A romance set against a backdrop that is specific: Bengal in the 1950s. By definition, such a film must not only have popular music but also something of substance, with a feel of the region and the era. The music of Parineeta (2005) remains a contemporary benchmark of such music, so far as Bengal is concerned.
Amit Trivedi does bring in a half-hearted effort to get into the Bengal of the 1950s by keeping his songs less ‘rock’-ish than his norm in the standout numbers. But his penchant for making music that reflects his own style rather than something that belongs to the film, its period and its location eventually overrides the content that is needed.
But first, the three songs that do find him in Bengal, so to speak. ‘Sawaar Loon‘ (Monali Thakur) has an arresting desi rhythm and hook and so we get an aroma of the province. But Monali could have been less Shreya-esque in her singing style. If it was the singer’s attempt to sound that way, the composer should have curtailed it.
The song is strong enough in its basic melodic line to become big, has potent words and is enriched by the use of provincial dhols and strings.
In ‘Ankahee‘ (sung by lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya himself) the retro-style phrasing of the melody is ornamented by apt pianos and strings. There is also an overlong prelude. Still, the melody is smooth and one can even imagine Kishore Kumar at the microphone as the lyrics conjure up nice poetic imagery.
Another lyricist who is also a singer, Swanand Kirkire, joins Amitabh Bhattacharya in ‘Monta Re‘, probably the most ‘Bangla’ song on the album, with the ghughroos and the santoor pervading the song. There is a transient haunting quality to the tune.
Two different guitars vie for attention in the brief prelude of ‘Shikayatein‘ (Mohan Kanan-Amitabh), where we have a full-fledged rock-based litany that may have a niche appeal but seems to be misplaced within the film. The obscure imagery in the words (Shikaayatein mitane lagi /Subah bedaag hai) does not help either.
Amit Trivedi once again gets into the wrong time-zone and comes up with ‘Zinda‘ with modern tempo and singing. A transiently-catchy number that sounds nice while listening to it, with a choral refrain at the end, it is not the stuff memorabilia is made of.
If the last track, ‘Manmarziyaan‘ (Shilpa Rao-Amitabh Bhattacharya) sounds better, it is because of the ethnic orchestral touches and the classical nuances that anoint the modern flavour of the song. But it is high time that a singer as well-groomed as Shilpa gets a song worthy of her skills, where she can sing deep from the throat instead of (seemingly) crooning from the mouth and lips.
The music carries a feel of the film’s needs only in part. The album is driven by the catchy ‘Sawaar Loon‘, and the more substantial ‘Ankahee‘.