Planet Bollywood
The High Notes of 2004
- Aakash Gandhi           Let us know what you think about this feature article

The year 2004 wasn’t a year marked by groundbreaking cinema or record shattering sales and collections. It wasn’t a year remembered for a constant flow of quality work and impressive performances. However, the year 2004 has put together an elite group of melodious and meaningful compositions that will be remembered for a long time to come.

As the Earth replenishes itself time and time again, music tends to do the same; always innovating new genres and exploring the unexplored. This year doesn’t stray from this naturally re-occurring pattern, as Hindi music has not only rediscovered the art of poetry, it has also re-installed the facet of classical rendition, which make for timeless tunes only the soul can absorb.

Easily the most noticeable improvement and addition that the Industry has made is the inclusion of mortal freshness. The reason I use mortal is because freshness doesn’t live on forever. As some composers have realized this, redefining their styles of composition, some composers try to live forever in their mannerisms, which inevitably turn stale. New lyricists make their mark and new vocalists fill our hearts with extreme innovation as the year 2004 unraveled itself. Even though 2004 was filled with gaping cinematic droughts, the musical front held its head high, and it has this to show for it…

Following are what this writer believes to be the top 20 music releases of the year 2004, with their respective credits and highlights.

20) YuvaA.R. Rahman
When awaiting this score, the magic of Dil Se could not help but be remembered as A.R. Rahman and Mani Ratnam come together once again after 6 long years. Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of Rahman’s worst albums in recent times but still made its mark with a few crafty numbers in the forms of Kabhi Neem Neem, Ae Khud Hafiz, and Baadal. Nothing ground-breaking, but with Rahman’s touch, average is always good!

19) CharasRaju Singh
One of the first films about drugs (marijuana), this one has a lot to offer in terms of its music. With a couple of award-worthy romantic tracks (Sulgey Hue and Tumhe Arpan) to a couple of the hottest item numbers of the year (Yeh Dhuan and Bambhole), this is definitely a complete album that is worth a buy. Raju Singh makes a great foray into the industry and one only hopes to see his name on more CD covers.

18) Shabd - Vishal-Shekhar
Vishal-Shekhar make their first of four appearances on the list at number 18. They are the perfect example of mortal freshness that I was talking about earlier. A couple splendid tracks, Chahaton Ka Silsila and Khoya Khoya, written by Vishal Dadlani himself set up that clean, new, and fresh feeling that take you by storm. All the other tracks are above average as well. Vishal-Shekhar have been the glue that has held the musical front together this year as you will notice as you scan further down the list. Buy this one!

17) WajahhAnand Raj Anand
This is a prime example of a soundtrack that flew under the radar during the latter half of the year. Very rarely do you come across an album in which you find every song appealing. Anand Raj Anand’s Wajahh has just that; everything from a soothing solo by Shreya Ghoshal (Sapna Koi) to a very unique item piece by Sunidhi Chauhan (Yeh Zamana); from Daler Mehnd’s very strong rendition and ARA’s unique lyrics in Agar Zindagi Se to Anand Raj Anand’s rapid rendition in the catchy Teri Did Ko Ankhiya. Wajahh is an extremely versatile score that will have you pushing the repeat button all night long. Don’t let this one slip from your collection…

16) Shaadi Ka Laddoo – Vishal-Shekhar
Vishal-Shekhar re-invent youthful creativity with this splendid little score. Utilizing all of their favorite singers: Shaan, K.K., Mahalxmi Iyer, and Sunidhi Chauhan, they are able to provoke a genuine playful atmosphere with all six of their songs. Chal Hatt caught the fancy of the masses, while Biwi Ka Belan began the comedy. In addition, their two romantic pieces Woh Kaun Hai and Tum Kaho Tho are simply amazing. Written by Vishal Dadlani himself (as he writes for almost all of his songs), the pieces carry a sense of quality intertwined in fun and frolic. Vishal-Shekhar continue to make a name for themselves…don’t let them down. Get this one if you haven’t done so already!

15) Musafir – Vishal-Shekhar (11) & Anand Raj Anand (2)
Once again it’s V-S with India’s first ever Remix soundtrack! With a rocking album in all aspects, Vishal-Shekhar officially took the Industry and country by storm. Finally earning the recognition that they’ve been deserving, V-S provide their listeners with a smashing Saaki, a heart-wrenching Rabba, and a beautiful romance in the form of Ek Dil Ne; among many others! Anand Raj Anand chips in Ishq Kabhi Kariyon Na that easily lives up to the standards that V-S have set in this 2 CD set. Whether it’s the Lounge Mix or the Club Mix, get this one for everyone to dance to!

14) Lakeer – A.R. Rahman
Mr. Rahman makes his second appearance of the night at number 14. Numerous chartbusters are what make Lakeer the album that it is. Easily the most popular track, Daler Mehndi’s Nachley, is one that is filled with color and beat. On the lighter note, and my personal favorite, Rahman brings Shaan and Kavita Krishnamurty together to render one of the most beautiful pieces to date, Paigaam. Rahman’s favorite companion, Mehboob, writes some exceptional lyrics with tracks like Sadiyaa and Shehzadi. Among many other skillfully composed tracks, Rahman’s Lakeer is a treat for many to devour…don’t miss out!

13) Veer-ZaaraMadan Mohan; Recreated by Sanjeev Kohli
Nostalgia is ablaze with this timeless group of compositions. Madan Mohan’s melodies, recreated beautifully by his son, Sanjeev Kohli, are a group that is filled with lush instruments and silky smooth vocals. Lata Mangeshkar shows that her age is not a good enough reason to keep her out of the industry, as she is able to croon some very beautiful pieces. Do Pal and Tere Liye would be my top picks if I were forced to choose, but there is something for everyone in this very colorfully romantic album. Not to leave out one of the heroes of 2004, Mr. Javed Akhtar writes some award-worthy poetry for the singers to vocalize as well. Buy this one, if not for the music, then at least to pay allegiance to the Late Madan Mohan.

12) Phir MilengeShankar-Ehsaan-Loy (5), Bhavati Raja (2), & Nikhil-Vinay (2)
Although you see three composers above, only the first two need to be given any attention. Candidly speaking, Nikhil-Vinay belong to those group of music directors who think of themselves to have immortal freshness, never changing their style. Their compositions are what bring this soundtrack down. Bhavati Raja’s two compositions are extremely note-worthy as they work into S-E-L’s contributions perfectly. Kuch Pal, rendered by debutant Vijay Yesudas, showcases the creativity of Mrs. Raja and Mr. Yesudas. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s contributions are phenomenal to say the least. Jeene Ke Ishaare and Khul Ke Muskura Le are easily a pair of pieces that are literally perfect! Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics are amazing in their finesse; as the previous track definitely deserves lyrical nomination, whereas the latter deserves the award! Rendered unbelievably well by the Zara Zara seductress, Bombay Jayshree, Khul Ke Muskura Le single-handedly raises the bar for this album. Only give this one a miss if you want to ignore some of the finest music your ears will ever experience.

11) RogM.M. Kreem (6), Gaudi (1), & Music Mushrooms (1)
M.M. Kreem had definitely created a nice niche for himself in the Music Industry with consecutive albums that have redefined quality and romance: Sur (2002) and Jism (2003). Although Rog doesn’t live up to the greatness and perfection of his previous two, Rog contains the musical and lyrical value that will have you oozing all over. A couple of Kreem’s favorite lyricists, Neelsh Mishra and Sayeed Quadri, write poetry as it was intended to be. Most notably would have to be Neelesh Mishra’s Khoobsurat, rendered articulately by Udit Narayan and M.M. Kreem, in their respective versions. Guzar Na Jaaye is another stupendous piece that has a technical alteration that raises its appeal. Not to mention, the two extra pieces by Gaudi (Sufani) and Music Mushrooms (Rog Theme) are of most class as well. All in all, the songs of Rog are filled with quality and one would be a dunce not to take a stab at this soundtrack.

10) MaqboolVishal Bharadwaj
Vishal Bharadwaj, one of the most interesting personalities in Bollywood, composes a very mellow, yet meaningful, score for his brilliant remake of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Maqbool. Written by one of the most experienced and talented lyricists of our time, Gulzar, Maqbool provides a beautiful classical base. Mr. Bharadwaj’s wife, Rekha Vishal, renders Chingari and Rone Do brilliantly. Jhin Min Jhini is another gem of a song. Daler Mehndi’s classical rendition in Ru-Ba-Ru is one of the finest songs the year has to offer. Including a couple of haunting instrumentals, Maqbool is definitely not a soundtrack for everyone. But if you have an ear for superior classical music, then this is undoubtedly your album!

9) Rudraksh – Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (6), Shashi Pritam (2), & Vishal-Shekhar (1)
A revolution in musical genre is exactly what the soundtrack of Rudraksh is. Even though the new cinematic theme that Rudraksh posed didn’t click with anyone, the music is something that had really caught on during the first half of the year. Haunting is the best way to characterize this group of tracks. From Pritam’s Bole Dole to S-E-L’s Rak Rak Rak, Rudraksh has the catch factor that would appeal to everyone except little children. All of the lyricists help raise the blood-curdle factor of this album. Buy this one if you want to experience a terrorizing revolution!

8) Popcorn Khao! Mast Ho Jao – Vishal-Shekhar
Vishal-Shekhar electrify us with their youthfulness and creativity once again! Enough cannot be said about these two young men as they adjust themselves perfectly to the expectations of their listeners. They make history by remixing a brilliantly composed and written (Vishal Dadlani) sad track, Dhooriyan, and regenerate the Latin influence with O Solemiya. Shaan and K.K’s Kal Se Koi and Le Chale are addictive and Sunidhi Chauhan’s thrilling number, Duppatta Beiman Re is one of the best and most innovative tracks 2004 has to offer. Every track is simply amazing and this rounds out Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani’s memorable contributions to the year 2004.

7) Lakshya – Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Once again, fresh is the name of the game. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are the other group that carry a youthful signature with their compositions. Once again, it’s hard to pick one over the other but a few tracks that deserve special mention are Hariharan and Sadhna Sargam’s Kitni Baatein and Shaan’s Main Aisa Kyon Hoon. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics are excellent in arousing emotion and feeling for the characters on screen. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are easily one of the best when it comes to instrumentals, as Lakshya offers two of the best, Victory and Separation. Your collection is incomplete without this S-E-L special.

6) DevAadesh Shrivastav
He proves that his work in Chalte Chalte and Baghban weren’t just flukes with his work in Dev. I picked this soundtrack up with no expectations but when I heard some of what Shrivastav has to offer, I couldn’t help but be inspired by his flavor-injecting tunes. Khailash Kher’s electrifying mixture of western and eastern classical in Rang Deeni and Kareena Kapoor’s calm rendition in Nida Fazli’s lyrically beautiful, Jab Nahin Aaye The Tum are just a couple that this album has to offer; not to mention one of Sonu Nigam’s finest renditions ever in Tujhe Sang Bandi Dhor. Allahu, sung by Shrivastav himself and Asha Bhonsle, is a rich piece that will catch the fancy of both the masses and the classes as well. Buy it for what it has to offer…you wont be disappointed.

5) Swades – A.R. Rahman
Once again Rahman makes his appearance further down the list and this is when he gets to show off the talents and skills that he has as a composer. Just as Yuva aroused remembrance of Dil Se, Swades arouses remembrance of Lagaan, as Ashutosh Gowarikar teams up with Rahman for the second time. Not as well crafted as Lagaan was, Swades has an exceptional pad of songs that will appeal to everyone. From the soft and soothing Aahista Aahista by Rahman’s favorites, Udit Narayan and Sadhna Sargam, to the amazing patriotic title track sung by Rahman himself, Yeh Jo Des. Javed Akhtar’s pairing with Rahman is one that isn’t witnessed frequently and this year they come together to form lyrical and musical astonishment. Don’t take my word for it…give it a listen!

4) KisnaIsmail Darbar (10) & A.R. Rahman (6)
This classically influenced album snuck into the year 2004 during December. One knows that no one has a mastery over both eastern and western classical better than Mr. Ismail Darbar and he picks up right where he left off with Devdas. Chilman Uthegi Nahin would have to be the pick of the lot, yet every piece has Darbar’s signature touch on it. Rahman’s inclusion of the song Hum Hai Iss Pal Yaha and its instrumental remakes have gained the most recognition due to its constant appearance on the T.V. promos. He also contributes a beautiful English number, My Wish Comes True, sung by Savita Sarathy, which may be India’s answer to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. Javed Akhter’s lyrics don’t’ let down once again, as he really outdoes himself in the year 2004. Although it has a strong classical base, this one most probably will appeal to you even if you’re not into the genre!

3) RaincoatDebojyoti Mishra
If the previous entry was semi-classical, then this inclusion is purely classical! Shubha Mugdal lets her soulful vocals resonate throughout your very being in all of Raincoat. A pair of remarkably gorgeous tracks, Mathura Nagarpati and Piya Thora Kaisa Abhiman, light that fire in your heart from the second you hear Mugdal’s and Hariharan’s vocals. Rituparno Ghosh’s lyrics have that Bengali influence but are symbolically beautiful in their resemblance of Lord Krishna and his devotee Radha. As was the case with Maqbool, this one will definitely not strike a cord with everyone; but its beauty can’t be masked by its audience. An amzing composition by Debojyoti Mishra!

2) Paap - Anu Malik (2), Shahi (2), Ali Azmat (1), & Music Mushrooms (6 Instrumentals)
When you hear that the Bhatt’s are the leaders of a cinematic venture you know that the music is going to be top notch. Paap far exceeds anyone’s expectations as far as the music goes. While listening to the music of Paap, one feels a sense of beauty that flows through your veins. Honestly, this one is pure magic! From Anu Malik’s inspirational Intezaar sung ever so eloquently by Anuradha Paudwal to Shahi’s beautiful Mann Ki Lagan rendered flawlessly by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. One can’t even throw out the very effervescent Garaj Baras composed by pop band Junoon member Ali Azmat. Sayeed Quadri’s words for Intezaar are breath-taking as are Amjad Islam Amjad’s words for Mann Ki Lagan. Yet, where this album really takes off is in the instrumental department taken over by the Music Mushrooms who contributed to M.M. Kreem’s Rog further up the list. These instrumentals not only touch musical perfection, they embody the essence of the cinematic theme. Pooja Bhatt creates new standards for herself as a director while presenting this ravishing score!

1) Meenaxi – A.R. Rahman
Very rarely do you come across a soundtrack that embodies the spirit of a masterpiece. Living in the modern era, one even wonders if a masterpiece is attainable anymore? I’m here to tell you that it is and A.R. Rahman re-creates musical ingenuity all over again with this brilliant piece of work! Every song portrays utmost perfection in all departments: composition, lyrics, and rendition. From Sukhwinder’s hot and heavy rendition in Chinnamma Chillakkamma to Sonu Nigam’s award-deserving deliverance of Do Kadam. From Reena Bharadwaj’s amazing rendition in Yeh Rishta to Alka Yagnik and Asha Bhonsle’s awe-inspiring performances in Rang Hai and Dhuan Dhuan. Another piece that struck the cord with the masses was the awesome Qawalli written by Hussain himself, Noor-Un-Ala, which was skillfully rendered by Quadir and Murtaza Khan. Even the two instrumentals by Rahman are splendid and a couple of the best ever! Lyrically, Rahat Indori redefines himself as a song writer in this industry. I can say with much confidence that this is one of the finest pieces of art to ever come out of the Hindi Music Industry, if not the International Music Industry! As I had written in a review: “With beautiful locations such as Hyderabad, Prague, and Jaisalmer, set to the delicate melodies of A.R. Rahman, Meenaxi is truly a sight for the eyes to feast on and an intonation for the ears to savor.” Nothing but creativity and ingenuity strives through this masterpiece and it takes the cake as this year’s No. 1 musical release!

It’s safe to say that the year 2004 belongs whole-heartedly to Mr. A.R. Rahman, who surreptitiously took the 20th, 14th, 5th, 4th, and 1st spots. On a broader note, one can say that the trio that ruled the year was Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, and A.R. Rahman, who jointly won over twelve of the twenty slots. Take a look at this for a moment, the three musical giants who had the most success this year were the three most adaptive to change and mortal freshness. It goes without saying that to survive in the industry, you must be able to cater yourself to the “what’s hot” and abandon the “what’s not.”


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