Aaja Meri Jaan

This song has been constantly playing in my head for the past several days. It’s from the movie I Love New Year, and is remixed by DJ Phukan. The original tune is by R D Burman who first used it as a background score in the movie Saagar, and then refurbished it for Aaja Meri Jaan. SP Balasubramaniam rendered this kick-ass song in his inimitable style. The new version pales in comparison, but one of the reasons why I like it is because it reminds me of RD’s phenomenal tune and SP’s haunting rendition. The song in Aaja Meri Jaan had more of a jazz flavor to it, while the I Love New Year version relies on simple acoustic guitar riffs supplemented nicely by accordion. Mauli Dave’s singing is okay, and the lyrics border on mediocre (except for that one line that goes ‘Meelon chalen phir humne jaana, koi thikana ghar sa naheen’) but I think overall it’s a decent track. Enjoy!

And here’s the original, terrific track by R D Burman:

[Hat tip: Milliblog!]


In the Company of a Poet

gulzarI wasn’t quite sure what to expect from In the Company of a Poet – a conversational book about the life and work of Gulzar. As a devout Gulzar fan I was excited to get to know more intricacies and details about his work, his past, and outlook on life. But I was skeptical if the book that resulted from a few hours of conversation on Skype would be able to delve into the depths of the vast ocean that is Gulzar.

But I was pleasantly surprised that the book offers a fair amount of bits and pieces that kept me intrigued. The details of his childhood and first encounters with poetry and literature were quite interesting. He begins this conversation with a poignant poem that he wrote (see below) for his rather distant father who disliked his son’s  literary ambitions. His father thought that writing was a poor man’s job, and was sure that Gulzar would not be able to make anything of his life: “Ye bhaiyon se udhaar mangega aur gurdwara ke langar mein khana khayega.”


There is so much to say that is left unsaid

If you were here I would speak

You were so despondent on my account

Fearing my poetry would drown me some day

I am still afloat, father

No longer have I the desire to return to shore

The shore you left so many year ago.

Most of the first half of the book revolves around his childhood and struggling days in Bombay. Perhaps it takes a poet to remember the past with such minute details, but I was amazed by such sharp memory of this septuagenarian. His detailed recollection of events from five or six decades ago creates a vivid picture of his past. Apart from his indelible memory, another thing you can’t help but notice is how amazingly charming and candid Gulzar’s outlook on life is. He finds gentle humor everywhere, even in mundane events. This is not one of those grumpy old men who scoff at the new technology and revile the new generation. He actually embraces them wholeheartedly, and perhaps therein lies the reason why he is so successful even at this age. Another recurring theme is his love for tennis, which he plays every day. (His favorite tennis player is Federer. “I enjoy the way Federer plays. He is cool and has a gentle smile. The only thing I have against Nadal is the villainous grimaces he makes.”)

There’s so much elegance in his prose, and depth in his thoughts, that I felt like poetry was dripping from every page of this book. Even though I was reading, in my mind I could hear him speak. Consider the following reply to a simple question about his daily routine:

I wake up at five when it’s still dark.

I want the sun to look for me instead of my looking for the sun.

Just as the first serve in tennis can be advantageous,

so the first serve must be mine.

The second one goes to the sun.

Some other phrases that particularly struck me were: ‘shadow of words’, ‘dictionary of subconscious’, ‘words should amaze or amuse’, ‘sust-ul wajood‘ (loosely translated as ‘lazy bones’).

Personally, I would have preferred to read more about Gulzar’s work and philosophy, rather than about the people in his life. Nonetheless, these discussions provide delightful insights about his associations and collaborations with legends like Bomal Roy, Hemant Kumar, Hrishikesh Mukharjee, Shailendra, and many more. I was a bit disappointed that Nasreen Munni Kabir, the author, didn’t ask specific questions about his songs and poems. While discussing his first song Mora gora ang lai le, the only question Nasreen asks him is about the choice of the phrase ‘lai le’  instead of ‘le le’, which was perhaps the last thing I would have asked him about that lovely song. But few gripes aside, I enjoyed reading this book. It was a breezy read, and it surely throws light into some unexplored areas of Gulzar’s life and work. Thanks to my dear friend Jatin who kindly lent me this book.


दश्त-ए-तन्हाई में,

ऐ जान-ए-जहां,

लरज़ाँ हैं

तेरी आवाज़ के साये,

तेरे होठों के सराब

In the desert of my solitude, oh love of my life, quiver the shadows of your voice, the mirage of your lips.

I think the Coke Studio did a decent job of recreating the classic and introducing the listeners (like me) to this beautiful, poignant nazm written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and effortless rendition by Iqbal Bano. Here’s the original (and follow this link for the English translation):

[Hat Tip: 3 Quarks Daily]

Dil Dhoondhta Hai…

Previously on this blog I wrote a small post on the most succinct word (link). Here’s another word that has such a delicate and beautiful meaning, and has no immediate translation in English:

Saudade: [n] A vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist.

The closest English word is perhaps ‘yearning’, but saudade carries with it a heavier, gloomy connotation. A melancholic, brooding emptiness… a feeling of despair that’s associated with the fact that the object of yearning (whether a place, person, or a situation) is unattainable.

I don’t think there’s any Hindi synonym for saudade, but this Portuguese word reminded me of one of my favorite songs ‘Dil dhoondhta hai’ written by Gulzar, which comes pretty darn close to the sentiments packed in this sublime word.

The opening stanza of this song is taken from Ghalib’s famous ghazal ‘Muddat hui hai yaar ko mehmaan kiya hue’. The original refrain went like this:

jee dhoondhta hai phir wohee fursat ke raat din
baiTHe raheiN tasavvur-e-jaanaaN kiye hue

Gulzar took this sher and interpreted it in his own peculiar way. “MiSra Ghalib ka hai, aur kaifiyat har ek ki apni apni […]” as the man himself had said once. He changed the first word jee to dil which improved the consonance of that line.[UPDATE: Not sure about this any more. See the comment section.] Later, ‘aundhe pade rahe’ – which means lying on your back – was a nice touch too; it perfectly evokes a feeling of reverie that this song revolves around.

The composer Madan Mohan, who shared Gulzar’s penchant for Ghalib’s work, made several tunes for this song, but only two were used in the movie. An unused version was later utilized by his son in the movie Veer-Zaara for the song ‘Tere liye, hum hai jiye’. (See this video where the third version can be heard, in Madan Mohan’s voice I believe.)

By the way, can you recall another one of his songs in which Gulzar used one of Ghalib’s verses again?

Rockstar: The Music and the Movie

‘Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.’ – is a one-line, reductive message one can construe from Imtiaz Ali’s latest movie Rockstar. But as I mull over this well-crafted, brilliantly edited movie with an astounding soundtrack (and background score), I realize that this is one of those movies can’t be defined in terms of such meager measures. Like in real life, the joyful and romantic moments pass by in a jiffy, while the sad ones hover around indeterminately. The way the story unfolds in the first half – by the means of snippets, interspersed with flashbacks, and even news clippings – also underscores this point. The masterful craftsmanship by the director Imtiaz Ali is superbly complemented by A R Rahman’s music in this angst-ridden journey of a Rockstar. The story-telling relies and weighs heavily on silent moments, unspoken words, and anguished fury, and often resort to the pulsating soundtrack to express the lead character’s musings, agony and dilemma.

When I first heard that Mohit Chauhan had voiced 9 out of 14 songs in this album, I was skeptical if he would be able to pull it off. But as I heard ‘Phir Se Ud Chala’ (few months ago when the album released), the choice of Chauhan started to make sense. He hails from the mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh and has mastered the local pahadi folk music style. His reverie-inducing, dreamy, almost careless rendition is exactly what this song needed. The song has a very effervescent quality. Nothing repeats itself, but there’s an underlying order in apparent randomness. The beginning chorus reminded me of the ‘Sone ka pitara’ line from the ‘Jahan Piya’ [Pardes] – which is probably influenced by a traditional wedding song in Northern India.

Imtiaz Ali effectively utilizes most of the 14 tracks. The only song that doesn’t get materialized fully on screen is ‘Tum Ko’ (the Kavita Krishnamurthy version). Harshdeep Kaur’s playful ‘Kateya Karoon’ plays in the background and conveys Heer’s adolescent and naughty ambitions well. I kept thinking that ‘Kun Fayakun’ was somewhat redundant – if not forced into the script. It doesn’t really add anything to the story. (Except for the fact that Shammi Kapoor notices him at the dargah, but that could have happened anywhere.) The whole spiritual awakening was an unnecessary detour that was irrelevant to Jordon’s transformation into an artist. The actual transformation was triggered by his broken heart and lost love; the Sufi spiritualism seemed out of place in Jordan’s life given his character.

‘Jo Bhi Mein’ is so melodious and instantly catchy that it’s hard to believe that Irshad Kamil wrote the lyrics of this song first and ARR developed the tune afterwards. I just loved the guitar work (by Kabuli and Shon Pinto) complimenting the simple tune, and Kamil’s commendable poetry. This song is picturized during the early phases of Jordon’s musical journey – before the real artist is born. Hence the undemanding/easy tune makes sense. On the other hand, the anthem-like, guitar-laden, stunning ‘Sadda Haq’ comes much later as he matures as a musician. The contrast in Ranbir’s expressions between these two songs is enough for one to realize how much hard work he has put in to portray this character. The way Ranbir has performed this song, the tensed nerves on his neck, fuming mouth shouting into the microphone, moody head swings, and angry eyes full of chutzpah make you believe that you are looking at a true Rockstar who really knows the game. Notice how he hastily shakes his fingers several times before starting to play guitar. These small yet careful touches by Ali and Ranbir make this movie a treat to watch.

‘Sheher Mein’ was such a perfectly psychedelic pastiche (ARR doing Nadeem Shravan!) that I was a bit disappointed that it was reduced to few lines in the movie. All the interjections (‘Tum sun nahi rahe ho yaar’ etc.) were retained though, and serve well as comic relief. This is a fun song, something ARR has rarely done before. Other amusing song in this album is ‘Hava Hava’ with a complicated structure where ARR takes some inspirations from gypsy rhythm and sound. Chauhan does Masakkali again, and his voice suits this song well. I especially liked the lyrics, a Raja-Rani anecdote that also reflects (in parts) Heer’s dilemma as she trudges along her unhappy marriage.

Before watching the movie, I felt that the fireworks of acoustic and electric guitar riffs and heavy drum beats (by Shivmani) in ‘Naadaan Parindey’ tried a little too hard to take this song to a climactic height that it wasn’t really meant for. I felt that the extraneous orgy of sounds in this song was borderline dissonant at times. But this song was metamorphosed very successfully on screen – again, kudos to Ali and Ranbir. This is the only song that breaks the one-singer rule as some of Ranbir’s lines were rendered by ARR. In spite of ARR’s presence in the elevated mukhda, I think the song really gets life when Mohit enters with ‘Kaate chahe kitna…’ and ‘Kaga re kaga re…’ lines.

Surprisingly for a love story, there are no duets in this movie. And ‘Tum Ho’ is the only song that Jordon actually sings to Heer. (All other songs are either in the background, or are performed by Jordon to some general audience.) And I thought this was a wonderful way to end this movie – it shows snippets from the times they spend together. Not only we see Jordan sing for and to the object of his inspiration, but we are also reminded yet again how short-lived their romance was; how little time they actually spent together. (A side note: Their adolescent love affair started as a gimmick which involved list-making of things that are social taboo. Eventually, as their relationship matured, they end up breaking one of the biggest social customs – their illicit love affair carries on in complete disregard of the institution of marriage. How ironic!)

Finally, the cinematic pinnacle of the movie for me was the picturization of ‘Aur Ho’. Not only did ARR put Chauhan’s singing ranges on anvil (and Chauhan scored triumphantly), but Ali’s direction, Anil Mehta’s cinematography, Kamil’s lyrics, and the display of emotions/dilemma by the lead actors also attain an artistic high in this song. Some of the best lines in the album come from this song – like ‘Tujhe pehli baar mein milta hoon, har dafa’ and ‘Mein hasrat me ek uljhi dor hua…’. And what can I say about the way this song ends – that unruly kiss at the end of a passionate performance! Loved it! Imtiaz Ali, take a bow.

[Picture Courtesy: The official movie site of Rockstar]

A R Rahman or R D Burman?

I had some engaging discussions with friends recently about who the greatest Indian music composer is. For the most part, the debates revolved around two legends: A R Rahman and R D Burman. (Due to our limited knowledge of Tamil music industry, we kept Illayaraja out of consideration.)

I won’t get into why I think A R Rahman is the greatest, but behind the discussions about the aspects of music (melody, genre, innovation, etc.) I felt that there lies some cognitive biases that affect how we compare the present with the past.

While comparing a contemporary artist — or a piece of art — with a historical one, I think there’s a hidden yet perceptible hesitation to grant more eminence to a contemporary artist than to a veteran. I propose several theories that might explain why:

(1) The veteran artists are often widely respected and revered by our generation as well as our elders that any comparison that do not favor the senior artists is perceived as disrespectful.

(2) Cultural pessimism. Every generation believes that people are not up to the standards of their parents and grandparents. Be it the music industry, or movie industry, cultural values, or the overall state of society, we think that things are getting worse. This pessimism (that our culture is in decline) is one of the reasons why many of us can’t accept that a contemporary music composer (such as A R Rahman) can be better than someone like R D Burman.

(3) We tend to compare the ‘current’ with the ‘best from the past’ — and as a result, the current (music) seems to pale in comparison. Today’s listeners have enjoyed (and endured, if you’re not a fan) pretty much everything that A R Rahman has created. But when it comes to old songs, we are familiar with only those that stood the test of time. Comparing all of the current songs with the best of the past  is unfair — which conveniently overlooks mediocre numbers from the past to affirm that old is gold.

Surely a bulk load of junk was created in the 60’s and the 70’s as well, we just don’t remember those very well. Today’s junk is more accessible — and hence, intrusive and annoying — than yesterday’s.

(4) The diversity of contemporary music industry implies that much trash will be produced. Those suboptimal, low-quality songs should be kept in perspective and we should consider them as a luxury that only a more progressive, innovative and diverse music industry can afford.

All these arguments, in and of themselves, are not enough to conclude that the contemporary music is superior. All I am saying is these cognitive biases tend to impale our ability to make a fair comparison. I am sure there are biases that work in the opposite direction as well. Can you think of any?

Rimjhim Gire Sawan

It’s been raining almost every evening here in Richmond lately, and every time I see the rain pouring down from the skies and the earth drenched in water, I find myself humming this mesmerizing rain song from the movie Manzil: Rimjhim gire sawan.

No, not the Kishore Kumar version. The one rendered by Lata. Not only the picturization of Lata’s version is reminiscence-inducing (a guaranteed stroll down the memory lane), but Lata’s rendition easily overshadows Kishore’s with the intermittent alaaps and mild variations. (She sings the first line of the antara, “pehle bhi yun to” a tad differently than Kishore’s “mehfil mein kaise“, and that works like the Midas touch!)

Here’s the video:


Unlike the song mentioned above, most of the songs that had both female and male versions, I usually end up liking the male version more. Here’s a short list:

Tujhse naaraz naheen zindagi – Masoom: Lata/Anoop Ghoshal

Ehsaan tera hoga mujh par – Junglee: Lata/Rafi [Rafi clearly triumphs in this one – note how comfortably he breezes through the high notes in the antara.]

Aaj kal mein dhal gaya – Beti Bete: Lata/Rafi

Na ye chand hoga – Shart : Geeta Dutt/Talat Mehmood

Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein – Kabhi Kabhi: Lata/Mukesh [Yes, in spite of the twang, I like Mukesh’s version more than the other.]

Dil hoom hoom kare – Rudaali: Lata/Bhupen Hazarika

O saathi re – Mukaddar Ka Sikandar: Asha Bhosle/Kishore Kumar

Kuchh na kaho – 1942 A Love Story: Lata/Kumar Sanu  [This is embarrassing, but yes, I do enjoy Kumar Sanu’s version more!]

And lastly, one glaring exception: Humen tumse pyar kitna from Kudrat. Kishore Kumar’s version is widely popular and quite enjoyable, but I like the Parveen Sultana version that has slightly more classical touch. Here’s the video:

Raavan Music Review [A R Rahman]

The eagerly anticipated music of Raavan has finally released. About 12 years ago, Mani Ratnam, A R Rahman and Gulzar gave us one of the best albums the Indian cinema has ever produced: Dil Se. Three years ago, they recreated some of that magic in Guru. And now, they collaborate for the third time, in one of the most awaited movies of the year.

There are six songs in this album – alas, none rendered by the maestro himself, and no instrumental piece.

Vijay Prakash, a disciple of Suresh Wadekar, who did wonders with Man Mohini (Yuvraj), but butchered Fiqrana (Blue) with his almost incomprehensible pronunciations, joins with the newcomer Mustafa for this upbeat energetic introduction of the lead character: Beera. Unlike Omkara (another character-defining song), in which Gulzar had two antaras at his disposal to create a sketch of Omi, Beera Beera is a short song. So Gulzar had to use his words sparingly to introduce the lead character who has ten heads and hundred names (referring to the multitude of his personality?). But he gives us enough clues and teasers to keep us mystified and intrigued about Beera: “Janm na poochho,  jaat na poochho; poochho jo pehchaan, Beera ka abhimaan hai.” Ask not about his lineage, or about his caste. Ask about his identify. His identity is his pride. (Wasn’t pride one of the vices Ravana supposed to have?)

The next song Behene De somehow reminds me of Satrangi Re. It has that passion, that intensity, that agony (which Shahrukh portrayed so well on screen) but everything is toned down quite a bit. Compared to (ironically named) Amar’s desire “Mujhe maut ki god mein sone de”, Beera’s plea for “Behne de” might seem much less esoteric, but the song does captivate the listener and succeeds in evoking a sense of yearning. Karthik’s crisp and earnest rendition does full justice to this wonderful song.

Thok De Killi is high on attitude and adrenaline. A R Rahman knows when to rope in Sukhwinder, whose lively voice and energetic style perfectly suits this song. However, I am not sure if this situational song has a lot of repeat-value. I read somewhere that this movie features the Dravidian martial art Kalarippayattu, and since this song sounds like a war-song it might have been used as a background score to a fight sequence. (I wonder if Thok De Killi refers to the phrase “the last nail in the coffin”…)

The only duet in the album is Ranjha Ranjha, with an unusual pair of singers: Rekha Bharadwaj and Javed Ali. Gulzar takes cue from the great Punjabi poet Bulleh Shah: Rahnjha ranjha kardi wey mein, aape ranjha hui. [Chanting Ranjha’s name over and over, I’ve become Ranjha myself.] The last time Gulzar did something like this was in Mausam, where he borrowed a sher from Ghalib: Dil dhoondhta hai. The simple and playful structure of this song, and background percussion beats are similar to Yaar Mila Tha from Blue. But Rekha and Javed’s voice, Anuradha Sriram’s background vocals, and Gulzar’s poetry makes this song a treat to hear.

Reena Bhardwaj’s pristine voice, chorus (seven singers are credited for providing background vocals), flute, sitar and tabla creates a quasi-devotional mood in Khili Re. This song will probably grow over time. Good to see Reena’s come-back after a long time – her first and only song was Ye Rishta in Meenaxi. Kata Kata is an explosion of bugles, heavy percussion (dhol), shehnai and a diverse consortium of singers who celebrate the last few moments of bride and groom before their wedding. Ranjit Barot’s music arrangement is quite impressive. The lyrics are teasing and sarcastic for the most part, but there are some sincere words of advice for the bride as well! (Remember Chhalka Chhalka Re from Saathiya?) Reportedly, this song was shot with 1,000 dancers in Orcha, Madhya Pradesh.

It’s only been a day since I’ve been listening to this album, and I don’t want to give a hurried verdict. But I would say that it’s quite an enjoyable album and worth your money (please buy original music!)

[You can listen to Raavan songs on MeraMood.]

Aaj Jane Ki Zid Na Karo

There is hardly any other ghazal or nazm that I like as much as Aaj jane ki zid na karo – written by Fayyaz Hashmi and rendered by the Malika-e-Ghazal Farida Khanum. I came across this beautiful nazm through Monsoon Wedding movie. A million thanks to Mira Nair for using this song in the OST.

Here’s the original (live) version in Farida Khanum’s full-throated, enchanting voice:

And here’s full lyrics:

आज जाने की ज़िद ना करो
यूँ ही पेहलु में बैठे रहो
आज जाने की ज़िद न करो
हाय मर जायेंगे, हम तो मिट जायेंगे
ऐसी बातें किया ना करो
आज जाने की ज़िद ना करो

तुम ही सोचो ज़रा, क्यों ना रोके तुम्हे
जान जाती है, जब उठ के जाते हो तुम (२)
तुमको अपनी कसम जान-ए-जां
बात इतनी मेरी मान लो
आज जाने की ज़िद ना करो
यूँ ही पेहलु में बैठे रहो (२)
आज जाने की ज़िद ना करो
हाय मर जायेंगे, हम तो मिट जायेंगे
ऐसी बातें किया ना करो
आज जाने की ज़िद ना करो

वक़्त की क़ैद में ज़िन्दगी है मगर (२)
चन्द घड़ियाँ यही हैं जो आज़ाद हैं
इनको खोकर मेरे जान-ए-जां
उम्रभर ना तरसते रहो
आज जाने की ज़िद ना करो
हाय मर जायेंगे, हम तो मिट जायेंगे
ऐसी बातें किया ना करो
आज जाने की ज़िद ना करो

कितना मासूम रंगीन है ये समा
हुस्न और इश्क की आज मेराज है (२)
कल की किस को खबर जान-ए-जां
रोक लो आज की रात को
आज जाने की ज़िद ना करो
यूँ ही पेहलु में बैठे रहो (२)
आज जाने की ज़िद ना करो
हाय मर जायेंगे, हम तो मिट जायेंगे
ऐसी बातें किया ना करो
आज जाने की ज़िद ना करो

There are several other versions of this nazm performed by other singers such as Asha Bhonsle, Anoop Jalota, Richa Sharma (skip over to 4:15 and excuse her banter), Shafqat Amant Ali and Habib Wali Mohammed. (The last one’s from an old Pakistani movie Badal Aur Bijli.) But I don’t think any other singer was able to accomplish the flexion and pathos of Khanum’s rendition.


P. S. The meaning of mi’raj in the last stanza is interesting (“husn aur ishq ki aaj mi’raj hai”). Literally, the word means the ascension (or the night journey) of prophet Mohammed to the heavens. In the nazm this word probably means a journey or a supremely joyous occasion.

A R Rahman’s Spiritual Canon

A R Rahman has experimented, quite successfully, with myriad musical genres. But when it comes to spiritual songs, he likes to leave them untainted by not adding a lots of bells and whistles and rely heavily on the core melody itself.

I don’t think any other music director (in Bollywood, if not in India) has given us more “spiritual” songs than the maestro. I like to call them spiritual songs, as opposed to religious or devotional, because although majority of these songs have either Islamic or Hindu flavor, I find them universally appealing and elevating. Here’s a list of my favorites from this genre:

Khwaja Mere Khwaja – Jodha Akbar

This song was dedicated to the Hidalwali (Saint of India) Khwaja Ghareeb-un-Nawaz, and was rendered by A R Rahman himself. He one mentioned in an interview that this song is very close to his heart, and you can feel his sincerity in the way he has sung this beautiful song. The soul stirring instrumental (Oboe) version of this song gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

[Trivia: The lyrics of this song were not written by Javed Akhar – who wrote all other songs of this movie – but by someone named Kashif.]

Arziyan – Delhi 6

Backed by harmonium, tabla and continual gentle claps, this mesmerizing qawwali is like an ode to the Islamic culture of Old Delhi. Javed Ali, along with Kailash Kher, does full justice to Prasoon Joshi’s meaningful lyrics and A R Rahman’s magical tune.

Piya Haji Ali – Fiza

This was the first Sufi-style qawwali that A R Rahman composed for a movie. For Khuda ke vali (God’s friend) Haji Ali, to be specific. Shaukat Ali’s beautiful lyrics give a glimpse of how Islam, the monotheist religion, has blended with the local cultures in India: Yahaan hindu muslim sikh isaai faiz paate hai.

[Trivia: This song was performed by Ghulam Mustafa brothers, Srinivas and A R Rahman. Can you identify which lines are sung by Srinivas?]

Apart from the obvious Sufi semblance, muqaddar/taqdeer/kismat is another connecting link between the aforementioned songs: Arziyan (Marammat muqaddar ki kar do maula), Khwaja Mere Khwaja (Bekasoor ki taqdeer, tune hai saNwaari) and Piya Haji Ali (Bigadi kismat aap ke dar par saNwarti hai).

Al Maddath Maula – Mangal Pandey: The Rising

Unlike the three songs mentioned above, this one has a high tempo, an adrenaline rush and a dark tone of impending calamity. Murtuza, Qadir and Kailash Kher sing this song with a fervor, with intermittent devout spine-tingling calls to maula by A R Rahman.

[Trivia: Murtaza and Qadir are the same Ghulam Mustafa brothers from Piya Haji Ali. They also accompanied A R Rahman in Tere Bina from Guru, and rendered some beautiful lines in Chupke Se song from Saathiya.]

O Paalanhaare – Lagaan

There are actually two versions of this song. One sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Udit Narayan, and the other with an additional female singer. It’s the latter version that was used in the movie (to distinguish the lines picturized on Gauri and Bhuvan’s mother). But I prefer the former one, with Lata’s aging yet divine voice accompanied by mellifluous flute and subtle sounds of temple bells. Here’s the version that was used in the movie.

Noor-Un-Ala-Noor – Meenaxi

Written by the great painter and inept director, M F Hussain, this addictive qawwali raised a controversy because some Muslims got offended (I think the song uses a phrase from Quran to praise the beauty of a mere mortal: Meenaxi). And guess who are the singers of this qawwali? Murtaza and Qadir again!

Man Mohana – Jodha Akbar

As I wrote in my review of Jodha Akbar’s music, add Mira’s pangs of separation (from Krishna) to Radha’s passion (for him) and you get the recipe for this devotional song. The way Bela Shende has rendered this bhajan – her unflattering voice and command over the highs and lows of the song leaves you wondering why she doesn’t get more offers as a singer. (Isn’t Kangna Re from Paheli is her only other song?)

Ek Tu Hi Bharosa – Pukar

Lata and A R Rahman joined hands only seven times, and the result is always breathtaking. The tune of this song was originally composed for a concert in Malaysia and later used for this movie.

Zikr – Bose: The Forgotten Hero

This song is something else! I can’t really describe the elevated sense of euphoria that it evokes. One shouldn’t merely listen to this song, one should experience it. Since I am not a religious person, I attribute the effect of the song to the music (as opposed to its meaning).

Ishwar Allah – 1947 Earth

The secular message of this melancholic number is in the form of a series of questions to the almighty. It’s played in the background when the  end-credits roll, and I think that was a perfect way to end this movie – a story of savagery and violence narrated by a Parsi girl.

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