Take Note: Total Eclipse of Himesh

So far, November has seen crummy films that drowned out their soundtracks and music that is subpar
Take Note: Total Eclipse of Himesh

Blame it on the recent Blood Moon because how else does one explain the existence of “Butterfly Titliyan”? Sung and composed by Himesh Reshammiya for the film Badass Ravikumar, which is expected to release next year, “Butterfly Titliyan” is a recurring bad dream in which you hopelessly try to break a freefall into a dark abyss. Those who survived the rash of Reshammiya hits during the mid Noughties — “Aashiq Banaya Aapne,” “Tera Surroor,” “Jhalak Dikhlaja” and “Hookah Bar” among others — will empathise. Yes, Reshammiya continues to employ a high-pitched nasal voice and a hook line that is unintentional comic genius. Brace yourself because the series of unfortunate releases will continue as an arsenic build-up to the film as it gears up for its 2023 release. Badass Ravikumar has been directed by Reshammiya who also plays the lead role in it.

November, however, began on an electric note when Vishal Dadlani, vocalist Neeti Mohan and Tamil rapper Arivu featured on the same track. Titled “Whatte Fun,” the song from Ram Setu’s (2022) soundtrack makes you want to bust a move even if you’re sitting down. The neck-snapping dhol tasha beats are a giveaway — the tune is signature Ajay-Atul, who have delivered yet another zinger with “Whatte Fun”. The lyrics, however, are definitely lacking. It’s time songwriters moved beyond “Ayyayo” and “Vannakkam” to represent south India. Arivu more than makes up for these lyrical trespasses. The ludicrous film that is Ram Setu might have put people off from even looking up its soundtrack, which is a shame because “Whatte Fun” truly lives up to its name.

Other Hindi releases so far had little to offer by way of fun or even feeling. This is surprising because the soundtrack of Mili has been scored by AR Rahman. The compositions sound like Swades (2004) rejects. The power of repetition is only felt in a self-help book perhaps. But it was heartening to see Indian indie singer Abhilasha Sinha’s name on the credits of “Main Toh Main Hoon”. While this reaffirmed my faith that Rahman continues to experiment, be it with new vocalists or sounds or instrumentation, the song fails to impress. Side note: The Malayalam film Helen, which has been remade as Mili, with music by Shaan Rahman (no relation to AR Rahman) has one standout track titled “Kaanaatheeram,” which sounds like it would fit right into a Mallu Bridgerton. Before we get carried away imagining a ballroom filled with mundu and kasavu sari-clad folks, I must add that Shaan Rahman definitely channelled AR on a track called “Praanante” for Helen’s soundtrack. But there is little similarity between the scores of Mili and Helen, save for the intention of evoking a sense of buoyancy, keeping with the emotion of the survival drama.

Elsewhere in south India, Illaiyaraaja’s younger son, Yuvan Shankar Raja is out with “Oppari Rap,” from the soundtrack of the Tamil comedy thriller Agent Kannayiram. Oppari is the folk tradition of funereal songs in Tamil Nadu and nobody has drawn from this genre better than Arivu for “Enjoy Enjaami,” the folk-rock-rap anthem that featured Dhee and was co-composed by Santhosh Narayanan. “Oppari Rap” could use some of the fire that “Enjoy Enjaami” held within it since its rap and the swing beat add nothing to the track. But Lakshmi, who renders the oppari lines, is a singer to watch out for — she holds her own and makes you sit up and listen.

Another indie musician’s name that came up recently was Achint Thakkar. The founder of the now defunct Mumbai psychedelic rock band, Rosemary, has two soundtracks to his name. For Scam 1992, the OTT crime drama based on the life of stockbroker Harshad Mehta, Thakkar created a score that put a spin on Bappi Lahiri and mashed up disco and rock. The soundtrack of Monica, O My Darling falls flat if you approach it as a standalone album, but it works like a brilliant, supporting cast member in the film. It’s a rush to hear the tribute to cabaret queen Asha Bhosle in “Yeh Ek Zindagi”, rendered by Anupama Chakraborty Shrivastava and Saud Khan’s hat tip to Mohammed Rafi in “Suno Jaanejaan” in the film.

The musical personality of a composer often comes through immediately when you listen to a track. For instance, you can tell that it’s a song by Pritam when you hear a decidedly rock refrain on the guitar either in the verse or the chorus line. It’s also not a terrible thing if a composer decides to change up his style since that is the point of making music to suit a film. But with Pritam’s latest release “Kaala Jaadu” from the film Freddy, you just can’t tell what’s going on. At once you hear strains of an opera and then there’s a spy tune making an attempt to merge in. Despite Arijit Singh and Nikhita Gandhi shouldering vocal duties, this “O Fortuna” meets Bond theme may just work its magic on the big screen, but I’m keeping it out of my playlist.

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