Monday, July 20, 2020

Dil Bechara Music Review (and 10 years of this blog)

It was the summer of 2010. Amit Trivedi was the new Rahman. He had come up with terrific Udaan -- the album which echoed my state of mind then (I was waiting for the results of my engineering entrance exams, knowing fully that I am not gonna clear any); and Rahman, whom I worship, had released super-sonic Raavan. My devotion to music and movies had to find a medium. So, I started this blog, by scribbling something about Raavan album, which I thought was a review (Don't go on finding that post -- it's cringe). Scribbling became a habit; habit became a passion, which then almost became a profession as I got a few gigs on the way. I continued the blog, by bunking college and taking leaves from office on occasions to watch films FDFS and spend the whole day writing about them. However, for the past few years, this blog's been lying dormant. It's #10YearsofRaavan, #10YearsofUdaan, so it's also #10YearsofThePuccaCritic. Yay. So what's a better way to celebrate the anniversary than to write a review of another Rahman album: 

Dil Bechara title track fleetingly appeared at the end of the film trailer, and it appeared like a soft, hummable number -- the likes of Aise Na (Raanjhanaa) or Tu Bole (JTYJN). Rahman even sings it like that. He croons it, with tenderness, adding that extra emotion in "Kyu mujhe miss bhi na karein", then another "kyun" hitting notes which he reserves for his sufi songs. But when the video of this song dropped, it was a... dance video. It felt off. The song's bouncy, but not bouncy enough. Which is why I prefer the Friendzone track. What felt devoid of arrangement in the title track, feels fulfilled here. The groovy, swingy backdrop compliments the playfulness which Rahman added with his rhythmic singing of words: day-day-day, bhool-bhool-bhool.  In fact, it helped him play a bit more, with Dil-Be-Cha-Ra. 

Taare Ginn justifies the Disney brand behind this film. It's an orchestral violin and vocals led waltz that takes flights of dreams and then swiftly lands you back on the ground. The song is about the butterflies of first love in the tummy and the aching longing that comes with it, which lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya in this song says it's like counting stars. Rahman captures this double-natured feeling with double-timed vocal harmonized over a laidback one (competitive Shreya and Mohit). Though both the layers are very well balanced, one humming bit does feel a bit obtrusive before they soar together in crescendo and make love to each other. And then they make way for a violin solo which captures the essence of this song. The inherent melancholy of this composition is allowed some space of its own in The Horizon of Saudade, where the same violin reappears even more affectingly and achingly. 

From a Disney movie, we jump into an old Hindi film, mostly that of Basu Chatterjee, in Khulke Jeene Ka. A typical Hindi filmy duet song, done very atypically: the pair (Arijit and Shasha), harmonizing again, begins the mukhda together instead of taking turns, before the male singer leads the antaras and post a scale-shift, the female takes the higher pitch in repeat mukhda at the end (When was the last time a Hindi film song had a proper mukhda and two antaras?). The complicated chhand of the mukhda is very much like a Salil Chowdhury composition. It is an intricate part of this verse that the melodica(?) plays to open the song (It took me at least five listens to realize this). I particularly love the line "Aao filmo ke be-adab gaane gaate hai, heroine-hero aaj hum-tum ho jaate hain", which is like a lyrical equivalent of the Chhoti Si Baat scene where Amol Palekar imagines himself and Vidya Sinha in place of Dharmendra and Hema Malini in a film song. I also like how Bhattacharya uses the word 'maheen'  in the second stanza. 

If Khulke Jeene Ka is like a Salil Chowdhury composition, Mera Naam Kizie is a C. Ramachandra song. Or, double the tempo, add Dattaram theka to it, and it could well be a Shankar-Jaikishan song. It's reminiscent of old Bombay cinema music because of its jazz arrangement, prominently a clarinet -- which gets a superb one-minute solo at the end. Having said that, this is very much a contemporary song -- mostly thanks to the way vocals are played out: Aditya Narayan is a very imaginative choice for this one, and husky Poorvi Koutish is like a breeze. 

Another fascinating singer in this album line-up is Sana Moussa, whom Rahman has collaborated with before in Majid Majidi's Muhammad and other live performances. Having heard her before, she is in a complete non-familiar zone with Afreeda. Contrasting with rapper Raja Kumari, it's Moussa who adds more fire with her soft yet sharp voice and Middle Eastern twang laced Hindi lines -- particularly when she sings "Pyaar ki tareef me, dil pesh karta hai qaseeda". Rahman is in vintage form when he adds her sufi-like call over sweeping violins and chants of hey-hey.

In Main Tumhara, which is perhaps the best song of the album for me, love becomes devotion where a lover completely submits oneself to the other despite not being able to be together. A melancholic track is composed and sung like a prayer. Arranged minimally with a piano and a lilting flute, it is the human voice (that of Hriday Gattani and Jonita Gandhi) that is used as an instrument. The song comes into its own in the second interlude when the vocals harmonize Bhattacharya's wondrous rhyming of 'dareecha-bageecha-seencha' together, which talks about passed-by time and space. And as it ends, it fades into silence, letting some more time pass by. 

Disney movie meets the larger-than-life Hindi movie in joie de vivre Maskhari. Gattani and strings open the track like a burst of sunshine, reminding of Tu Shining from Lekar Hum Deewana Dil (2014). What keeps engaging in this fairly standard duet (Gattani and Sunidhi Chauhan) is the interesting use of kanjira for percussion.  Oh, and that "peeda-hari balm" phrase is again classic Bhattacharya.

Joy comes with melancholy in this soundtrack -- now even more so, knowing that the lead star of this film, Sushant Singh Rajput, has vanished into stars, ironically, before the release of this adaptation of Fault In Our Stars. Rahman's soundtrack for the film too is quite... stellar. 

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