Music: Amit Trivedi
Label: Zee Music
Advait Chandan’s directorial debut Secret Superstar is the story of a 15-year-old schoolgirl Insiya (Zaira Wasim) who aspires to sing and believes “Dream dekhna toh basic hota hai,” (To dream is a basic right) which is the tagline of the film. Insiya’s mother Najma (Meher Vij) encourages her, but Insiya’s close-minded father (Raj Arjun) will not tolerate the mother-daughter duo’s flights of fancy.
Music is Insiya’s portal to enter her dreams and it remains in the background, as a window allowing us to watch her accomplish her wishes. The film begins with Insiya returning from an outstation school trip to her home in Vadodara. Her friends are playing antakshari but she is looking out of the window of the train, watching birds form a V-formation in the sky, composing a new tune in her head. She picks up her guitar, and the compartment of unmelodious schoolchildren quickly drop their decibel levels to gawk.
The 16-year-old debutant playback singer Meghna Mishra gives voice to Insiya’s pleas in Sapne Re. In lyricist Kausar Munir’s bounding words composer Amit Trivedi creates a rhythm that is simple, playful, and evokes the folksy melody of a pahadi tune. Sapne Re is a fitting introduction of Insiya’s aspirations, her words sewn in easy rhyme through guitar, flute and yodelling.
When Najma gifts her daughter a laptop, there is unbridled joy in the house, depicted through the background track aptly titled Gudgudi. Sung by Sunidhi Chauhan, the fast-tempo Tex-Mex tune is generic, though Trivedi does try to enliven it with the “gudgudi gudgudi” chorus refrain.
Influenced by the immense popularity of the Tanglish (Tamil and English) viral song Why This Kolaveri Di, Insiya decides to upload her tunes on YouTube. But there is a hitch. What if her father finds out? He will crush her dreams. Najma comes to her daughter’s rescue, advising Insiya to sing under a veil. Insiya launches her own YouTube channel in the name of Secret Superstar and uploads her first single Main Kaun Hoon.
Meghna Mishra once again provides the vocals for Insiya’s soul-searching trajectory. A girl dressed in a burkha, strumming a guitar, and singing the words “Koi yeh bata de main hoon kahaan, koi to bata de mera pata” (Can someone tell me where I am, can someone tell me my destination) for a virtual audience, is a stinging political commentary on her stifled existence, and what about her hopes and dreams? Unaware of her empowering performance, Insiya’s video goes viral and marks the rise of a new sensation. Trivedi’s panoply of percussive instruments turns Main Kaun Hoon into a rousing rock-fuelled anthem that is at once rebellious as it is redemptive.
Insiya’s next upload, Meri Pyaari Ammi, in Mishra’s voice, is a cutesy mom tribute that will cheer up any baccha birthday party lacking in sentimental overload.
I’ll Miss You, sung by Kushal Chokshi, is a sweet ditty about giddy teenage romance. The lyrics in Hindi are sprinkled with a smattering of English phrases and the Gujarati expression of love “Hu tanne prem karun chhu” (I love you).
Insiya’s videos grab the attention of the flashy music producer Shakti Kumaarr (Aamir Khan) who hasn’t produced a single noteworthy song in a long time. On his insistence, Insiya tries to sing a trashy dance number Sexy Baliye that she finds herself incapable of. Instead, she impresses with the romantic ballad version of the track Nachdi Phira.
Trivedi gives the track a grand, orchestral sound, and Mishra lifts it with a spirited rendition that soars and soars, reaching for a superb crescendo. Mishra’s other wispy track, O Re Manwa, has a gorgeous medley of guitars, drums and flutes, but feels like an unplugged version of a track that should have been scored as an Indo-Western fusion, perhaps of the Coke Studio variety.
With Sexy Baliye, Trivedi showcases the versatility in composing two extremely opposite diegetic sounds that share the same opening stanzas. It’s also a sign of the times, as music is manufactured to keep up with the trend. Mika Singh’s voice booms as loudly as the instruments backing him. Shakti Kumaarr‘s antics in the video make is worth a watch, oscillating between foot-tapping and farce.
Trivedi’s tunes and Munir’s lyrics do a splendid job of illustrating Insiya’s world; her hopes and dreams, and faithfully remain secondary because her struggle isn’t just about the music. The plot encompasses much more, which is somewhat why the music never quite stands out without the film. That is a compliment, but never openly so, only as a secret.
Listen to Secret Superstar Audio Jukebox here: