Osman Mir lends support with the delicious folk cadences that are very rich in melody. If Devdas was Shreya's great debut, this is like this modern Diva's second coming! You only have to hear this beauty to fathom why we have spent so much space on it!
Shreya's solo track 'Dhoop' saunters on lazily, with a theherav (placid tempo) almost unheard of in today's frenetic ditties that gives it a rich dimension, along with the cadences of the shehnai that synergize with the vocals in the interludes. Taking us back to the era of the late '50s and early '60s, here's the song from this album that will grow over time.
'Lahu Munh Lag Gaya' (Shail Hada) resembles superficially the Vishal Bhardwaj-Gulzar leitmotif, but Shail's singing and the flow of the song takes it to a different zone. The musical pieces here, with the folk strings and trumpets dominating, need special mention for their haunting quality.
The same happens to the opening of 'Ang Laga De' (Aditi Paul-Shail Hada) but it soon becomes clear that the melody here is intense and saccharine, more in tune with the '60s kind of melodies. The violins lend the much-needed lingering ambience.
Arijit Singh of Aashiqui 2 and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is a complete and stunning revelation in 'Laal Ishq', a truly raag-rich song in which we get the feel that we are listening to a semi-classical song at a live concert. The lyrics are a shade esoteric, but the tune goes the '80s Laxmikant-Pyarelal way – effortlessly, as if Bhansali has soaked in that duo's style for decades. Arijit takes to the raag-daari like the proverbial fish to water.
The two weaker but familiar tracks are coincidentally rendered by Aditya Narayan – 'Ishqyaun Dhishqyaun' and 'Tattad Tattad' despite some inspired orchestration, especially in the latter. Aditya sings with ease, even resembling his father Udit Narayan in the latter.
The traditional 'Mor Bani Thanghat Kare' (Osman Mir-Aditi Paul) is well presented, with a lavish sound matching the rest of the score.
Gujarat comes to life in this truly dedicated and inspired score. All the songs may not be instant chartbusting material or GenY party fodder, but there is solid substance here – and style. The lack of recall value in a couple of tracks – even if they all sound lovely when we are listening to them – prevents a higher rating.
'Ram Chahe Leela', 'Lahu Munh Lag Gaya', 'Ang Laga De', 'Nagada Sang Dhol', 'Laal Ishq', 'Tattad Tattad'
Music: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Music Label: EROS