October 16, 2010

Guzaarish music review - Planet Bollywood ( 8.5/ 10)

Reviewed by: Atta Khan  - Rating: 8.5 / 10

You can’t question the vision of Sanjay Leela Bhansali (SLB)...it’s right up there with the best film-makers out there. He’s one of these rare breed that translates that vision into the various components that make a superlative film; script, cinematography, acting, direction and of course music- put simply, it has to be unique or it’s not deemed good enough (in the eyes of SLB). So it’s no surprise we got superb soundtracks for his earlier films including Khamoshi and HDDCS (arguably the best Hindi soundtrack since its release in 1999). Unfortunately, that bar dipped slightly with Devdas and Saawariya (although the background music to Black was awesome!) so it comes as no surprise that he has backed someone else to produce the soundtrack for his latest film, Guzaarish, but who might that music composer be? Well amazingly (shock of all shocks), it’s SLB himself!
According to Mr Bhansali the reason is a simple one. He understands the characters of Guzaarish and “what they would express musically” more than any other music director would and only he was able to unearth the deep thoughts in his mind about the film (through the music). Without giving too much away, the film’s concepts of life, hope, soul, romance, reminiscence and sadness are felt throughout the bumper soundtrack to Guzaarish but that has been a trademark we have come to associate with the music to his films , the only question is can he recreate the magic himself this time? Well think about it for a second, if the visionary film-maker wants perfection it’s very likely he has been shadowing the soundtrack productions for his previous films (he already produced a song in Saawariya), so much so that he now feels he has the experience to take on the mantle and direct the music himself…but is it a risk worth taking?
With a radio playing in the background (note the ‘radio’ plays an important role in the film), the music switches to Track 1:“Guzaarish”  , an emotional song full of recollection and a feeling of hope against a deep, often forlorn longing or guzaarish. The music is very slow to get off the mark but is eventually brought to life with the soft strings of a guitar and a harmonium whilst in the interludes; a haunting violin plays in the background. But you won’t have time to dwell on the music too long because it’s the singing and lyrics that are the true winners here. K.K. is in truly bewitching form and sings with emotions he once reserved for the amazing “Tadap Tadap” (HDDCS). Backing vocals are performed by Shail Hada who was founded by Monty in Saawariya. Words by Turaz are powerful. Words like “farmayish”, “guzaarish”, “khwaahish” are poetically symbolic and portray the feelings of the character perfectly. Overall, a good start to the soundtrack although nothing spectacular either as Bhansali relies on the singer and writer to make it worth a listen. Still, this is likely to sound better on screen. Let’s move on.
“Thodi si meethi hai, zara si mirchi hai, sau gram zindagi yeh, sambhaal ke kharchi hai”…You sense a lyrically powerful and poetic soundtrack as you are met with another superbly written song, Track 2: “Sau Gram Zindagi”  . A more upbeat song about the good things of life, Bhansali uses a beautiful piano piece as the foundation to the orchestration here and it works a treat. But note how the atmosphere is still laid back thanks to the sound of soft drums and odd bits such as the use of whistling etc. In the interludes the composer adds strings to enhance the atmosphere. Just as K.K performed to his peak for Track 1, Kunal Ganjawala does the same here in what ranks as one of his most memorable renditions ever. Listen out for the way he controls his slow and almost whisper quiet vocals, then stretching out hisalaaps to perfection- a testament to his true talents only fulfilled by few directors now including Bhansali. Words by Vibhu Puri are fresh, pure and sound splendid. Hats off to him. Guzaarish is getting better with each track- this song does help you appreciate life that little bit more…“life is good”.

Oh heavens above! There are mesmerising songs and then there is “Tera Zikr”  at Track 3, easily the best song from the album. The orchestration contains a bewitching fusion of traditional Indian instrumentation (harmonium, tabla, dholak) with Middle Eastern sounds (the majestic oud is the highlight). Bhansali then adds soul to the song with a string orchestra and violins. Note the heightened pace in the last minute of the song. He sprinkles further magic by keeping faith in Saawariya’s debutant singer Shail Hada who repays with arguably, his best performance to date. Rakesh Pandit’s qawwali type supporting vocals and alaaps are a brilliant touch. On top of that, you have to stand and admire the quirky but poetic words by Turaz: “Tera zikr hai ya itr hai, jab jab karta hoon, mehakta hoon behakta hoon chehakta hoon..” not to mention his clever choice of matching words e.g. “zikr itr” “fikr fakr”, “mehek, behek, chehek” “machal, uchal, pissahl”. This has rapidly become my favourite song of 2010 and as you can tell I’m in complete awe at its beauty- give it a few listens and you might well follow….pure magic from Bhansali the composer!
Track 4: “Saiba”  is a short but utterly charming love song with unique flavours and twists. To achieve this Bhansali uses the oud and the foreign vocals of Francois Castellino to give the song an international feel (right from the off). Your attention then switches to the lead singer, Vibhavari Joshi, who marks a sparkling debut here. Her voice performs like the soothing tide from a calming river, hypnotising you in the process (particularly her alaaps). Give credit to the director for picking fresh talent over the tried and tested. The rest of the song is a pleasant fusion of drum pads, harmonium and guitar strings. Vibhu Puri’s words are fresh and soulful. Overall, “Saiba” is a short song but has the potential to impress you nevertheless with its immersive qualities.
Bhansali has produced a number of atmospheric songs specifically for the film which is partly why we have such a bumper soundtrack but you will note their length is consequently shorter. The first of these, Track 5: “Jaane Kiske Khwaab”  , places greater emphasis on vocalist K.K, who is excellent again and the lyricist Turaz, who provides some touching lines. Music is kept in the background but listen closely and you will notice the deftest piano plucking, the softest guitar strings, and a haunting violin piece towards the end. Should be picturised well for the film.
Most of the songs so far appear to be picturised on the lead male actor. Track 6: “Udi”  gives some attention to the female lead. The international style and feel of the arrangements are similar to “Saiba”(harmonium, bass guitar, drum pads, dholak) but this time the melody is catchy, livelier and dare I say it, foot-tapping! Sunidhi Chauhan sings from the heart and Turaz glorifies the feeling of a free bird. Not a bad song but doesn’t make the same impact as “Saiba”. However as per Track 5, expect this to sound better in the film (picturised on Aishwarya Rai).

More romance is in the air with the gorgeous Track 7: “Keh Na Sakoon”  . The music is fairly understated but brimming with melody thanks to the purity of the dovetailing piano and guitar against a haunting strings orchestra by C.M.A. Shail Hada is just unbeatable in this subdued form and thanks to his stirring efforts in the album you know this guy is here to STAY! The romantic lines by the late Jagdish Joshi and Vibhu Puri are simply heart wrenching. Alas, just as the song begins to immerse you into heavenly bliss, it ends and leaves before your thirst is quenched. But there is a solution dear listener....Repeat! Repeat! Repeat!
And the quality of the soundtrack does not relent anytime soon because one of the best songs just happens to commence at Track 8:“Chaand Ki Katori”  . . Bhansali sticks to the C.M.A. strings orchestra and uses subtle guitar strings (from a traditional guitar and from a bass guitar) to create another haunting orchestral piece full of mastery and illusion that, given the attention, takes control of your mind and senses. It does ask for some patience to grow on you but after that it rewards you with a relaxed and peaceful mindset. Listen out for the unexpected flugel horn around midway through the track. The very talented sufi singer Harshdeep Kaur is finally offered an opportunity on the big stage and thankfully she takes it with both hands in what is, the song of her life...she is just mesmerising! The words by Vibhu are equally dreamy and whisk you away into another world. Bhansali recreates magic in a truly awesome song!
The mood picks up with another short but uplifting song at Track 9: Daayein Baayein”  . Some pleasant acoustic guitar strings (yes as you can gather the guitar features a lot in this album!) dominate proceedings here. K.K. is behind the mic again singing to words of hope and love from Turaz. Will suit the film but is too short to have any lasting impression as a stand alone song.
The bumper soundtrack ends with Track 10: “Dhundli Dhundli”  . Bhansali’s orchestra sits in the backdrop itching to explode into life but doesn’t until around the 1:25 mark and then does so albeit for a short period of time before retreating again. You see Bhansali’s strategy throughout has been such to allow the singer to take control of the song and let the music flow in the background. Well for his last offering, he chooses a tried and tested performer, in fact one of the greats in recent times, Shankar Mahadevan, who evokes a powerful rendition that befits the stature of the album and indeed, the film. Turaz appears to have saved all his best work for this album with another effort full of fancy metaphors and thought-provoking lines! Fine ending Mr Bhansali fine ending...
If you think Guzaarish is the type of music you will pick up and enjoy instantly, forget it! The music is slow, dreamy, sombre and soulful throughout and requires a lot of patience to fully appreciate. It helps to be in the right mood as well! But if you give it a try and come to the view that it is not your cup of tea, I suggest you check out the music after the film’s release- you are likely to enjoy it more after seeing it being played on the big screen for the simple reason that the music is hugely intertwined into the film’s characters, plot and atmosphere. So much so that it will undeniably augment the viewing experience. If you can digest the music from the CD alone then congratulations, you have just appreciated the best soundtrack of 2010. But it’s by no means perfect!
Whilst the music is very good overall (betters Saawariya) there are just too many tracks and too many tracks that sound similar! Clearly, it has been produced to add value to a film which has limited moods (thereby limiting the genres that could be catered for) but if you dissect the songs, the structure and arrangements are truly unique in only a few compositions. Not only that but the quality kind of dips after the first four tracks which is no surprise given the lack of expertise by the composer (saying that he does come back with the superb Track 7) So you are probably wondering, what about these other songs? Well, if you analyse those closely it’s clear that other factors elevate them to levels which still allows you to enjoy them. In other words SLB is helped immensely by noteworthy performances from his singers (particularly K.K. and Shail Hada who sing as well as you have ever heard them) and both lyricists deserve an award for some of the most bewitching poetry heard in recent years! Take out these factors and let’s face it, Guzaarish is probably only half the soundtrack it purports to be? But the reality is those factors are present and what we ultimately get is an excellent debut by SLB as music director. Take a bow Sanjay Leela!

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