Some things in life you wait in anticipation for (a very long time) and they still never turn up. In the world of Hindi music and particularly for his fans, one such thing must be the striking music and soulful melodies from the talented composer, Mithoon Sharma. The 24 year old has been quiet since his immensely successful debut soundtracks in 2006 and 2007- in particular, how can one forget his outstanding contribution to Anwar: “Maula Mere Maula” and “Javeda Zindagi" easily rank up there with the best songs of the previous decade! Then we had techno infused soundtracks for The Train and Aggar. Since then we have had a personal album ("Tu Hi Mere Rab Ki Tarah Hai") but little else...what a shame.
Thankfully the new decade brings fresh opportunities and Mithoon returns to compose the music for the long overdue Lamhaa, a film set in the beautiful locales of Kashmir. There is no better setting for Mithoon’s music so let us prepare for another soulful ride…beware however, as the music will take time to grow on you and even if it does there’s no guarantee you will appreciate it as the soundtrack is one for the lovers of soulful, traditional music. Anyone looking for modern peppy dance music need not apply!
On the face of it, Track 1: “Madno” (a Kashmiri word meaning ‘lover’ or ‘saajnaa’), is a truly mesmerising opener composed with finesse and beauty that befits the outstanding talents of Mithoon. The track flows like a soothing river for the entire 8 minutes that it plays for, accompanied by some delightful traditional instrumentation such as the soft dholak, multiple strings and flute. Unfortunately fans of Mithoon will realise an immediate familiarity with the music he produced for Anwar, particularly “Maula Mere Maula”. Not only that but he uses the same singer as he did for "Javeda Zindagi", Kshitij Tarey, which gives it a further feeling of déjà vu. That’s not taking anything away from Kshitij who is in spellbinding form here along with Chinmayi, the female vocalist. Together this duet connects your soul to the romancing heavens as they utter Saeed Quadri’s bewitching poetry that refreshingly, includes some Kashmiri lines- kudos to him! Overall, Mithoon’s obvious rendez-vous with the sounds of Anwar takes the gloss off what is otherwise, the most fantastic and soulful love song of 2010!
If, for some strange reason the Kashmiri lines bother you in “Madno” then you might prefer Track 4: “Saajnaa” which is basically the same song but this time with Urdu lines only. And a class act they are as well. Unfortunately, Mika replaces Kshitij here and the imperfections in his voice make it an interesting alternative. However it's clear he finds it a challenge since his strengths lie elsewhere whereas Kshitij’s vocals are untouchable in this genre although thankfully, the superb Chinmayi keeps her place. Either way, this is another excuse to listen to the best track from Lamhaa.
The charming vocals and intermittent giggles of Kashmiri children greet you in Track 2: “Salaam Zindagi”. What follows is an uplifting albeit situational song that portrays the courage and bravery of the Kashmiri folk amidst their helpless plight and hardship. Mithoon’s use of the piano is the highlight of another strong composition although Mithoon's typical dholak melody is unwelcome here. Arun Daga and Mohd.Irfan provide a fine vocal partnership but listen out for Saim’s emotional Kashmiri vocals in the background. Saeed Quadri excels again with some touching lyrics. A good song no doubt but mostly relevant for the film only hence lacking replay value. And that familiar dholak melody irritates!
Track 3: “Main Kaun Hoon” is an even more situational track than the previous one making it less engaging to listen to. The music is catchy and interesting in parts e.g. the mandolin play, but nothing special otherwise. Palash Sen’s haunting vocals are the highlight. Lyrics are on this occasion penned by guest lyricist Amitabh Varma but will only make an impact on the screen. This will be a good background song for the film but its appeal is otherwise limited making it the weakest track on offer.
Kshitij is rewarded for his superb performance earlier in this soundtrack with a solo at Track 5: “Zameen-O-Aasmaa”. And he repays Mithoon’s faith in him with an emotional, heartfelt rendition that continues to show his immense singing talent particularly his control of high and low pitched singing. The lyrics, penned beautifully again by Saeed Quadri slowly emerge into a hopeful prayer that seeks redemption and respite from the Almighty… “Zameen-O-Aasmaa ke malik sun, chor saare kaam tu zameen pe aa…” (referring to the situation in Kashmir and the impact that the action of a few has, on the lives of millions of people). Musically, the piano dominates once again against a haunting background orchestra and percussion. Listen to this a few times and it may connect with you spiritually such is the impact, although it’s the singing and lyrics that ultimately bring the message home. Regardless, please don’t ignore it…this thought provoking song is the voice of Kashmiri people.
For those of you waiting for something a little more foot-tapping, Track 6: “Rehmat Zara” provides the only peppy song on the soundtrack so make the most of it! A full on rock tune inspired by an electric guitar, this is both catchy and addictive whilst it lasts but still underachieves again from the perspective of displaying Mithoon’s talents because it is reminiscent of past Pakistani rock fusion. However the explosive singing (by Mithoon and Mohd.Irfan) is effective and the Rehmat Zaraaaa-aaaa-aaaa… devotional alaaps are especially noteworthy! Lyrics by Saeed Quadri are no less impacting here although your attention may well focus on the music and singing. A decent end to the soundtrack, “Rehmat Zara” adds some welcome variety but still falls well short of being anything great.
Undoubtedly Lamhaa has soul-stirring music and given the chance, it has the potential to heal your inner soul and spirit. It also suits the film superbly and fans of Mithoon will rejoice his return. But we have to step back and consider the music in the context of the composer's short career so far. Is it taking him in the right direction? Ask yourself, how good is the music compared to his previous work and more importantly how original is it? Arguably his music here is elevated by the performance of the singers and by the excellent lyrics of Saeed Quadri. Unfortunately the composer’s three year exile has produced a soundtrack that sounds too familiar to his previous work (e.g. what does he see in that dholak melody to want to repeat it constantly in his songs?) and in all honesty one expected more. Has he re-hashed his old music because Lamhaa is too small a project? Or put simply, is it because his talents are limited to one or two genres only? Or even worse, has he run out of steam already? Only time will tell but one thing is for certain, he has no long-term future in this industry if he carries on with this strategy, that's the harsh reality. If we are to continue enjoying music from this gifted composer then he needs to prove his versatility and is consequently far from the finished composer we once suspected. In short, he needs to progress and not rely on his past. One sincerely hopes he gets another chance because he would be sorely missed...