As of recently, there has been very little in the news that can make you crack a smile. If you listen to ‘Sunoh’, the only track that has been released from the score of The Archies, the highly-anticipated Zoya Akhtar-directed musical/nepotism bomb waiting to go off, you might be filled with Christmas cheer. This has less to do with the film release’s timing - The Archies is slated to be out in December - and more to do with the track sounding like a keyed up version of ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ sung by the cast of Ryan Murphy’s Glee (2009). Not to discredit composer Ankur Tewari’s musical intelligence or Shivam Mahadevan’s buoyant vocals, but it’s hard to shake off the sense that there is something familiar and yet, foreign about the track. Familiar if you went to a Christian school where hymns and carols are part of your vocal repertoire (whether you can hold a note or not) and foreign because you haven’t heard this sound in a Bollywood film. Of course, it’s perfect for a film based on one of the most popular American comic book series of all time.
In a parallel musical universe, far from a rollicking Christmas carol, is ‘Leke Prabhu Ka Naam’ from Tiger 3. Composed by Pritam, the song sequence, which was shot in Greece, featuring the film’s lead actor Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif who makes a guest appearance, has clocked 51 million views on YouTube to date. Some ardent fans have gone on to proclaim that the track is a masterpiece. Sung by Arijit Singh and Nikhita Gandhi, two of the most sought-after vocalists in the Hindi film industry right now, ‘Leke Prabhu Ka Naam’ is as easily forgettable as the day before yesterday’s news print. The title of the track sticks because of its association with antakshari — a much-loved Indian music pastime and lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya definitely knows how to set the hook and reel in the audience. But is this a song that will make it into a Pritam Essentials playlist? Negative.
What does have potential to make it into this playlist is ‘Hua Main’ from the Ranbir Kapoor-Rashmika Mandanna starrer, Animal. Sung by up and coming vocalist, Raghav Chaitanya, the song is driven by a clap beat, but the wailing guitar riff is where Pritam’s heart is at. The composer is a self-confessed rock buff and the line in the chorus “Hua Main Ranjhana” is possibly where the song peaks and makes you want to play it all over again. Someone should quickly create a mash-up of ‘Hua Main’ and A R Rahman’s ‘Rehna Tu’ from Delhi 6 (2009) just so listeners can savour the delicious segue. I bet you can hear it now.
The second single from the film “Satranga” has Pritam’s stamp all over it even though it has been composed by Shreyas Puranik. Its bittersweetness has the instant appeal of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’s (2016) ‘Channa Mereya’ and of course, it might have to do with the fact that Arijit Singh has sung both songs. But then again, the melodies are so close, they could be missing pieces of the same puzzle.
The one soundtrack which didn’t bring up any other familiar sounds or even point to the music director’s own body of work is that of Leo’s, composed by Anirudh Ravichander. The album lists on its credits Mumbai vocalist and guitarist, Siddharth Basrur, who has been a regular on Tamil film music albums for close to a decade now, featuring on the soundtracks of films such as David (2013), Solo (2017) and Bailwaan (2019).
Basrur has done the playback for ‘Bloody Sweet’, a track that could have easily been part of one of his own alt-rock releases except for the production, which is clearly aimed at a mainstream film audience. Still, Anirudh surprises us with each track including the token dance track ‘Naa Ready’ which is playful and edgy at once. ‘Anbenum’ has the most unexpected shift from psychedelic rock to an unabashed ballad and you’ve never heard something like this from Anirudh or anyone else in all of the Tamil music industry. It has never been more thrilling to hear an unfamiliar, original sound breaking the mould in recent times and with this soundtrack, Anirudh has raised the bar for everyone else and especially for himself.