Om Shanti Om Music Review
Album: “Om Shanti Om”; Music: Vishal-Shekhar; Singers: K.K., Sonu Nigam, Udit Narayan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sukhwinder Singh, Shaan, Abhijeet, Rahul Saxena, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal, Richa Sharma, Marianne D’Cruz, Nisha Mascarenhas, Caralisa Monteiro; Rating: ****
As Diwali ’07 makes its way around the corner, we can all expect to witness the Best of Bollywood so to speak. Of course it’s all speculation – but Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om is supposed to be one of the biggest, badest, most lavish products to hit floors this year. Well, it’s a bit too early to lay a hand on the cinematic product, but it’s time to extensively discuss its soundtrack – of which much has been said and speculated till date.
The fact that the film’s music was first offered to A.R. Rahman says a lot. Obviously Farah felt the film was deserving of a soundtrack that emulates nothing less than extraordinary. Unfortunately, for whatever reason (speculations overflow), Rahman saab was forced to leave the project. Well, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. In this case, there are two lucky fellows who profit – the versatile duo of Vishal-Shekhar.
As if asking Vishal-Shekhar to fill the shoes of Rahman wasn’t enough; Farah requested the musical ambiance to tip-toe along the R.D. Burmanesque trend. Yes, the music Is intended to take listeners back several decades…back to when “music was real music,” whatever that is supposed to mean.
Sure, Vishal-Shekhar have faced expectations before, but none compared to the ones they face today. Not only will their skills be pushed to the limit, but their versatility and adaptability will be tested more so than ever. And finally we have lyricist Javed Akhtar, who has grown quite fond of Vishal-Shekhar as of late. I think I went through a minor anxiety attack while picking the CD up – probably because I keep praying and hoping V-S can finally give us that one score that will just knock your socks off, especially since their previous three soundtracks this year (Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd., Ta Ra Rum Pum, and Cash) have definitely not been up to V-S standards. Enough chit-chat folks. Here we go…
Oh my how the God’s of Music have smiled upon us! Ajab Si is arguably one of the most gentle pieces the year has to offer – its sounds, evoking an aura of fragile beauty. An acoustic-heavy composition, Vishal-Shekhar arrange a piece that highlights the MDs’ strengths – light-hearted romance (yes it’s a genre I’ve made up, but you know what I’m talking about). And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then listen to their techno-heavy work in CASH’s soundtrack…now imagine the EXACT opposite. The composers keep it very simple when it comes to the sounds, yet their creative minds are working very intricately to come up with instrumentation rarely heard in today’s racy musical world. Listen to the stanzas, and marvel at the skittish splashes of an intriguing synth that pans timidly from left to right – as if teasing the vocals. Or perhaps you’d like to glance over at the shy stringing of a harp, whose very brief presence seems to want to entice, lure, and charm the listener.
In many ways, ‘Ajab Si’ reminds us of a previous gem by V-S, which was quick to be forgotten – Chand Ki Roshni from the film ‘Home Delivery.’ And the similarities continue into the vocals, as it is K.K. once again who is blessed with the opportunity to render one of V-S’s greatest tunes. Or wait, are V-S the ones blessed to have K.K. render one of his greatest songs? Well, either way – both are very privileged. I know it’s cliché but…It’s as if K.K. was born to sing this very song. His evocative vocals seamlessly latch onto the acoustic rhythm, becoming one with the music. Vishal pens this one himself and is at his romantic best. Little credit is ever given to Vishal, who writes a lot of his own songs with elegance. However, so much of your attention will simply be captivated by the musical and vocal elements of the piece that you will find yourself completely unaware of the lyrics at times, as was the case with me during my first exposure to this gorgeous spectacle of sound. Excuse me, while I have another listen…
Next up we have Dard-E-Disco, three words I doubt you will ever hear together again. OK – this is what V-S are somewhat known for (heavy beats, loud sounds, arrangements belonging to the techno/club genre). Of course if you were to ask me, I feel Track #1 is what they are best at. But I digress. Dard-E-Disco is a song that holds a creative glass that is half-empty. Arrangements contain sounds that were previously utilized in their albums like Dus and Cash. To add to the creative-lacking and non-evocative arrangements, the melody holds no catch value either. Sukhwinder Singh performs well, as usual, but the singer is only as good as the song he is given, right? Not to mention, the constant repetition of the ‘Dard-E-Disco’ refrain will begin to test even the most patient of nerves. Singers Marianne, Nisha, and Caralisa Monteiro form a female chorus to back Sukhi. Any guess as to what the chorus sings? “Dard-E-Disco…Dard-E-Disco.” NEXT!
And those Gods are beginning to grin once again. Deewangi Deewangi is a treat for everyone to shake a leg to. This exciting dance number is animatedly lit with the addictive tune of a fargo synth, which paves the way for a colorful number one would expect from a Farah Khan film – very Yash Rajish. Although V-S invigorate the composition with a lot of modern instruments the piece does carry the intended nostalgia, which is felt through the musical interims via the strings. The vocal cast includes Shaan, Udit Narayan, Rahul Saxena (Indian Idol talent), Shreya Ghoshal, and Sunidhi Chauhan. Rahul, albeit in a very brief appearance, appears as the misfit of the group – his timid vocals don’t match the power and energy that has been exulted by the other singers. Although the infectious number could have done away with the English lyrics throughout, the piece is still extremely enjoyable and will be a pure treat to savor on screen – especially since SRK will be going wild after a long time in this number. Folks, treat yourself to some unadulterated fun and “put your hands up in the air and sing OM SHANTI OM.”
Ah, and this is where the real nostalgia kicks in. Main Agar Kahoon reminds us of some of the timeless romantic melodies heard throughout the 70s, rendered most often by the great Moh’d Rafi – perhaps that’s why V-S roped in Sonu Nigam to render this tender orchestral piece. Is it just a coincidence that Sonu sings a Moh’d Rafi tune…and the film happens to be about reincarnation? But Anyways…the song begins with a heavy orchestral flute, lined by the staccato play of an acoustic guitar. This intro slivers underneath the vocals throughout the piece. In addition, we hear lots of pianist renditions, which are nicely balanced by a very varied ensemble of percussion. Although the melody brings us remembrance of what melody once was decades ago, it does not particularly embody a melody that has been used to its fullest potential. However, the duet between Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghoshal (arguably the greatest duet combination of the new millennium) makes this song worth keeping on your playlist. In fact, while I was listening to this piece, it was amidst a stormy, very dark, yet very peaceful night – creating the perfect atmosphere for such a romantically haunting composition. All in all, this is a very commendable performance by Vishal and Shekhar.
V-S put us in a time machine, taking us back to the 60s and 70s where we experience a very lively Dhoom Tana. Although V-S had gone back in time to do arrangements before (‘Kyon Aaga Peeche’ from the film Golmaal – Fun Unlimited), they’ve never done something to this extent. With this composition, V-S have single-handedly proven that they are amongst the most perceptive and versatile composers India has. From the instruments used, the melody structuring, right down to the fine variations in singing style, V-S have successfully created a sense of Déjà vu for any listener who is familiar with the sounds of yesteryear. Abhijeet and Shreya Ghoshal also deserve a pat on the back for seamlessly mixing with the style and genre that V-S have brought back decades later. Javed Akhtar plays his role well as the lyricist. Verdict: It’s as if Laxmikant, Pyarelal, and R.D. Burman rose from the dead to compose this track!
Flash-forward to 2007 and Vishal-Shekhar stop on a dime to create a heart-wrenching composition featuring one of the greatest voices today – Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. The piece under the microscope is Jag Soona Soona Lage. Although V-S use one steadily arranged rhythm throughout the piece, it’s done with intent, purpose, and care. I’m a firm believer that an arranger/composer (you can’t really use those words interchangeably anymore in Bollywood) need not mix a variety of rhythms or raags into a piece to create creative quality – rather, if a single constructive rhythm contains quality in itself, it may very well be fitting to use that one rhythm throughout – and this is EXACTLY what Vishal-Shekhar do, and they take full advantage of it.
The somber, yet seductive rhythm paves a path upon which RFAK can put down his gut-wrenching vocals, which he has done superbly! Of course I don’t want to skip over Richa Sharma’s brilliant introduction, as she pours her heart out in her signature Punjabi folk style, rendering lyrics (Punjabi) by Kumaar. Apart from the steady rhythm and RFAK’s magnificent vocalization, V-S try not to touch their creation any more, and rightfully restrict to just pouring a little string under the vocals for instrumental support. And if you wonder why I haven’t been giving much attention to Javed Akhtar throughout the album, it’s because I was waiting for him to write a song just like this – soulful…sad…exquisite. He writes on a man’s desolation…a man’s loss…a man’s cry. And my goodness how he delivers! Verdict: After ‘Ajab Si’ took away the Gold in breath-taking fashion, ‘Jag Soona Soona Lage’ comes in a close second.
Ok, now Vishal-Shekhar are just plain showing off! Dastaan-E-Om Shanti Om is the perfect culmination to a truly versatile soundtrack. For the very first-time, Vishal-Shekhar give us an orchestral piece – but it’s not a conventional orchestral piece by any means. By using a slight rock influence to serve as the arranged base, V-S build upon it with various orchestral elements like strings, orchestral flute, harp, oboe etc. The song is based off of the unforgettable classic ‘Ek Haseena Thi’ from the film Karz. Shaan’s rendition will put a chill down your spine, while Javed Akhtar builds upon the pre-conceived lyrics, keeping in line with the haunting effect of this themed piece. This piece, as all orchestral pieces, can only truly be appreciated once you listen to it for yourself. No critique or review of mine will be able to sum up the effect this piece had on me. I urge you.
The final five tracks comprise of four remixes and one theme piece. The remixes are quite ordinary, and I will avoid wasting my time discussing them at any length. However, the Om Shanti Om Theme Music is a petite pianist rendition of the theme music heard in Dastaan-E-Om shanty Om and other tracks throughout the soundtrack. It will be a soothing experience to hear it played in the backdrops of the film.
Nobody will be as relieved as I was when I heard Om Shanti Om. Why? Because it’s been since early 2005, after the release of soundtracks like Shabd and Home Delivery that V-S have been able to finally get back on the horse and show us what they are really capable of. With Om Shanti Om, the energy, the quality, the passion, the urge to be creative has all suddenly rushed back into the heads of these extremely talented young MDs.
For most people, composing under such high expectations and for such a huge film, especially after it was initially offered to Rahman the Great, would spell disaster, as they’d probably crack under the pressure. But not only have V-S proven themselves in terms of musical ingenuity and quality, they have shown us the confidence, the poise, and the ability to step up to the plate and hit a grand-slam when they’re called upon to do so. Oh and I forgot to mention their unbelievable versatility – coming up with something so diverse and well-crafted after releasing a techno-heavy/monotonous album in the form of Cash just a few months prior.
Of course when the film releases, people will all but forget the gentlemen behind the music. But today is your day V-S. I give you a standing ovation.