Over 30 million views and counting and that’s just 48 hours after ‘Tum Kya Mile’, the first track from Karan Johar’s upcoming film Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani was released. No one’s really talking about the lack of chemistry between the film’s lead pair – Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt – or why the Dambali dancers in Kashmir look lifeless. Music takes precedence over the video and while public opinion has already declared the song to be a hit, the track didn’t reel me in the way that ‘Bulleya’ or ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ did. Still, there’s something here that’s a little bit special. The last time Johar was in the director’s seat (for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, 2016) was also when the dream team comprising Pritam, lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya and singer Arijit Singh created music that was not only immediately impactful, but also stayed with you. If you weren’t swept up by ‘Tum Kya Mile’, give it time and you’ll find the song is compulsively listenable. It’s a classic Karan Johar film song – the opening bars on keys, the familiar rhythm section – and it builds on nostalgia. The ability to effortlessly bring Johar’s signature to music is also perhaps what makes Pritam a director’s composer.
It’s easy to believe Arijit Singh can do nothing wrong, but ‘Pasoori Nu’ is a reminder that even he can’t salvage some things. Besides the heavy-handed departures in lyrics and visuals, the choice of vocalists featuring in the track (from the Kiara Advani-Kartik Aaryan starrer Satyaprem Ki Katha, 2023) is unfortunate. Singh is still eminently likeable, but Tulsi Kumar’s inexpressive vocals reduce Ali Sethi and Shae Gill’s unstoppable hit to a feeble “recreation” that nobody needed. Maybe it’s time Hindi cinema stopped trying to cash in on the virality of indie singles. This is also true of ‘Manike Mage Hithe’, the 2021 viral hit sung by Sri Lankan singer Yohani Diloka de Silva, which was part of the soundtrack of the dud film Thank God (2022). The track, reworked by composer Tanishk Bagchi, did nothing to elevate the film’s music and audiences were glad to be rid of the earworm by the time the film version was released last year.
Had “Pasoori Nu” been an indie collaboration or even Coke Studio Bharat, it would have been accepted as a tribute, a celebration even. In a commercial Hindi film, which could have led to the song being a bigger hit than it already is, it’s perhaps unsurprising we only get a trite rendition of the original.
Another new Punjabi release that lends swagger and, more significantly, proves that it has reason to be part of a film is ‘Real Talk’ by rapper GD 47 (Gagandeep Singh). The trap-led track drives the pacey trailer and fight sequences of the Shahid Kapoor starrer Bloody Daddy (2023). Also from the soundtrack is ‘Issa Vibe’ by Badshah, a smooth, downtempo track that is Insta-ready gold. The rapper makes a tall, yet irrefutably lovable (read: Punjabi) claim in the lines: “Baby, tu hai shama, main parwana / Shah Rukh nahi, lekin main hoon deewana / Dolce tu meri, baby, main tera Gabbana / Rap chhoda tere liye, gaane laga gaana…”. Would I want to hear Tamil or even Telugu remakes of these tracks? That would be an emphatic no.
I feel the same way about listening to Sukhwinder Singh sing in Telugu for the soundtrack of Adipurush. ‘Huppa Huiya’ is amusing at best. While the track mines Singh’s powerhouse vocals, the singer’s grasp of Telugu takes away from the music. Singh has also sung the Tamil version of ‘Huppa Huiya'’ and it turns out that his Tamil diction is better than Udit Narayan’s. Purists will vehemently disagree, but Narayan sounds terribly cute despite or because of his Tamil (mis)pronunciation. I certainly cannot imagine anyone other than Narayan singing ‘Kulu Valilay’, composed by A.R. Rahman for the 1995 Rajinikanth blockbuster Muthu because the voice oddly sits perfectly with Rajini’s character in the film. And as much as I would like to believe that Rajini can do anything, singing is not the actor’s forte.
There’s a lot to be said about South Indian actors who can sing. In recent times, it’s not a gimmick to draw audiences, but to bring real talent and fresh voices into the industry. There’s Dhanush who has proved that there is no emotion too big for him to tackle with ‘Onnoda Nadandhaa’ from the Illaiyaraaja soundtrack for Viduthalai Part 1, released earlier this year and Vadivelu who delivered a powerful folk song in ‘Raasa Kannu’ from Maamannan (2023), composed by AR Rahman. This month, we have Sivakarthikeyan reminding us that the playful songs that he’s called on to sing often (“Inna Mylu” from Lift, 2021; ‘Vaayadi Petha Pulla’ from Kanaa, 2018) swiftly take the edge off your playlist. Actor Aditi Shankar, who essays the title role in the upcoming film Maaveeran, opens the song ‘Vannarapettayila’ with Sivakarthikeyan following her lead with ease. The duet, composed by upcoming music director Bharath Sankar, with its vocal harmonies, buoyant rhythm and easy lyrics makes for a great singalong track.