If I look back as a spectator to Hindi film music in 2018, all I can see are rehashed versions of yesteryear hits. Almost every chart-topping song of the year were inferior remixes. Have our composers lost their ability to produce original music. Certainly not!
As if they emerged from an alternate universe, the original soundtracks of 2018 were exemplary to say the least. Here they are, ranked in reverse order!
10. Pataakha (Vishal Bhardwaj, Gulzar)
“Aaja network ke bheetar kehke hello, hello…
Oh mere Whatsapp ke bheetar kehke hello, hello…”
Veteran Gulzar is at his crackling best while writing the very conventional Malaika Arora item number titled ‘Hello Hello’ in which vocalist Rekha Bhardwaj is clearly having a lot of fun. Arijit Singh’s love song ‘Naina Banjaare’ has his usually whiny vibe, which somehow works owing to the freshness in the composition and the words that are far from pedestrian. Rekha Bhardwaj joins Sunidhi Chauhan in what is probably the film’s spiciest number – ‘Balma’ that unveils the film’s immediate premise with precision.
9. Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, AM Turaz, Siddharth-Garima)
Padmaavat might be one of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s least ambitious soundtracks – in terms of volume. Or else, by the musician-filmmaker’s high benchmarks, it is amusing how the three-hour long feature film contains only four songs.
As for the OST, it is Shreya Ghoshal and Swaroop Khan’s grand folk dance number ‘Ghoomar’ that tops with its addictive rhythm and by being a fine blend of instruments and choruses. Additionally, the song gives the dominant vocalist (Ghoshal) the limelight that she deserves. The high-octane ‘Khalibali’ is enjoyable until it lasts and Arijit Singh’s ‘Binte Dil’ is a profound experiment that fuses Hindustani and Arabic styles. The best-written song of the enterprise (‘Nainonwale Ne’), unfortunately, does not make it to the final film.
8. Kedarnath (Amit Trivedi, Amitabh Bhattacharya)
Abhishek Kapoor’s knack for music is well-known by now. Right from directing the trippy Rock On to approving the part-surreal OST of Fitoor, Kapoor is one maker who knows the mood of his films. A love story set in the pilgrim town Kedarnath, his latest venture hits almost all the right notes. Besides ‘Sweetheart’ which sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise exquisite array of songs, the OST earns high marks on atmosphere. Amit Trivedi is in top form as he churns out the signature song ‘Namo Namo’ which is extremely tuneful, well-sung while also being lyrically rich. The best song, however, is Asees Kaur’s version of the shimmering ‘Jaan ‘Nisaar’ which reverberates a beautifully lazy jam vibe.
7. Sanju (Various Artists)
Rajkumar Hirani’s films are seldom known for their music. Those which abound with situational tracks, Hirani seems to have taken a welcome break with slightly showy numbers in his 2018 biopic on actor Sanjay Dutt – Sanju.
The album opens with Rohan-Rohan’s ultra-catchy ‘Main Badhiya’ featuring Sonu Nigam and Sunidhi Chauhan – where the latter is in her elements mimicking the ‘80s with a nasal tinge. Lyricist Puneet Sharma comes up with some chirpy lines with the picturization further adding to the flavour. ‘Kar Har Maidaan Fateh’ is your go-to motivation track of the season whereas ‘Mujhe Chand Pe Le Chalo’ by guest composer AR Rahman has a sensuous sound that is characteristic to the composer. The best song is, without doubt, Rahman’s tastefully orchestrated and produced ‘Ruby Ruby’ sung with great zest by Shashwat Singh and Poorvi Koutish.
6. Karwaan (Various Artists)
It usually worries me when a film takes the multiple-composer route. Then again, Karwaan is not one of ‘those’ films. Being a road film featuring a diverse set of people, music tracks of slightly varying sensibilities only add to the film’s lethargic appeal.
While the majority of its tracks are minimal on the orchestrations front, it is Prateek Kuhad’s ‘Saansein’ that turns out the most memorable of all.
5. Manmarziyaan (Amit Trivedi, Shellee, Prabh Deep)
The sound of Manmarziyaan might seem familiar coming from Amit Trivedi’s stable. There are times where the compositions come off a little as residues of what we have heard in the likes of Dev D and Udta Punjab. However, it takes only a single watch of the film to dismantle every reservation you have about its songs. Blending seamlessly with the narrative is ‘Darya’, which runs as a theme number in this knotty love triangle. The quirkily penned ‘Grey Wala Shade’ and ‘F for Fyar’ appeals to the yuppie lot without trading the core melody for unfiltered noise.
In sharp contrast, Trivedi also gives us the folkish ‘Meri Sachchi Mohabbat’ which comes with a distinctive 90s flavour and some heartfelt lyrics to boot. The use of shehnai, in particular, adds the much-required pathos to this intense song that talks about regrets in love. At the end of it, Manmarziyaan might leave you slightly exhausted with its ‘punjabi’ overdose. Nevertheless, it is a satisfying bunch of 14 tracks, which do complete justice to the love story set in the north-western state.
4. Manto (Various Artists)
While reading some of Saadat Hassan Manto’s works, I always wondered how their famous baithaks would be like. Those wherein eminent literary, media and cinema personalities breathed fire as they dissected art, politics, and pretty much everything under the sun. What kind of music would appeal to them? What background score would go into Manto’s stories if they are ever filmed for the big screen? Will they remain within the seams of the done-to-death antique sounds?
Composer Sneha Khanwalkar bases her composition on exemplary research and churns out a very versatile track that captures the era and the chief protagonist’s body of work to perfection in distinct pieces. While ‘Ab Kya Bataun’ by Shubha Joshi is delectably classical, ‘Bol Ke Lab Aazad Hai’ does justice to Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s powerful lyrics. To give credit where it is due, Raftaar’s ‘Mantoiyat’ has its own unique sizzle and fits well in an OST that otherwise high on its authentic period ambiance.
3. Mukkabaaz (Various Artists)
Very few composers understand their soundtracks as dexterously as Anurag Kashyap does. In what is the director’s vision of a stirring commercial film, Mukkabaaz comes with a bunch of eclectic songs rooted in the heartlands. My favourite is the nattily written (Sunil Jog) ‘Mushkil Hai Apna Meil Priye’ that is funny and affecting in equal measures. Nucleya’s rap number ‘Paintra’ (which comes in two versions) highlights the unending possibilities of Indian rap whereas ‘Bahut Hua Mann’ by Rachita Arora belongs to the semi-classical territory. Overall, the album sounds all the more better as it plays along the film’s narrative and is easily amongst the year’s finest.
2. Sui Dhaaga – Made in India (Anu Malik, Varun Grover)
Agree with me or not, the central riff of ‘Chaav Laaga’ has to be the most addictive piece of music to have come out of mainstream Hindi cinema in 2018. Clearly, Anu Malik knows the need for haunting hook lines and the trick to ace the good old Bollywood melody.
While I am not a big fan of the relatively louder ‘Sab Badhiya Hai’ but its folk-tinged tune is definitely smashing. The title track is a huge win as it appears fittingly in the film’s dramatic finale. The best song of Sui Dhaaga – Made in India is quite easily Ronkini Gupta’s poignant ‘Tu Hi Aham’.
Now, what prevents the film from bagging the top spot in the list? I would state a minor hiccup that Varun Grover’s lyrics tend to get extremely wordy/chaste at times. Some of the words make it a little difficult for us to decipher their precise meanings (which might also be the case with several Punjabi hits for non-speakers). As for Hindi, probably we have become way too used to simple, direct poetry in mainstream film songs that this fresh approach will take some time to sink in.
1. Laila Majnu (Various Artists)
In a year that hasn’t been particularly exceptional for film soundtracks, it was not hard for Laila Majnu to stand out from the cacophony of all the unoriginality around. Inventiveness, indeed, is the hallmark of this lilting album composed by Niladri Kumar, Joi Barua and Alif. It is also rare for a multiple-composer OST to find the right balance between individual songs. Be it the intoxicating ‘Sarphiri’ (my pick from the soundtrack), the robust ‘O Meri Laila’ or the slow-burn ‘Tum’, the composers ensure that their works belong to the film’s moody soundscape. ‘Lala Zula Zalio’ is again a creative amalgam of Kashmiri folk with fine retro elements.
Score-wise, it is particularly appealing to observe the busy assortment in ‘Tum’. The orchestration is a little all over the place and decidedly so. It also gives ample focus on the central vocals (Atif Aslam, whose intonations are fantastic throughout) and makes it one of the year’s most captivating love songs. Mohit Chauhan’s ‘Hafiz Hafiz’ is another track that sells itself easily with that infectious beginning notes played on strings. Overall, Laila Majnu is that rare soundtrack of 2018 where each single beams with its own personality. You see the effort that has gone into designing them, besides their contextual relevance in the film’s storyline.
In 2019, here is looking forward to more such unabashed, original OSTs that do not feel the need to recreate yesteryear songs to grab eyeballs, when they could easily have!
In a nutshell…
Composer of the Year: Amit Trivedi
Lyricist(s) of the Year:Gulzar, Irshad Kamil
Best Original Song: ‘Tu Hi Aham’ from Sui Dhaaga – Made in India
Best Sung Song (Male): Abhay Jodhpurkar for ‘Mere Naam Tu’ from Zero
Best Sung Song (Female): Ronkini Gupta for ‘Tu Hi Aham’ from Sui Dhaaga – Made in India
Best Arranged Song: ‘Ruby Ruby’ from Sanju
Best Original Lyrics: Gulzar for ‘Dilbaro’ from Raazi and Kausar Munir for ‘Aaj Se Teri’ from Pad Man
Best Original Score: AR Rahman for Beyond The Clouds, Jes Kyd for Tumbbad and Amit Trivedi for Bhavesh Joshi Superhero