Sometimes I think I get through work only through judicious applications of caffeine and Daft Punk. My Pandora radio station has some truly interesting music to play while I code, so my knowledge of what’s happening in the world of Bollywood music has been stagnating these past few weeks.
Until G mentioned that Amit Trivedi has a new movie soundtrack out. Here’s a man I consider genuinely worthy of comparisons to A. R. Rahman, so I listened once to all the songs and almost instantly fell in love.
The funny thing is, many of these songs don’t strike me as very Trivedi-like. Dev D and Aisha both sounded… clean, I suppose, is one word for it, clever arrangements of tracks and voices without too much in the way of layers. He’s found — or at least established — new singers for his music, people who can be relied on to have enough personality to really make a track stand out. In No One Killed Jessica, he made an interesting transition to a more rock vibe and kept his favorite singers.
I think he’s made another transition this time — he’s taken the obsession for more traditional, village-y sounds and rewritten them, almost. At the same time, he’s kept the rock, and the melody. I’m not even sure what this soundtrack is, anymore, except that it reminds of Rahman, strongly of Bhardwaj, and of Trivedi, but then again, of none of these people. I honestly think it’s a great piece of work, something very Trivedi and still very new.
Aafaton Ke Parinde is a really good example of this. It’s as though Trivedi took elements from Haara and Dilli (which are themselves from different movies), and created something that practically throbs with manic energy. The most astonishing bit in all this, to me, is that he makes autotune sound attractive. I know, it sounds mad, but maybe it’s the knowledge that Sujar Jagan’s voice actually has plenty of power to carry anything, so the autotune is a feature rather than a supplement. It has this jittery quality to it, which along with the guitars at 1.30-ish make the song sort of irresistible.
Then there’s Pareshaan, which should’ve been a run-of-the-mill track, something with a melody that sticks briefly in your mind. Except, no, there’s Shalmali Kholgade, who isn’t even a Wikipedia entry, whose sweet breathlessness buoys the track effortlessly. Imagine that meshing seamlessly with electric guitars for vivacity, a violin chorus for delicacy, and a harmonium for a… what is that? A touch of the wry, of the aged, something earthy and grounded? The more you consider it, the more unholy a combination it is, and the more you realize how well it works.
And then the village aspect kicks in with Chokra Jawaan. I love how Vishal Dadlani matches Sunidhi Chauhan’s full-throatedness here, note for note. The combination’s pitch-perfect. The drums caught me off guard for two seconds, but a most Western beat lightens a song that might otherwise be a little too heavy on the rural theme. And can I just say how much I love the change in rhythm? It’s a dangerous game, playing this while I’m working; I’m always afraid someone’s going to look over and see me wiggling my shoulders or something. (And then I would drag them over to listen to this music, and that would convince them.)
All right, so Sunidhi Chauhan’s great here and Dadlani’s excellent, but neither of their voices is really surprising. That is because Trivedi has saved up to surprise us with Jallah Wallah, and because Shreya Ghoshal is a magician. I utterly love her voice because it’s just so clean and perfect, but that’s the same reason I couldn’t see her singing something earthier, something smokier and more Chauhan’s cup of tea. That much purity seemed just out of place. But by god, this woman has more talent in a single cell of her body than nearly any other singer I know, and I am so happy to be proven wrong. Her gleeful massacre of every English word in the song, the way she slyly drawls out the notes that need to be drawled, the way she abandons all subtlety and just belts out some lines — it’s perfect, all of it. Call me demented, but I even like 5:28, where one note’s a third of the way out of place. Ghoshal does not miss a note. Ever. Therefore the only conclusion I can draw is that she meant to do that. And it sounds exactly in character.
The remixes (and the title track) are fun, but these four tracks are what stood out the most for me. And in the end, not only am I looping everything endlessly, I also find myself wishing ardently that there were more tracks for me to sink my teeth into.
What grips me, in almost every single one of Trivedi’s songs, is the absolute confidence this man has in making music. Nothing in this soundtrack could’ve been cobbled together; everything is inevitable. It’s the way I feel about a lot of Rahman’s work.