Every Hindi film composer tries to carve a niche for himself in the market. Sajid-Wajid owned the Salman Khan film song, which is anything but niche. There is no way you haven’t heard “Soni De Nakhre”, or “Hata Saawan Ki Ghata”, whether you like Khan or not. Riotous, unpretentious numbers that also had the whacked-out crazy of the superstar’s personality. It’s odd to pick the best songs of the composer duo after hearing the news of Wajid, also a singer, passing away, due to complications arising from a kidney infection, because their best known songs are so celebratory. Although there were romantic departures, such as “Mukhtasar” from Shahid Kapoor–Priyanka Chopra starrer Teri Meri Kahaani. Just as it is weird to write obit-like lines for the composer duo because one of them is no more.
Here are the 5 best (or my favourite) songs by Sajid-Wajid:
Hata Saawan Ki Ghata
A song that established the composers’ street-cred early on, “Hata Saawan ki Ghata” begins like a sad song, in Jaspinder Narula’s voice, without any music. But then the hook, with the unmistakable presence of Salman Khan, voiced by Babul Supriyo, just arrives and completely turns it on its head. Followed by a foot-tapping tabla-dholak interlude. This song from Hello Brother (1999) is a good example of how the composers, who were rooted in the Hindi film music traditions of the 80s and 90s, were trying to marry that sensibility with the Salman Khan persona, and a reminder of how long Sajid-Wajid have been around.
Soni De Nakhre
Some of their songs are not just catchy as hell. They are also composed keeping in mind how the stars are going to perform them on screen. And in this song from Partner, Salman and Govinda dance with abandon, doing their silly bits, sung superbly by the late singer Labh Janjua. Special points for making the English phrase Pump up the Jam sound as Punjabi as possible (Oh Keindie Pump Up The Jame Oh Keinde), something many of us have spent half our lives trying to figure what it means.
By the time Wanted (2009) came, the composers had pretty much mastered the perfect song for the superstar that captures him in all his glory. This one, set in the backdrop of Ganpati celebrations in Mumbai, has an infectious energy, and cameos from Anil Kapoor, Govinda and Prabhu Deva (also the director here) himself. Sajid-Wajid knew the pulse of the streets, and Wajid cracked what Khan’s on-screen singing voice should be.
Chori Kiya Re Jiya
A departure from the predominant Sajid-Wajid sound, this one finds them in a relaxed, mellow mood. It’s a nice, pleasant, romantic duet, even breezy, words you don’t generally use for the composers. I love the dreamy interlude hook. Even though I picked this song from Dabangg, the whole album, with the punchy title track, and the earthy “Mast Mast Do Nain”, is their finest hour as composers.
Palat Tera Hero Idhar Hai
This is a 2014 song, but the spirit is the 90s, true to the film, a David Dhawan comedy with Varun Dhawan modelled like a a young, rakish Salman Khan. It’s one of my favourite Sajid-Wajid compositions because for the time it came, it almost felt like an extinct sub-genre of Hindi film song, a kind of roadside Romeo number. Canny choice to get Arijit Singh for it, who nails the boyishness, and whose vocal histrionics is perfectly in sync with the action on screen.