Sunday, May 21, 2006

aural loop: the songs of ankahee

a short bit about the film: Vikram Bhatt's Ankahee promises to be a revisionist (read: potentially bland, ineffectual) take on a core idea in Mahesh Bhatt's films like Arth and MB's own made-for-TV good-songs-boring-film follow-up Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Ayee. Mahesh Bhatt has always described Arth as a semi-autobiographical film and the theme of a man, his wife and the other woman has surfaced in many flavours across his oeuvre. So one wonders about the Bhatt clan when Vikram Bhatt's "Brutal Love Story" gets a marketing appendage that describes it as semi-autobiographical (being an ode to his relationship with Sushmita Sen -- it's a line that Vikram Bhatt supported initially, before calling it all a marketing thing). Vikram Bhatt even calls the film "the same old sh*t," so you have the maker's word on the film to help your decision as far as taking the pains to view it.

image courtesy:
the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that blocks the camera

and now, Mr. Pritam Chakraborty: I've been looping Pritam's songs for the film for quite a while now -- something I haven't been able to do for the recent Bollywood soundtracks. I have a soft corner for the use of the guitar in Bollywood soundtracks. One has had the simplistic examples in Anu Malik's canon, Prasanna's contributions to the occasional spots in Rahman's work (july madham being a personal favourite), Tushar Parte's work on Vishal Bharadwaj's songs, Vishal-Shekhar's now less frequent forays into non-dance-hall territory. Another contributor to the pool is no-longer-NKOB Pritam Chakraborty, who tasted soaring success with the title track for Dhoom. I've liked his arrangements and he also employs the guitar frequently. On the flip side, he's also been ruling the roost on the plagiarism front, chalking up numbers that would put Sanjeev-Darshan to shame. The variety and esoteric nature of his sources and his flair for good arrangements makes him worthy of being called the "Mighty Rearranger" (with due apologies to Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation). Gangster was a good soundtrack to loop through, but sources have already been nailed down [courtesy: Karthik at I2FS] for all the songs except for mujhe mat roko. There are chances that the songs of Ankahee have sources of their own (the chord progressions and melodies sound addictive and familiar enough); but only time will tell.

Ankahee: the songs: The album kicks off with ek pal ke liye that opens with an impassioned male laa-laa refrain and continues to be peppered with some delicious Jesse Cook-esque guitar, soft electronica and bass. KK, a personal favourite, is inconsistent with his 'r's (some roll -- why o why! --some don't). The electronic percussion doesn't take the song into the annoying dance-with-me space. There's enough nylon guitar here to destroy all semblance of objectivity on the part of YT. The fills certainly can't boast the complexity and flair of a Clapton or Page solo, but they'll have to do. Small mercies are what you get in the marsh of Bollywood mijhik. This song is Amitabh Varma's (My Brother Nikhil, Chhal) contribution to the soundtrack and his words suffice -- despite the lack of any interesting ideas, there's no Sameer-esque attempt at piffle rhyme. The song pops up in two more avataars (same mukha.Daa, different a.ntaraas), each sung by popular singers I have a hard time adjusting to: Sonu "La Femme" Nigam and Shreya "Shatterglass" Ghoshal. Nigam's version boasts a flute piece in the prelude and boasts more consistent backing on the rhythm guitar. The rolling of the 'r' is seldom heard, and is a welcome change. The interludes quote and improvise on the prelude, and there's even a chordal improvisation near the tail of the a.ntaraa. Sadly, the guitar cedes control to the strings and electronica towards the end. Musically, the Shreya Ghoshal version is the Nigam version with a different voice track. Ghoshal rolls the terminating 'r's on occasion, tries to infuse some 'oomph' (which makes you wish beyond hope that Sunidhi Chauhan had done this song), but she can't keep her "thin voice of a little girl" persona in check, which makes this version a tad avoidable.

Ghoshal, sadly, gets another song on this album. Except for the vibe of a swirling descent into nostalgia and heartache, aa paas aa seems like a track from another album. The guitar shows up only for an interlude, leaving the rest of the track as an electronica-assisted venture. There's too much of the heard-this-before and the this-is-beginning-to-drag-a-bit happening here. Sameer's patent-pending rhyme is evident with lines like aa paas aa sanam / sahaa na jaaye duuriyo.n kaa Gam / tujhe hai qasam.

A nice turn comes in the form of a bit of little pop called tumase yuu.N mile.nge. Despite the strange forays of the melody (forcing the presence of chords like G, Ab, E and C# in the key of F), Kunal Ganjawala probably phoned in this performance (along with the multi-tracked harmonies). Lots of guitar -- both acoustic and electric -- including a rocksy solo in the first interlude and an acoustic turn in the second interlude. Thanks to a shift in the chord progression Subrat Sinha's aur ye zi.ndagii mahakegii tumhaarii baaho.n me.n gets gets split at zi.ndagii in the mukha.Daa; consequently the mukha.Daa ends with an incomplete fragment. Nice touch.

Then there's the title track. anakahii opens with the opening melody of the mukha.Daa played out on the acoustic guitar. This one's laden with accidentals too. The chord progression (A – C – G – A) is the same as the one on Love is Strong by The Rolling Stones. Love that C# in the final measure at the turnaround. It's an addictive melody with addictive chords. And lots of acoustic guitar.

For Babul Supriyo's lamhaa Pritam does something interesting. He takes the riff from the title song, transposes it from the key of A to the key of F, moves it into this song as the prelude, and then lets the rest of the song proceed along like tumase yuu.N mile.nge. Supriyo continues to sound like a decaffeinated version of Kumar "the nose who has ceded the throne to Himesh" Sanu adding little to the melody besides hitting all the notes as they come by.

Incidentally, the title also qualifies as a member of the titular abuse list. Does no one remember Amol Palekar's nice little nugget starring Amol Palekar, Deepti Naval, Shreeram Lagoo and Vidhu Vinod Chopra with a stellar classical soundtrack by Jaidev featuring, among others, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi? Such strong credentials make Vikram Bhatt's doppelgänger pale at the starting line itself.

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