Planet Bollywood
Billu Barber
Producer: Gauri Khan
Director: Priyadarshan
Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Irrfan Khan, Lara Dutta, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Asrani, Om Puri, Rajpal Yadav
Music: Pritam
Lyrics: Gulzar, Neeraj Shridhar, Sayeed Quadri, Aashish Pandit, Mayur Puri
Singers: Sukhwinder Singh, Sunidhi Chauhan, K.K, Neeraj Shridhar, Tulsi Kumar, Rana Muzamdar, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ajay Jhingran, Raghuveer, Kalpana, Soham, Akriti Kakkar, Monali, Abhijeet
Audio On: T Series    Number of Songs: 15
Album Released on: 05 January 2009
Reviewed by: Atta Khan  - Rating: 7.0 / 10
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In the results of a very recent worldwide poll on Bollywood fans, Billu Barber was ranked in the Top 5 most anticipated movies of 2009. Is that the power of Shahrukh Khan? Many big stars initially turned down roles in the movie and indeed Shahrukh Khan himself plays only a supporting role for the first time but that has not stopped the anticipation. So Priyadarshan needs a compelling soundtrack to keep up the momentum until the release. Who does he choose to produce this? Well if you have been following his movies recently, only one music director (MD) features: Pritam. However the hugely successful MD has been quiet of late, his previous releases were substandard quality (Golmaal Returns and Kidnap). So he has a point to prove and what better way than via one of the most awaited movies of 2009?

Before we move onto the songs, one must put them into context. Most of the songs featured in the movie are filmed on Sahir Khan (Shahrukh Khan) and his suite of co-performers (including Kareena, Deepika and Priyanka). Since he plays a superstar in the movie, then the music must be relevant to his character. On the other hand, our Billoo Barber (Irrfan Khan) is from a small village and so he requires a completely different style of music. Consequently half the soundtrack accommodates Sahir Khan’s onscreen presence and the rest (one can assume) are for Billoo Barber.

Pritam certainly opens with a BANG for Sahir Khan! Marjaani is a sizzling number that will have you practising your dance steps in no time. With a super catchy melody backed by the explosive vocals of Sukhwinder Singh and Sunidhi Chauhan, along with a supporting chorus, this one is already a hit! Then add the onscreen pairing of SRK and Kareena and you have a chartbusting number in the making! The lyrics by Gulzar whilst basic, provide the foundation for an addictive onslaught. Who wants a classic? Who needs intricate arrangements? Marjaani is about fun, it’s about the here and now so just drop your ‘serious’ hat for a minute and enjoy this simple, fun ‘n frolicking listen!

Love Mera Hit Hit marks the return of one of Pritam’s favorite singers, Neeraj Shridhar, who has sang some of Pritam’s biggest hits including Mauja Hi Mauja (Jab We Met) and Ai Paapi (Kismat Konnection). Sadly, Pritam resorts to bad habits here and just reinvents some old techno sounds. Not only that but he reinvents them badly, in fact it sounds like a remix! Consequently there is no ‘Mauja’ in this number and it becomes annoying after a while. Neither singer (Neeraj or Tulsi) can help ease the irritation. Lyrics by Aashish Pandit and Mayur Puri are forgettable. It’s still likely to connect with the youth however but a clear warning to the rest: Give this one a MISS MISS!

The MD improves with his next, You Get Me Rocking And Reeling, a soft hip hop come romantic number. Expect the usual mix of Hinglish lyrics but at least there is some sensibility here with the music, which has a slow lounge feel to it, perfect to chill out to when the mood requires. At last, Neeraj gets a chance to echo his soft vocals and performs admirably. The main lyrics by Sayeed Quadri do the job for the song, simple but effective. As per Marjaani, expect nothing out of the ordinary and you won’t be disappointed.

We all know Pritam loves a rock anthem or two and the rocker inside him unearths another winner for the masses with Ae Aa O! What a silly title for a song you might say (and one that introduces SRK in the movie), but don’t let that put you off an action packed entertainer, packed to the rafters with hard hitting sounds that create a rock fusion to blow your mind! The electric guitar is in overdrive here, the drums bleed in between the fury of hand clapping and the singers (K.K, Rana Muzamdar and Neeraj) are clearly on adrenalin pills, particularly K.K. The lyrics by Neeraj are mindless but perfect for such a track. Of course this can’t touch the class of a Life in a Metro Rocker but it’s deliciously fun whilst it lasts, it simply shouts:TURN ME UP & ROCK!

After four consecutive dance tracks, Pritam finally eases the pulse with a melancholy number Jaoon Kahan. Sadly whilst things start on a promising note, the dholak melody becomes annoying since you have heard this so many times before! It is also sad to note that Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is becoming a 'one-legged pony' with this kind of singing and alaaps which, whilst not entirely his fault (as he is dictated by the MD) doesn’t enhance his standing in Bollywood. Sayeed Quadri has written much better lyrics than this as well. Overall it’s just about passable.

Did someone cry out ‘but where is originality’? Well we get some at last in Billoo Bhayankar- easily the BEST track of Billu Barber! A humorously fun, witty and entertaining sketch that exudes village culture and atmosphere, this one perfectly sums up the character of our Billoo, the barber. The dholak arrangements are fabulous this time round and mixed with real sounds including bicycle bells and an unrelenting chorus with shouts of “Humre Billu Bhayankar” and “Ting Ting Ting”, keep up the momentum to retain the colour from start to finish. Gulzar saab must rank as the finest multi (Hindi) dialect lyricist in India, and his writing shines here in what sounds like the wonderful Bhagelkhandi tongue. The more you listen to it, the more it puts a smile on your face! Singing is equally unique and praiseworthy by Ajay Jhingran, Raghuveer and Kalpana. If this is an original Pritam composition, then hats up to the wee man- superb in it’s simplicity!

Khudaya Khair is a decent romantic number to end Billu Barber. But it could and should have been so much better. Lazy Pritam reinvents an old “guitar/dholak” melody again and for that he is marked down. But as much as you would like to hate it, you can’t but fail to be charmed by it either especially if you enjoy this genre! That is in the main due to his choice of singers that make it that more enjoyable as Soham, Akriti Kakkar and Monali really do make an impact with their sweet vocals. Gulzar provides the lyrics again. But the enjoyment doesn’t end there because Pritam switches singers in the Khudaya Khair Reprise to none other than Abhijeet (for a solo) and the guy simply mesmerises! What a shame he is ignored in today’s industry.

So does the soundtrack really end there? Well not if you enjoy your Remixes because the OST is packed to the brink with them. All your favourite DJs are here to give you a taste of their remixing skills. Mind you, none are particularly good but if it’s your cup of tea then you will enjoy them. For the rest of us, it really is the end.

It’s a little naive to conclude that Pritam has failed again just because he has shown a lack of originality in his music. The reality is that he is one of the most wanted MDs out there and has up to ten projects to delivery for 2009. Furthermore, his objective is to produce music for his audience and sadly music connoisseurs generally fall at the bottom of this list. In fact his main audience, including those for Billu Barber, are typically the mainstream youth interested in dance/hip hop music. Next we have the hungry producers who want a show stealing promo for the movie. Let’s get one thing straight; he is not in it to make a classic soundtrack. That only comes once in a while like his superb Life in a Metro.. Why else do we see the likes of Priyadarshan sign him movie after movie? Why else does his music end up at the top of the charts? With Billu Barber, Pritam delivers yet again for his audience. But connoisseurs can still give it a try and enjoy. Just don't go in with high expectations. This is plain and simple fun courtesy Pritam!

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