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DTF Editor 01-28-2014 02:10 PM

Highway
 
<b>Music:</b> A.R. Rahman<BR>
<b>Lyrics: </b> Irshad Kamil<BR>
<b>Music Label: </b> T-Series<BR><BR>

<b>Expectations: </b><BR><BR>
Imtiaz Ali's music has always been impressive - with his last film <i>Rockstar</i> being rich fodder to A.R. Rahman fans. Expectations from this collaboration are very high. <BR><BR>

<b>Music: </b><BR><BR>
The score begins with the Sufiana tenor of '<b><i>Patakha Guddi</i></b>' sung by Sultana and Jyoti Nooran. A.R. Rahman tweaks the number to his familiar styles of orchestration and musical phrasing and the singers go about their jobs with dexterity, scoring most in the <i>antaras</i>. The Sufi-pop tenor merges with the composer's trademark embellishments to form a song that sounds terrific when on, but does not linger much because of its too-complex structure and - in the final analysis - a definite and incongruous Southern tenor. <BR><BR>

The other version, '<b><i>Patakha Guddi' (Male) </i> </b> is vocally helmed by Rahman himself and is sorely inferior because the composer's voice and style does not suit the song. <BR><BR>

'<b><i>Maahi Ve</i></b>' (A.R. Rahman) is a haunting track musically but Rahman's high-pitched vocals and imperfect Hindi diction again spoil the show. The treatment is a mix of Western and typical ARR for a North Indian folk-based song and this hybrid experiment works only in part. <BR><BR>

Jonita Gandhi renders '<b><i>Kahaan Hoon Main</i></b>', which sounds like a Western number in sound and composition. The musical nuances make it seem like a song straight out of European clubs. To her credit, Jonita sings expressively and, for an Indo-Canadian singer, is immaculate in her diction. In fact, Jonita infuses whatever is Indian in the song. Her voice has a lovely texture and vocal <i>taiyyari</i> that could really shine in more <i>desi</i> songs. <BR><BR>

Jonita's other track, '<b><i>Implosive Silence</i></b>' is a musical piece with Jonita providing the backing vocals. As usual, the track shows Rahman's talent at such pieces and his international sensibilities and approach to orchestration. This obviously includes a good dollop of fusion amidst the essentially typical treatment. However, at a running time of 5.42 minutes, the track becomes a drag for Indian listeners, who prefer their music to be lyrics- and vocals-oriented. <BR><BR>

'<b><i>Wanna Mashup</i></b>' (Kash, Krissy, Suvi Suresh) no doubt has a situational place in the film, but there is nothing to talk about for this cacophonous piece. <BR><BR>

And now, let us look at the three winners in this nine-track album. The first is Alia Bhatt's singing debut '<b><i>Sooha Saha</i></b>' (with Zeb). For a first-timer, Alia's performance is super-impressive. A typical instrumental piece begins this lullaby and the interludes are also in a familiar terrain. The lullaby hits you in the right place - sentimental appeal - despite the incongruous orchestration. But why does the interlude music remind us of the <i>Jaan-E-Mann song 'Humko maloom hai ishq masoom hai'? </i> <BR><BR>

Next up the ladder is Sunidhi Chauhan's masterfully- elucidated '<b><i>Tu Kuja</i></b>', her first song in eons for the composer. Perhaps the most exquisitely-composed number on the soundtrack, this unconventionally-composed aural wonder takes its rightful place among the gems that ARR has given to Hindi film music. <BR><BR>

Irshad Kamil's pure Hindi lyrics (<i>Mujh adham se kyoon toone mukh phera / Main dharaatal se pukaroon haath de apna / Sun meri bhi koi na mera</i>) and the soft orchestration lift the song almost to the realm of the sublime. <BR><BR>

The final frontier is the last diamond on the score, aptly titled '<b>Heera</i></b>' and rendered by Shweta Pandit, who is suddenly evolving by the song, provided a song deserves her expertise. The song is typical Rahman again, but the steep melody, the rich lyrics in ages-old pure Hindi (<i>Heera soye saraahiye / Sahi ghanan ki chot / Kapat ko range manwa / Parkhat nikra khot</i>). The poignant aura of the song is only enhanced by Shweta and the subdued orchestration. Her (successful) efforts to excel are as crystal clear and have the same chimera as the diamond the lyrics speak about. <BR><BR>

A word about Irshad Kamil's lyrics: Granted that we are privy to the information that the story traverses multiple states and the lyrics alter accordingly, but to us, it is imperative that a song be <i>understood</i> by the music-loving listener (who may not even watch the film). Incomprehensible terms (like '<i>Sooha saha</i>' which means a red rabbit) in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi and a near-complete Punjabi-Sufi lexicon in many songs that is beyond the ken of the pan-Indian listener (who does know Hindustani) is, according to us, a strict no-no. We have seen this lyricist's genius and depth in so many songs and films, and esoteric stuff is the last we expect from this consummate talent. <BR><BR>

Irshad, in short, along with the film's director, should know that songs live on because of the <i>lyrics</i> and any shortfall in this department will severely compromise not just the initial popularity (and thus the music's magnetic pull for the film's success) but also the final shelf-life of the songs. <BR><BR>

<b>Overall: </b><BR><BR>
This is a decent A.R. Rahman score after a long gap, in the sense that it will appeal even to those who are not hardcore fans of the composer and his musical grammar (and composition!). However, for sheer mass connectivity, we still miss the excellence of Ali's <i>Jab We Met</i> and <i>Love Aaj Kal</i>! Those were soundtracks that made the director's films get initial as well as repeat value! <BR><BR>

<b>Our Pick: </b><BR><BR>
<i> 'Patakha Guddi' - Female, 'Sooha Saha', 'Man Kuja, Heera'</i>


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