If you think it couldn’t get worse than a Falguni Pathak wannabe’s version of ‘Pari Hoon Main’ blasting from speakers at every neighbourhood dandiya night, the makers of the film Thank You For Coming are here to prove you wrong. Let us just establish here that the Nineties hit by Suneeta Rao cannot be outdone. The arrangement by Leslie Lewis, the percussion, flute work and above all Rao’s vocals came together to make an exceptional hit. The new version falls short, but it’s still shouldering the bulk of the soundtrack of Thank You For Coming as well as all the film promotion, since the rest of the album includes entirely forgettable tracks like ‘Haanji’ and ‘Desi Wine’.
Still, it’s unfortunate that a singer as gifted as Sunidhi Chauhan was summoned for a remake. Music producer Rahul Pais, previously known for his work with Mumbai electro rock band VEGA Massive as the group’s bassist, is credited on this track for its production, which is a marked departure from the original. Despite Chauhan, ‘Pari Hoon Main’ is disconcertingly hollow.
Helping raise spirits is a new soundtrack by Vishal Bhardwaj. The release of a Vishal Bhardwaj album is always an event, as much for the sheer quality of the music but also for the delicious turns of phrase that lyricist Gulzar comes up with for his long-time collaborator.
Neither Bhardwaj nor Gulzar disappoint in Khufiya. 'Tanhai’, an aching duet of longing is driven by the lusciously-voiced Kiran and Nivi alongside Bhardwaj. The song also has one of the most strikingly visual lines of the album: “Muhn dhaap ke, hum teri godh mein simat te the/ Puhaaron ke muffler jo gardan se lipat te the…/Kise kahein qwhaahish hai/Aa jao baarish hai (Face covered/ I used to curl up in your lap/ we were surrounded by mountains/ to whom should I disclose my wish/ its raining, I am longing for you)”. San Diego-based twins and Carnatic/pop vocalists Kiran and Nivi have previously featured on the soundtracks of Fursat and Kuttey, both released in early 2023, and have managed to remain a Bhardwaj favourite since.
Another standout voice on the album is that of Indian Ocean vocalist Rahul Ram, who plays a godman in Khufiya. Ram has rendered two tracks on the soundtrack. He marshalls his frontman chops for ‘Bujhee Bujhee’, a fiery duet with Jyoti Nooran, who reaches for fevered highs in her folk-tinged vocals. The second track ‘Mann Na Rangaave’ could have been straight out of an Indian Ocean album a la Kandisa, down to the ebullient beats. Whether the music of Khufiya endures remains to be seen, but at no point does it lose its distinctly Bhardwaj groove.
From down south, even though his trolls alike cannot get enough of his meme videos, Tamil film veteran T. Rajendar thumbs his nose at their opinions every once in a while. Rajendar has proved more than once that he can do it all – acting, singing, composing, writing songs and directing films. He has not-so-often taken his audiences completely by surprise by composing tracks such as 'Poo Onnu Vaduthama' from Pookalai Parikathirgal (1986) and 'Vaigai Karai Katre' from Uyirullavarai Usha (1981), which easily deserve to be in a best-of-eighties Tamil playlist. Most recently, Rajendar lent his vocals to 'Anirudha', a song from the soundtrack of the Tamil science fiction comedy, Mark Antony, starring Vishal and SJ Suryah. The raucous track, which has all the makings of a title track that announces the dramatic entry of the film’s protagonists, does justice to Rajendar’s booming vocals. Again, you have to look at the credits to make sure it’s Rajendar, given his health scare last year. The current generation might be more familiar with Rajendar’s son and actor STR, aka Silambarasu’s repertoire, but 'Anirudha' is proof that Rajendar knows how to reel in contemporary Tamil cinema audiences and isn’t ready now (or perhaps ever) to hang up his boots.
Another father and son on our playlist this month are Illaiyaraaja and Yuvan Shankar Raja, drawing from two diametrically opposite musical poles. On the soundtrack of the Nayanthara-Jayam Ravi starrer Iraivan (2023), Yuvan Shankar Raja creates a dark, moody soundscape befitting the psychological thriller. None of the tracks, however, have a life of their own outside of the film, despite a stellar lineup of playback singers including Shakthisree Gopalan and Armaan Malik.
On the other hand, Illaiyaraaja asserts his legacy as one of the greatest Indian composers in ‘Kadellam’. The song from the Tamil film, Ulagammai, has everything that he is known for - lovingly-detailed vocal harmonies, trilling horns and a folk-soaked rhythm section. The lyrics marry Illaiyaraaja’s love for nature and the effervescence of a young romance. The playback rendered by the composer reminds us that he returns to form on his own terms.