The function of a good soundtrack is to transport the listener to a different place and time. By extension, one's favourite soundtrack is often that which takes one to a place and time that is either happy or of a certain significance. Jaatishwar ('the re-incarnate'), the 2014 Bengali musical, ticks both these for me. It has a deep personal connect as it takes me back to a time when my fascination for the movies and music from Bengal (a state and language to which I am an outsider) was transitioning into a love affair with the Bengali language and culture. The film is about two outsiders and their love story with Bangla through music, and hence the soundtrack is the fulcrum on which the movie pivots. It is also an independent entity that is equally appealing when separated from the screenplay.
The legend of a 19th-century folk poet, a musical genius of modern-day Bengal who was denied the recognition he deserved through his work in the 20th century, and the vision of a 21st-century avant-garde filmmaker come together to create this blissful album. If the son of a Portuguese businessman had not fallen in love with colonial Bengal, if Kabir Suman had not written Omorotter Prottasha Nei, a song of love across lifetimes, and if Srijit Mukherji had not had the idea of connecting the above, the movie (and its soundtrack) would never have seen the light of the day.
As the movie opens, 'Khudar Kasam Jaan' (vocals by Kabir Suman) sets the premise with the protagonists' claims of love towards a Bengali girl and the land of Bengal. As the protagonists go on their respective musical explorations and the movie intercuts across timelines, the songs change in mood to fit the situation. Anthony Firingee's portions and the setting of the 19th-century kabiyaal gaan (musical duels between poets) free the album from the restrictions of a normal screenplay and let it soar into a multitude of genres: from devotional songs, love ballads and paeans of separation to lightweight comic music. The meticulously reconstructed songs from the sparsely available lyrics of the era instantly transport you to a different time and age. We get a mix of folk-heavy devotional songs: 'Joy Jogendra', an ode to Durga, and 'Khriste Aar Krishte', which that blurs the lines between Krishna and Christ. We get rhyming insults in 'Tui Jaat Firingi', where opposing poets face off in a comical tone. In the parallel running timeline of the modern day, we get the upbeat chords of Sohosa Ele Ki and the rock song Singho Rashi.
For substantial stretches the dialogues recede into the background and the music and lyrics take centrestage to propel the story. The final act is reserved for the best songs of the soundtrack. The percussion-soaked E Tumi Kemon Tumi (sung by Rupankar Baghchi) builds momentum before reaching a grand crescendo. The notes, seemingly bound with the incantations of the crafted lyrics, create hope. The film ends with the crowning jewel, Omorotter Prottasha Nei, the song that inspired the movie. This ode to everlasting love is the soul of the movie and in Kabir Suman's voice, this velvety ballad closes the movie while bringing closure to the lead character. This ballad of love and longing neatly wraps up this soundtrack that straddles two timelines and brings them both alive. This is a soundtrack that takes me back in time and reminds me why I fell in love with the language, the music and Kabir Suman.