Jhund Music Review: Rage Against The Machine , Film Companion

There has been some anticipation for the soundtrack of Jhund, and for good reason. This is after all director Nagraj Manjule and composers Ajay-Atul’s first outing together since the sensational Sairat (2016). I had already become a fan of Ajay-Atul by then, having been introduced to their music through Agneepath (2012), but it was really Manjule’s film that became their definitive work, a reference point for all their signatures. You listen to “Mere Naam Tu” from Zero (2018) and you see how it is cut from the same cloth as “Sairat Zaala Jee” – yet, never for once do you feel that they are recycling. It’s the quality that separates imitators from artists. 

Amazingly, where the Marathi language Sairat was able to transcend regional barriers, Jhund is a Hindi film, with all the firepower to reach a wider audience thanks to the two Amitabhs – Bachchan and Bhattacharya. The versatile Bhattacharya has a talent for words that travel and the intelligence to tune himself into a new sensibility.

“Aaya re jhund hai”, though, is not written by him but Ajay-Atul. The charged, euphoric title track is fuelled by a rage against the system. They take a couple of keywords to conjure the world the film (seems to) belong to (“Bharat bandh”, “curfew”), while slaying with simplicity: “Hum ko duniya ne… roz dekha hai; Phir bhi andekha… Jhund hai.” Besides, it’s no mean feat to write a title song for a film called Jhund. 

 

The song has a lot going for it compositionally – sonically, singing wise, plus the whole 80s angry young man throwback vibe that Ajay-Atul manage to create few seconds into the song with a swaggering intro. From what it looks from the promos – which gives equal, if not more, importance to the other characters in the film – Manjule is likely to use the Bachchan archetype in his own style and this is a fitting theme song. It doesn’t feature his baritone – an easy temptation. Instead, it heavily uses choruses to represent multiplicity of voices and channels anti-establishment anger all the same. 

Jhund revolves around Bachchan’s character assembling a ragtag team of Dalit, disenfranchised youngsters into a journey of footballing glory. “Laat Maar”, therefore, becomes both the motivational anthem in an underdog sports movie and a war cry against the caste system.

“Lafda Zala” is the “Zingaat” of Jhund, keeping it earthy but a banger alright, all set to rock visarjans come next Ganesh Chaturthi. The composers go techno in the retro sense of the word and geek out with the arrangement. The hook line is as much a homage to older models of beginner-level synthesisers as it is meant to reproduce the unsophisticated quality of music that’s likely to play in a dance party of a chawl (this is how you have your cake, and eat it too). The metric precision of the Marathi smattered lyrics (it’s one of Bhattacharya’s strengths) is tight, and so is the rawness (“haath-pair-chamra…”).  

 

Jhund revolves around Bachchan’s character assembling a ragtag team of Dalit, disenfranchised youngsters into a journey of footballing glory. “Laat Maar”, therefore, becomes both the motivational anthem in an underdog sports movie and a war cry against the caste system. R&B and hip-hop are the right genres for this, allied styles that have historically given voice to the oppressed, and getting Sid Sriram to sing is a masterstroke. Likely to appear in a climactic, high-voltage moment in the movie, his voice has the drama and the pain, touching soaring melodies in serpentine ways with his vocal agility. (Saurabh Abhyankar aka 100 RBH, who you have heard in “India 91” from Gully Boy, also features.) 

Which is why he gets another song. Sriram pulls off the complex melodies of “Baadal se dosti” with similar passion. The lyrics talk about looking at the brighter side of a hard life and his voice runs contrapuntal to the darkish arrangement (“Kyun rehti hai tu dhoop mein mausam ko kosti, behtar hai karle zindagi… baadal se dosti”). 

There are no romantic songs in Jhund, none of the sweeping orchestral grandness as in Sairat. There are four songs, but there is enough musicianship packed into the fifteen minutes runtime: a mix of styles, fun programming, choice of singers and deeply felt melodies, all of which seem to emerge from the film itself. It’s another impressive turn by composers who rarely have a bad day. 

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