Pritam is at it again. He has composed some nifty tunes for the soundtrack of director Imtiaz Ali’s new rom-com Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017), but he’s also slow to deliver the album. The soundtrack is released on the same day as the film, Aug 4, and it marks an unusual phenomenon that has become Pritam’s trademark.
Earlier this year, the music albums of Tubelight and Jagga Jasoos, composed by Pritam, shared a similar fate – they were released simultaneously with the films, and despite some terrific tunes, have all but evaporated. As the promotion window between a film and its soundtrack narrows, the tunes are also becoming increasingly difficult to recollect.
Will Pritam’s score for Jab Harry Met Sejal do a double take? With lyrics by Irshad Kamil, and singer Arijit Singh headlining most of the tracks, Pritam seizes the opportunity.
Arijit Singh’s voice breaks free of its association with morose tunes and steers towards effervescence in the justly-titled track Hawayein. Melancholic in lyrics, the tune is alternately positive. Guitar riffs make way for the melody interspersed with the tabla, stringed instruments, the piano, and Singh warbling in the end, as he reaches for higher climes.
Butterfly is monstrously loud in sound, since we are in the khets of Punjab, and as Harry (Shah Rukh Khan) explains in the film, one must sing louder than tractors plowing in fields if one wants to be heard, even by self. Singers Aaman Trikha, Nooran Sisters, Dev Negi and Sunidhi Chauhan will puncture eardrums with their vocal pitches, especially the Nooran Sisters who sing the refrain “Woh bhi tujhko dhoondh raha hai jiski tujhe talaash hai” (The one you seek, seeks you), a thoughtful quote borrowed from the 13th-century poet Rumi.
But must one shout it out? How else will a whisper travel through a thick field of ripe grains, surely not on the damask wings of a hopping butterfly? Pritam pounds a tune that will scare the insects out of the wheat fields. Butterfly is no doubt catchy, a tad clichéd because of its standard uptown bhangra beats, and even a good ruse to rid the khets of insect infestation by employing a truckload of dancers to thrash it out. Hell yeah, it is a resourceful pesticide number with dubstep interjections to crush the stamped butterflies in sync.
Singh returns in Safar, his voice soaking in the gorgeous interplay of the Spanish guitar and drums as he reaches for a raspy sound. The lyrics “Safar ka hi tha main, safar ka raha” (I was of the journey, I still am) encapsulates the soul-seeking pilgrimage of Imtiaz Ali’s heroes, and astutely reflects his own philosophy on celluloid. The idea of the self being liberated through an understanding of one’s spiritual core is the central conceit of all of Ali’s films. The laidback tune is a carousel to hop onto to get there.
In the foot-tapping hooky sounds of Beech Beech Mein, Singh modulates his voice to display a vocal range oscillating between bass and falsetto. He is in fine company with singers Shalmali Kholgade and Shefali Alvares, who accompany him in tonal shifts, adding colour and brightness to the notes. The tune is an intoxicating mix of retro, pop, and funky synthesized disco beats, reminiscent of the 1970s pop group ABBA, and more closely back home with RD Burman.
Radha, sung by the high-pitched Shahid Mallya, and the almost-as-screechy Sunidhi Chauhan, has an even louder accompaniment – the assaulting decibel levels of the music. Pritam amps up the volume even more halfway through the tune. What is essentially a melodious track turns into noise.
Pardeep Sran sings one groovy rock version of Parinda, as Nikhil D’Souza and Tochi Raina electrify it further in another version peppered with lyrics in English.
In Ghar, the poetry in the lines, “Khaali hai jo tere bina, main woh ghar hoon tera” (That which is empty without you, is the house that I am), sung by Nikita Gandhi and Mohit Chauhan could have been recited or performed a cappella instead of being lumped with jarring instrument sounds. The poetry feels rushed. Yaadon Mein, in the voices of Mohammed Irfan, Jonita Gandhi, and Cuca Roseta, is instead sung a cappella, where the poetry is quite bland and the notes are excessively melodramatic.
Singers Diljit Dosanjh and Neeti Mohan stir up a celebration in Raula, the Punjabi word for uproar as do the Nooran Sisters in the other Punjabi track Jee Ve Sohaneya, gently nudging to whip up the heart into a frenzy.
The album piles on with so many tracks – 13 in all, and sometimes that is precisely why one cannot take it anymore. The guest-track Phurrr, by Diplo, is one such needless addition with repetitive lyrics phurr-phurring all through, as if signalling the fleeting nature of Pritam’s hit track record.