“Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag” has had the odds against it, since director Varma originally announced the project. Ramesh Sippy (the director and holder of the original rights) vehemently objected to the remake and actually took Varma to court to bar him from using “Sholay” anywhere in the title of the film (which was originally to be called “Ram Gopal Varma Ki Sholay”). Sippy won that court case a scant two months prior to the release of what Varma calls his “homage” to the original classic. However, let’s be frank here, the movie itself is a complete almost frame-by-frame remake of the original mega-hit.
“Aag” is produced and directed by Ram Gopal Varma. The music is by Amar Mohile, Prasanna Sekhar, Ganesh Hegde and Nitin Raikwar. The movie cast includes, Amitabh Bachchan, Mohanlal, Sushmita Sen, Ajay Devgan, Prashant Raj, and Nisha Kothari.
The original “Sholay”, is considered to be the greatest classic of modern Hindi cinema. Anyone who remakes or tries to recreate that magic is trying to capture lightning in a bottle and risks the ire of Bollywood fans all around the world. As if to make matters even more difficult, the music for “Sholay” (including smash hit songs, “Yeh Dosti; Mehbooba Mehbooba; Haa Jab Tak Hain Jaan”) by maestro R.D. Burman is revered to be one of the best soundtracks of all time.
Oh, and least I forget, there’s one more huge reason that makes “Sholay’s” magic so hard to recapture, and that is Amjad Khan’s portrayal of what may be Hindi cinema’s greatest villain, Gabber Singh. (For a in depth review of the movie, check out our Planet Bollywood review at: Planet Bollywood Sholay Movie Review)
What, you may ask does all this have to do with the music of “Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag” ”? I think that it’s important to realize the cultural importance of the original movie, and the climate in which the new movie’s music has been released. Most “Sholay” ” fans will dismiss the new soundtrack as being nothing compared to the original (something that I initially did), without giving this soundtrack a chance to “live” on its own. Does “Aag”s” soundtrack live up to its heritage? No, it does not. Is it a bad soundtrack? No, it’s not necessarily a bad soundtrack, but it’s no “Sholay”.
The music itself falls squarely into the typical RGV Factory music production house. It’s apparent from the beginning that you are going to hear the standard rage against man and the world songs that are prevalent in most RGV films. The use of RGV mainstays Amar Mohile and Nitin Raikwar gives the listener a heads up as to what to expect.
Ram Gopal Varma is a director that is capable of producing classic cinema such at “Satya”, “Sarkar” and “Nishabd” but is also the director whose production house,“the Factory” ”, has produced a string of bad movies. Let’s see whether his “Aag” soundtrack measure’s up, while trying to keep an open mind by not expecting another “Sholay” .
No “Sholay” remake would be complete without some version of the song, “Mehbooba Mehbooba” ”. Part-time musician and full time dance choreographer Ganesh Hegde re-envisions this signature track for the next generation. Taking a page from his self-titled pop album, he creates a new version of the classic track. Let’s get this out of the way first: It does not hold a candle to the original. In an effort to modernize it, the beginning and middle of the original melody is kept, with changes to the rest of the song. For nostalgic fans, the beginning music and interlude will evoke memories of the original, but the rest will leave you yawning. Fans are already remembering this track more for the video, which features the sexy semi-clad Urmila Matondkar writhing sensuously to the music. Hegde throws in a rapper to modernize the song, who speaks in an over-kill Hip-Hop accent. To drive home the point that Amitabh Bachchan as Babban Singh is much more evil than Amjad Khan’s Gabbar Singh, we have the big B spouting lines of dialogue throughout the song. One such line of dialogue is his famous “Khabhie Khabhie Mere Dil Me” dialogue from the movie “Silsila”, but with an evil twist at the end. Somehow, I don’t think that fans of Gabbar Singh need to worry. The one saving grace of this song are the husky vocals by Sunidhi Chauhan as she proves once again to be one of the best female vocalists in recent memory. Sukhwinder Singh’s talents are totally wasted in this track. The lyrics are by Shabbir Ahmed, and are serviceable with what he had to work with. So who wins this contest of “Aag” Vs. “Sholay”? “SHOLAY” all the way! In the words of the immortal, Gabbar Singh, “Jo darr gaya samjho margaya”.
The second track, “Ruk Ja” should be familiar in sound to all RGV fans (and fans of the original “Koi Haseena” track from “Sholay”. Composer Amar Mohile reproduces the sound used in RGV’s “Road” to produce another angry at each other but truly in love song. The song was the second track after “Mehbooba Mehbooba” to be used as a video/promo for the movie. Featuring Nisha Kothari as Gunghroo and Ajay Devgan as Heeru, the song showcases their often times tempestuous relationship. To be honest, the song really does not distinguish itself in any way. The melody is ok, the music is good, but the song does not in any way grab the listener. There are two things that raise this song from forget it pile, and that is: The return of Vinod Rathod (“Deewana”) to playback singing. The playback singer brother of music director Shravan (of Nadeem-Shravan) fame is back after a long hiatus and sounds absolutely amazing. He sings the track with so much energy and gusto that the listener quickly realizes that this is his song all the way. Sunidhi Chauhan is the second strength of this song as her jugalbandi singing with Rathod creates a scintillating energy. The lyrics by Sajid-Farhad are ok at best. So who wins again in this contest of “Aag” Vs. “Sholay”? SHOLAY all the way! In the words of the immortal Basanti, “Kyunke mujhe befuzool baat karne ki aadat to hai nahin”
Next up, is the track “Holi” that attempts to recapture the magic of the original, “Holi Ke Din”song that is a mainstay of every Holi celebration around the world. Prasanna Sekhar composes the song with lyrics by Sharim Momin. This one was showcased by the third video/promo of the film that featured Sushmita Sen dancing amist all the color. It’s not a bad song, but sounds too much like a standard folk tune. Vocalists Ravindra Upadhyaye, Shweta Pandit, Farhad Bhiwandiwala, Shreya Ghoshal and Sudesh Bhosle try their best to infuse the song with the spirit of the festive holiday. There really is nothing memorable about the song in melody or structure. “Aag” Vs. “Sholay”? SHOLAY all the way! Immortal words again from Sholay : “Khota sikka to dono taraf se khota hota hai”
The fourth track, “Cha Raha”,is composed and written by Nitin Raikwar and is arguably the best tune on this soundtrack. The video/promo for this song had the typical Ram Gopal Varma stamp on it and features a barely clad Nisha Kothari and a topless Ajay Devgan attempting to convey the raw sexual energy between the two characters. Vinod Rathod handles the male vocals, but the star of this track are the vocals of Shweta Pandit whose voice is perfectly suited to songs like this. The track is very catchy and the music is heavy on the techno. Still, it’s nothing that we haven’t heard before and is what I would call a typical RGV song. “Aag Vs. “Sholay”? SHOLAY all the way! Immortal words again from “Sholay”, ” Basanti, in kutton ke samne mat naachna.
The fifth track on this so far less than impressive soundtrack is titled, “Hai Aag Yeh” and is an ode to R.D. Burman’s original soundtrack to “Sholay”. Composed by Amar Mohile with aggressively written lyrics by Sharim Momin, the song succeeds in bringing back that 70’s vibe. It’s actually more of a background score than an actual song. Amar Mohile’s strengths obviously are within his ability to create riveting background music and he lives up to expectations with this track. Sunidhi Chauhan brings her usual high energy vocals which combine with the music to finally provide a memorable track on this album. “Aag Vs. Sholay”? Sorry, still “SHOLAY” all the way! Still, this track does make you say, “Lag Gaya Nishaana”.
The sixth track, “Jee Le” is the worst of the soundtrack. Composed by Prasanna Sekhar with crude ‘n’ crass lyrics by Sajid-Farhad, this song is a sad attempt to convey the friendship that was so excellently presented in the classic “Yeh Dosti”. It’s totally forgettable and not worth the listen. Spare yourselves from the screeching vocals of Vinod Rathod and Farhad Bhiwandiwala. “Aag” Vs. “Sholay”? Again, it’s “SHOLAY” all the way! Immortal words from Sholay: “Yeh haath hum ko de de, thakur”.
Is there any hope for this album? The answer turns out to be a resounding no as the seventh track,”Dum” painfully plays. The music by Amar Mohile (with lyrics by Sharim Momin) tries so hard to be commanding and inspirational, with no luck. The song just doesn’t work, and Amar Mohile should stick to his obvious strengths in composing background scores. Even the vocals of Vinod Rathod can not save the day. Save your ears and skip this track. “Aag” Vs. Sholay”? “SHOLAY” all the way. Immortal words from Sholay: “Tera kya hoga, Kaliya?”
The eighth track is the inevitable remix of “Mehbooba” by DJ Amyth. It has the usual addition of rhythmic percussive beats with techno bleeps added in for good measure. Dance to it, but don’t listen to it, is the only advice I can give you. The ninth track is the instrumental version of track five,“Hai Aag Yeh”and will keep you up at night. “Aag” Vs. Sholay? You’ve got to believe it’s “SHOLAY” all the way! As Gabbar Singh laughs his way into the sunset, you can can hear him ask the immortal question, “Kitne aadmi the ?”
Honestly, the soundtrack to “Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag” doesn’t even come close to “Sholay’s” soundtrack. Even, if you try your best to not compare the two. “Aag” fails on so many levels. It’s hard to believe that the talented music directors on this soundtrack were not inspired to produce some more memorable tunes considering how much of a cultural impact the original soundtrack has had on fans worldwide.
If you must add any of these songs to your playlist, then add “Mehbooba”, “Cha Raha”, and “Yeh Aag Hai” which are the only three semi- decent songs on the soundtrack, otherwise steer clear and stick with the classic songs from “Sholay”.
One final note, after suing Ram Gopal Varma, Ramesh Sippy sold the rights to “Sholay” for a cool 100 million Rupees to producer Pritesh Nandy (“Jhankar Beats”, “Pyar Ke Side Effects”). The respected producer plans on making a prequel, remake, sequel and animated movie. How good will the music be? Only time will tell….