Bollywood’s music scene sees a yearly change. And 2018, alarmingly, has been about of the outage of remixed numbers. While some of them were integrated to be representative of the era they belong to (‘Ruk Ruk Ruk’ from Helicopter Eela), others stemmed out of the production houses’ act of playing safe. Arguably enough, neither of the categories ended up doing justice to the respective films they belonged to. That said, 2018 also saw a slew of original compositions that enriched the film’s narratives as well as our iPod playlists.
Here they are, in reverse order! Some of the finest musical numbers from Hindi films released in 2018…
25. Lae Dooba (Aiyaary)
What do you expect musically from an army film that’s dubious from the word go? That too in days where even J.P. Dutta seems to have lost relevance. Well, in Aiyaari’s dulcet ‘Lai Dooba’ you get Sunidhi Chauhan and a conventionally breezy Bollywood tune (by Rochak Kochli) – both of which keep you mesmerized until it lasts. The instrumentation is kept minimal on purpose whereas Manoj Muntashir’s poetry is the usual lovey-dovey kinds fitting the supple composition to the T.
24. Bohut Dukha Mann (Mukkabaaz)
In a soundtrack that is quietly effective in a film that is unabashedly massy by Anurag Kashyap’s standards, Rachita Arora and Dev Arijit’s divine ‘Bahut Dukha Mann’ from Mukkabaaz is poignant and atmospheric in equal measures. Composed by Arora herself, the choice of instruments (particularly the flute and tabla) and overall rhythm is reminiscent of music from the yesteryears, eventually resulting in a smooth listen.
23. Kar Har Maidaan Fateh (Sanju)
There are ways to envision a blockbuster song. It could either be with a certain scale of picturization or otherwise with a song that is decidedly showy in structure. This pivotal number from Sanju is a bit of both.
So, when a song titles itself as ‘Kar Har Maidaan Fateh’, it is hard not to buy into its self-confidence, the way that it wants to be soul-stirring by all means. Sung by the throaty Sukhwinder Singh along with the mellow Shreya Ghoshal, the voice casting is a little unconventional here. While Singh goes all out in his characteristic style, Ghoshal impresses by modulating her voice differently (she did the same in Rocky Handsome‘s ‘Rehnuma’ and a couple of others in the past) in this conventionally mounted yet effective song composed by Vikram Mantrose.
22. Laila Laila (Andhadhun)
Piano takes the centre-stage in Andhadhun‘s ‘Naina Da Kya Kasoor’ and understandably so. In a film that chronicles a blind pianist getting entangled in a murder mystery, the song is a showcase of his skills and is also quite easy of the ears. Even though the composition seems a little too easy for someone of Amit Trivedi’s calibre, it is the orchestration that merits the song a place in the year’s finest.
21. Teri Daastaan (Hichki)
As Hichki ends on a richly emotional note, the ‘Teri Daastan’ composed and sung by Jasleen Royal becomes the perfect accompaniment. Yes, it is melodrama but certainly of the good kinds. Royal’s innocent vocals beautifully match the uplifting tenor of the lyrics (Neeraj Rajawat). The picturization, in all slow-motion glory, only amplifies the impact as the song unfolds during the film’s final reels. Another version of the tune appears in a piece titled ‘Naina’s Theme’ and it is quite impressive and brownie points for the composer for not trying to be too many things.
20. Balma (Pataakha)
Pataakha is an album where it’s hard to pick a favourite from. Each song – be it the spicy item number (‘Hello Hello’) or the love song (‘Naina Banjaare’) have their own individual flavours while also binding distinctly to the soundtrack’s rustic rhythm. Talking specifically about ‘Balma’, the earthy folk tune and the choicest instruments (including one that sounds like ravanhatha) take the cake in what is a war of words between two sisters. Sung by Sunidhi Chauhan (I loved her improvisations here) and Rekha Bhardwaj, the song is also arranged to near perfection giving every element in the background enough focus along with the ebullient principal vocals.
19. Yaadon Ki Almari (Helicopter Eela)
In a catastrophe of a film centred on its singer protagonist, Helicopter Eela boasted of a functional soundtrack by Amit Trivedi and Daniel B. George with lyrics by Swanand Kirkire. One that beams with a delectable ‘90s mood, Amit Trivedi’s ‘Yaadon Ki Almari’ does not have to try too hard to fit in the film’s milieu which is rooted in the Indipop era. Palomi Ghosh’s rendition is effective in a composition that is pretty versatile – it can be one of those concert favourites as well as one for a bedroom jam.
18. Chhota Sa Fasana (Karwaan)
It is rare when Arijit Singh gets to experiment. While his attempt in Padmaavat didn’t fully fly, ‘Chhota Sa Fasana’ from Karwaan certainly does with its lounge vibe, making it a perfect tune to join you on a long drive. Despite the tune containing a familiarity air, Singh’s rendition and some simple yet evocative lyrics do the trick in making the ditty memorable.
17. Ban Titli (Manto)
I so wanted to fill this slot with the equally fascinating ‘Bol Ke Lab Aazad Hai’ but then again I am a bigger fan of the vintage classical sound, which gets all the more appetizing with Rekha Bhardwaj behind the mic. Sneha Khanwalkar’s finely researched soundtrack for Manto is one of the year’s finest and this song is my personal favourite from it.
16. Ishq Di Baajiyan (Soorma)
Sung by Diljit Dosanjh and a terrific chorus group, ‘Ishq Di Baajiyan’ is easily one of the highlights of Shaad Ali’s Soorma. While I can’t get enough of Gulzar’s beautiful (I fall short of adjectives here) lyrics, Shankar Mahadevan’s background vocals propel the song to exquisite levels. It is particularly impressive to see how the song is used in the film. As they say, it is akin to a refreshing shower that embraces a famine-struck piece of land.
15. Aaj Se Teri (PadMan)
You got to hand it to Kausar Munir when it is about creating the most evocative love songs using the most commonplace words. There are no words in ‘Aaj Se Teri’ that you might have to perhaps surf the Internet to make out of their contextual meaning. Sample this:
“Meri chhoti si bhulon,
Ko tu nadiya mein baha dena
Tere joode ke phoolon ko
Main apni shirt mein pehnunga
Bas mere liye tu maalpue
Kabhi kabhi bana dena
Aaj se meri saari raityaan teri ho gayi…”
Composer Amit Trivedi keeps the score simple whereas his base tune is extremely peppy and it’s clear that Arijit Singh is having great fun crooning this number from PadMan.
14. Bioscopewala (Bioscopewala)
Sandesh Shandilya is – without an iota of doubt – my favourite composer amongst those who got spotlight post-2000. As is the case with previous works, Shandilya sprinkles a grand big screen air to the title song of Bioscopewala but is also singularly impactful being a meticulously structured composition. Be it the choice of instruments or the chorus of children, the balance is just right for this song headlined by Mohan Kannan. Gulzar brings a fable-like feel to the lyrics which is abundant with pop-culture references and is childlike in its own way.
13. Jaan ‘Nisaar (Kedarnath)
So, Kedarnath is a pretty atmospheric soundtrack (Amit Trivedi) and is way ahead of what the film wants it to be. Of all the songs that it brings to the table, it is Jaan ‘Nisaar that is the pick of the lot. Whilst the Arijit Singh version makes it to the film, I would rate the female version by Aseer Kaur one notch higher. Her rendition is controlled and notably impromptu sans excess modulations, bringing in a quiet pop flavour while staying true to its Bollywood love song format.
12. Tum (Laila Majnu)
This probably might be an unconventional pick from the OST but ‘Tum’ – particularly the version by Javed Ali – contains romance, romance and oodles of it. The slow, haunting number is not particularly well-utilized in the film where its innate score gets diminished in the background noise. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics originate from the Imtiaz Ali school of songwriting, thus adding a much-needed essence of mystique to an already pulsating tune (Niladri Kumar).
11. Darya (Manmarziyaan)
The easier song to buy in Manmarziyaan, ‘Darya’ forms the soul of the film. With the lyrics (by Shellee) as the song’s central attraction, the high-on-energy composition has a well-define larger-than-life appeal to it. I particularly admire how Trivedi transcends the song to intense dramatic curves after beginning it with a simple nursery rhyme-like celesta tinkle. Rendition by Shahid Mallya and Ammy Virk lack a certain filminess which further adds to the song’s exotic charm.
10. Chaav Laaga (Sui Dhaaga – Made in India)
The expectations were colossal, to say the least. The last time the trio of Anu Malik, Varun Grover and Sharat Katariya united, we got a song that can easily be termed the melody of the decade – ‘Moh Moh Ke Dhaage’. Released in Spring 2015, the song is played to this date on radio channels, which is unusual for the kind of film music the industry produces today.
‘Chaav Laaga’, sung by Papon and Ronkini Gupta, attempts to tread similar territories as it portrays the film’s lead couple and their budding proximity. Malik’s addictive riff blends marvellously with Grover’s poetry and there’s no reason why one wouldn’t hum along this mellifluous semi-classical number as it goes,
“Dekh lihaaj ki chaar-diwari
Phaand li tere ek ishaare
Preet ki chaadar chhoti maili
Humne usmein pair pasaare
Kaafi hai tera saath re… saath re…
Tera chaav laaga, jaise koi ghaav laaga!”
9. Mere Naam Tu (Zero)
How can a Shah Rukh Khan romance come sans a sweeping melody where he serenades his leading lady in style? Sung with marvellous precision by newbie Abhay Jodhpurkar, the song is a timely reminder that we need more fresh playback vocalists in Hindi films. While it is almost time for Ajay-Atul to refresh their slightly repetitive composition structure, it cannot be denied that ‘Mere Naam Tu’ from Zero is dreamlike in its own way. The song is a welcome upgrade to the composers’ own title track of Dhadak but it falls short of matching the sizzle of another similar sounding song of theirs – ‘Sapna Jahaan’ from Brothers. If not for the familiarity reference here, the song could easily have made into the Top 5 in this list.
8. Saansein (Karwaan)
There is a tranquil vibe about ‘Saansein’ which is also the case with the film directed by Akarsh Khurana. The song is easy on ears and works magically as a single with its simplicity earning brownie points. Prateek Kuhad’s vocals (who also composes and writes the song) are akin to a smooth breeze on a wintry afternoon and the pleasantly light instrumentation is quite the icing on the cake.
7. F for Fyaar (Manmarziyaan)
For starters, I didn’t fancy the rap portions (credited to Sikander Kahlon) in the song, however, it didn’t seem to tamper the song’s infectious energy and hummability. Dig a little deep, you will find Shellee’s quirky lyrics equally meaningful amid the fyaar-pyaar ambivalence it talks about. The Punjabi folk base is reminiscent of some of Trivedi’s compositions from earlier years and ditto for the techno vibe throughout. Blended effectively in the film’s narrative, ‘F for Fyaar’ is a fine integration of the rhythmic folk sound with new-age Bollywood’s propensity to experiment.
6. Mushkil Hai Apna Meil Priye (Mukkabaaz)
Quirky lyrics headline this zingy number from Mukkabaaz which underlines the social and cultural divides that prevent the lovers (Vineet Kumar Singh, Zoya Hussain) from uniting. Composed with great gusto by Rachita Arora, ‘Mushkil Hai Apna’ is sung by Brijesh Shandilya who is particularly impressive towards the end where the song rapidly ups the tempo. The number, quite easily, is the best song in a terrific soundtrack that Mukkabaaz is.
5. Dilbaro (Raazi)
“Baba main teri mallika
Tukda hoon tere dil ka
Ikk baar phir se dehleez paar karaa de
Mudke na dekho dilbaro…”
At times, it is a little alarming to think how the present generation of lyricists do not have the ability to come up with words that are simple, and yet so heartbreaking. Gulzar’s lyrics become the USP of this heart-wrenching bidaai number. Given the difficult scenario that Raazi tries to explore, the song’s emotional tenor coupled with Harshdeep Kaur’s redolent voice make sure that the message is conveyed to perfection.
4. Sarphiri (Laila Majnu)
I am all for well-rounded love songs. It is all the better if they come with a larger-than-life aura provided that the film is a retelling of the legendary Laila-Majnu tale. Anchored by a delicate-sounding Shreya Ghoshal, ‘Sarphiri’ defines classic Bollywood romance in every sense of the word. Adding to it is Niladri Kumar’s classically rooted composition which comes with a unique sonata-like feel to its score. As a matter of fact, ‘Sarphiri’ belongs to the same bracket of love songs as AR Rahman’s shimmering ‘Tu Bin Bataye’ from Rang De Basanti. Babul Supriyo who appears briefly also seems to be in top form and so does Irshad Kamil whose luminous lines reflect the mind space of two sceptic individuals who have just found love in each other.
3. Ghoomar (Padmaavat)
A feast for lovers of Rajasthani folk, Sanjay Leela Bhansali breathes his quintessential larger-than-life sizzle to what already was winner by default. Sung with great passion by Shreya Ghoshal, Swaroop Khan and chorus, ‘Ghoomar’ is one of the most powerful moments in Padmaavat that is centred on an evil invader’s desire for the ethereal queen Padmavati. Even as an audio single, lyrics by A. M. Turaz and Swaroop Khan make sure that they resonate Padmavati’s mystique to utmost perfection. As a composer, Bhansali keeps it conventional with a time-tested pattern with the choice of instruments keeping the grandeur constantly in place.
2. Ruby Ruby (Sanju)
Say hello to the most slickly arranged Hindi film song of 2018. Also meet A R Rahman from the yore – trippy, zany and techno without trying too hard. Meant as a situational number in Sanju, ‘Ruby Ruby’ sung by Shashwat Singh and Poorvi Koutish is part-psychedelic and part-80s Bollywood. Penned by Irshad Kamil, this smashing genre-less track is a not-so-quiet proof on what makes Rahman stand out from his peers. By a mile or two, that is.
1. Tu Hi Aham (Sui Dhaaga – Made In India)
There is nothing like the good-old ‘90s melody, I say. There is nothing like a regular formula song which integrates gorgeously in a film’s narrative. As it appears at a tense, distressing juncture in Sui Dhaaga – Made in India, Anu Malik’s ‘Tu Hi Aham’ proves to be everything that contemporary Hindi cinema misses. Varun Grover’s unconventional lyrics form the base to what is the most original and refreshing melody of the year – a tune that is quintessential to Malik which also pleasantly contrasts from what is being produced in present-day Hindi cinema. The flute seldom sounds as dreamlike as it does in an Anu Malik soundtrack for Sharat Katariya. Take note of the piece right before the charan portions and you would realize why the song decorates the top spot here. Essentially a prayer, Ronkini Gupta’s balanced rendition makes it the best sung Hindi film song of the year by a distance.
Special Mentions: Kaalakaandi (Kaalakaandi), Pal (Jalebi), Dhadak (Dhadak), Sui Dhaaga (Sui Dhaaga – Made in India), Hafiz Hafiz (Laila Majnu) and Fu Bai Fu (Fanney Khan)
Amit Trivedi: 6
Rachita Arora: 2
Anu Malik: 2
Irshad Kamil: 4
Varun Grover: 2
Down the memory lane…