Today the Indian Film Industry is by far the biggest pastime India has to offer, and for many reasons at that. It's not only a pastime, rather a legend that has brought us some of the finest personas, tales, and romances known to man.
However, once upon a time, there was an industry so much more than what it is today. There was an industry flooded with passion, emotion, and fervor. There was a fraternity draped with exquisite beauty, authentic reality, and staunch ingenuity. And more importantly, there was a cinematic world free from the burden of global branding, persuasive endorsements, and sleazy fashion parades. It was the Film Industry of the 1950s.
Director Sudhir Mishra is King when it comes to creating ingenious cinema, be it Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Is Raat Ki Subah Nahi, Chameli, or Hazaaron Khwahishen Aisi. And keeping with history, he promises to deliver the goods once again with his ode to the Golden Era of the Indian Film Industry.
If you take another glance at the above-mentioned films, you’ll notice that Mishra not only has a knack for quality cinema – but also a great skill in identifying quality music. Most recently in 2003 he produced some fantastic soundtracks in Chameli and Hazaaron Khwahishen Aisi (exploding awareness for two very talented and upcoming music directors at the time, Sandesh Shandilya and Shantanu Moitra, respectively).
MD Shantanu Moitra went on to create a very welcomed niche in tinsel-town, following up with what many feel to be a classic soundtrack of modern times in Parineeta. His work in Yahaan went down very well with the critics as well. However, after shooting out of the gates, things have begun to cool down for Moitra – his 2006 contribution in Lage Rahe Munnabhai and 2007 contribution in Laaga Chunari Mein Daag paled considerably next to his earlier works. And of course we did see a glimmer of class in his mostly thematic score for Eklavya – The Royal Guard earlier this year.
But perhaps Moitra’s reunion with off-beat director Sudhir Mishra will rekindle the robust potential and exquisite sounds that Moitra has proven himself capable of in the past. It’s no surprise that competent lyricist Swanand Kirkire will be penning the lyrics once again for Moitra’s songs. So let’s take a stroll down memory-lane and relive the magic of a phenomenon that once was…
Shantanu gets us started on a fabulously creative note with the title track Khoya Khoya Chand. What we have here is a modernized qawwali of the 21st century with lyricist Swanand Kirkire taking the lead vocals as he has been known to do. Although the concept of such a track is quite ingenious – Moitra isn’t the first to conceptualize it. In fact, the genre, and song on the whole, will remind many of what Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy had done in ‘Baat Meri Suniye’ from 2003’s Kuch Naa Kaho. Nonetheless, the composition engulfs its listener in a vibration of table, string, ghungroo, and dhol – removing the common harmonium heard in many traditionally-styled qawwalis. The lively and well-orchestrated arrangements are highlighted by a peppy, yet poetically steady melody. Although a very structured piece, it’s playful and innocent at heart…allowing Swanand Kirkire to sing his own words with animation. This is easily another feather in the caps of both Shantanu Moitra and Swanand Kirkire. Enjoy this one to bits folks!
Ahh, flash back half a century and have a drink at the bar while the live Big Band show unravels on stage in front of you. The curtains rise to reveal Yeh Nigahein. After re-creating the 50s style of Big Band music in ‘Kaisi Paheli Zindagani’ of 2005’s Parineeta, Moitra takes us back once more. It’s quite incredible to see how accurate his reprisal of that musical moment in the history of international music is. From the steady step up and step down of the Wood Bass to the trumpet echoes, from the shadowy bursts of piano trills to the playful shutters of the flute, from the romances of a quiet oboe to the charming quiver of the Nylon/Spanish guitar. Rarely do we come across a composition so rich and flavorful in sounds that come together to create an amalgam of what took the world by storm in the 1950s.
The title melody of Yeh Nigahein, however, is eerily similar to the famous holiday track ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ by Bobby Helms, which was released ‘surprise surprise’ in the 1950s (1957 to be exact). I’m not surprised, as Moitra has been known to take inspiration at times in his melodies. Other than that, the melody is very smooth and blends immaculately well with the aura of the time and genre of music. Sonu Nigam and Antara Chaudary’s duet is sublime, as both play off one another wonderfully. All in all it’s a beautiful song that really does help Khoya Khoya Chand re-live the ethereal moments of Film and Music of the 1950s.
Khushboo Sa brings back the insanely seductive world of the 1950s. Take Yeh Nigahein and change its clothes, and you have Khushboo Sa. Moitra mesmerizes in his prowess over that time-period this time with heavy influences of Hyper Brass, along with the other musically rich instruments that come together to take us back half a century. Hamsika Iyer has been an amazing vocal discovery by Shantanu Moitra. Remember, this is the lady who had earlier rendered the very soft and beautiful ‘Chanda Re’ from Eklavya – The Royal Guard. Here, she goes seductive and naughty to fit the mood of this tempting track. Her vocals seamlessly enlace themselves within the very classy composition, providing for a unified experience between singer and song. Verdict: I just can’t believe how real this composition is – Shantanu, you’ve truly outdone yourself this time!
Can you spell V-E-R-S-A-T-I-L-E? O Re Paakhi takes us back once again to the yester-years but this time instead of having international motives of what music was like in the 50s, O Re Paakhi re-ignites the life of Indian Film Music back in the 50s, which is considered to be the “Golden Era” of Hindi Film Music – bringing to mind legends such as Shankar-Jaikishen, S.D. Burman, Naushaad, O.P. Nayyar, Kalyanji-Anandji, Khayyam, and others. This is one splendid tribute to them all by Shantanu Moitra, the man of the moment.
Once lit, the piece seems to be a spin-off of the very popular Piyu Bole (Parineeta), as Sonu Nigam’s unearthly vocals resonate over the mellow piano. As if the piano represents the male lead, the timid and very feminine play of the oboe later on seems to mimic the entrance of the female lead. Up until now the piece highlights not only Sonu’s very tamed and pure vocals, but also Moitra’s gentle melody and Kirkire’s romantically poignant lyrics. At the 1:40 mark is when nostalgia fills our ears as Moitra’s rhythmic arrangements will take you back 50 years in a split second! Verdict: An elegantly envisioned and nostalgically woven song, Moitra once again seduces with his versatility and class.
Shreya Ghoshal’s Sakhi Piya is a very well-crafted semi-classical piece in which Moitra does a little experimentation – and passes will flying colors. The vocal duet between Shreya Ghoshal and her perfect vocal foil – Pranav Biswas – create an enticing aura through which Moitra can communicate his orchestral theme. Keeping it very simple in the rhythm, he tends to only use slight guitar riffs, some vibraphone, piano, and a tantalizingly brief episode of what seems to be a santoor.
However, I love the vocal ingenuity in having a strong balance between a very light set of vocals (Shreya) rendering sargams, pitted against a more classically influenced deep set of vocals (Pranav) rendering some alaap. This balance I feel was meant to resonate on screen between the leads – although creatively different, their love for one another takes those differences and transforms it into a unity – as represented here in the music and vocals of Sakhi Piya, where the opposite vocals of Shreya and Pranav are eventually brought together as they sing in unison. I feel this is used to show the synergistic element of love, and how when two are combined, although different individually, come together to blossom and fulfill their desires. Swanand Kirkire’s lyrics are brilliant in their simplicity and romantic nature. Verdict: Although the piece will not be appreciated by all, its ingenuity, approach, and resulting spectacle are worthy of awe.
And of course to finish it off Moitra just begins to show-off! Listen to the awesome percussional intro to Thirak Thirak and you’ll know exactly what I mean. From percussion he takes us to acoustic, as Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghoshal go thirak thirak off into another timeless tune. Although the melody does seem choppy at times, one can’t help but over-look this when the peppy rhythm gets your foot tapping. The only reason this is probably less appealing than the others is because this is something we’ve heard often by Shantanu Moitra in the past. Nonetheless, the animated background is worthy of attention and the track could possibly take up another spot on your playlist along with all the other songs of Khoya Khoya Chand. Kirkire’s lyrics are perfectly situated amidst the eventful piece. Verdict: Although a slight dip in the awesome environment created by the first 6 songs, this is undoubtedly a pleasing end to another classic soundtrack by Shantanu Moitra, Swanand Kirkire, and Khoya Khoya Chand.
Yes folks, Khoya Khoya Chand is the best soundtrack of 2007 by quite some distance. However, unlike with Parineeta, the quality and beauty of this soundtrack is less “obvious” and therefore may struggle to gain the wide-spread appreciation that Parineeta had received over 2 years ago.
Shantanu Moitra re-positions himself as a leader in the music industry and continues to not follow the trend set forth by the likes of Pritam, Himesh Reshammiya, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, and Vishal-Shekhar: rather, he continues to create a niche for himself by composing heart-felt compositions from a wide-array of genres and time-periods. Asking someone to compose a soundtrack that re-lives the splendor and majesty of the 1950s is no easy task, yet he steps up the plate and hits a six. And in my eyes, this is a true classic that should be cherished by music lovers for generations to come.
The greatest of triumphs are determined by the smallest of detail.