2008 is music director Anu Malik’s comeback year as he takes the record for the most number of new releases so far. Unfortunately, the quality of those releases has varied greatly. It seems that he is filling the Himesh Reshammiya and Pritam void what with both of them cutting back on their workload. One would think that apna Bollywood producers would take this “shortage” of good music directors (other than the for the most part excellent A.R. Rahman all the others have shown uneven originality in their music), to search out new and exciting talent. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, as most seem to have fallen back to resurrecting Malik’s hibernating career. So what does the return of Malik bode for Bollywood fans? It’s with a little trepidation that I revved up my IPOD to listen to Malik’s latest soundtrack, “Ugly Aur Pagli” wherein he takes an almost Pritam like avatar in creating an album full of item songs.
The film holds some comedic promise as it comes from respected producer Pritish Nandy’s production house. Nandy has been responsible for some intriguing and fun down to earth movies in the past few years (“Pyar Ke Side Effects” being one example). The film’s headliners are the interesting lead pair of excellent character actor Ranvir Shorey and uber sex siren Mallika Sherawat, who should have some interesting chemistry on the silver screen. Research has shown that Bollywood scientists have found that when a beautiful “pagli” woman is in a relationship with an oddball “ugly” man, the relationship lasts forever and is full of fun ‘n’ love. All you guys out there find your “pagli” partner and gals your…ahem… “ugly” men (or vice versa) , and crank up this soundtrack.
The first track literally blasts out of the gate in being one of the most memorable dance club Bhangra fusion songs of the year, “Talli!” is almost intoxicatingly addictive to listen to beginning with a strong percussive beat (with splashes of dhol here and there) and aggressive keyboard playing. Hard Kaur starts the intoxicated dance frenzy as only she can while she sings, “Put your hands up…Hey, we’re gonna rock this party…hey…I’m gonna get somebody…I know you want my body…come on now get this body…”. From there we have Anu Malik’s daughter Anmol Malik (whose vocal pronunciation is strikingly similar to her fathers) singing the refrain, “De Talli” with mucho Bollywood gusto. Mika provides the male vocals and restrains from sounding too nasal. All the vocalists combine together with the driving force of the music to give you a song that will never let you sit still. The lyrics by Amitabh Verma are perfect for a track like this. So when a girl sings, “Me Talli Ho Gaye…..” put your hands in the air and shout for joy, “Tu Talli Ho Gaye”!
Whew, from the sweat inducing first track, the soundtrack gives you no time to recover as we move from dance club Bhangra fusion to Reggaeton Bollywood style. Track two, “Karle Gunaah” features a classic Reggaeton beat with singing in a rap Punjabi style. Ishq Bectar handles the male rapping rhyming rhythmic singing very well and that’s where the strength of this track is most pronounced. The singing is what drives it forward as the supporting music itself is pretty standard fare (combining Reggaeton, Flamenco with a slight touch of Middle Eastern beats). While Bectar provides the male vocals, Anushka provides the sultry female counterpoint. Midway through the song the Reggaeton beat segue ways into an Arabic style percussive rhythm (complete with clapping) that truly keeps the song from becoming mundane. Another hit track makes it two in a row for Anu Malik on this soundtrack. The video for the song features Mallika Sherawat displaying her ample “assets” in tiny tops and thigh high stockings, so this one will be a hit with the guys. Go ahead, get close, grind away with your partner, and make sure that you, “Karle Gunaah”!
The third track, “Yeh Nazar” switches gears from club culture to old school pop-rock culture. It sounds like something that would be at home in a New York City Broadway show or from that old campy Hollywood flick, “Grease”. Slick back your hair, put on your black leather motorcycle jacket and rock it old skool style. Sunidhi Chauhan’s vocals are perfect for this type of song as she is able to sing it with a lot of energy and panache. Shaan sings the male vocal track to perfection and I really think his is the best voice in Bollywood playback today. This track is classic Anu Malik and plays up to his strengths, as a music director who excels at composing fun tunes. Amitabh Varma writes the playful lyrics that will have you singing along. Play this one loud and bop…bop…bop…away!
Have you ever had one of those nightmares with Anu Malik sitting by your side dressed in a white suit with red socks and white shoes? He looks pleasantly over at you and then begins singing in his gruff and slightly annoying voice, but there’s something strange going on. He’s not singing in Hindi or English, rather he’s singing in Spanish. Quick wake up! Wake up! Unfortunately upon first hearing this track I winced when hearing Anu sing as I’ve always found him to have a horrible tone to his voice. For some reason, the music director loves to sing and squeezes his way onto most of his soundtracks either as a lead vocalist, background vocalist, or making strange chorus sounds in the background. Fifth track, “Shut Up, Aa Nachle”, is a typical Anu Malik standard kind of tune. From the counterpoint melody, to the musical arrangement, it’s all got a very familiar feel to it. I’m sure hardcore fans of the music director would be able to pick apart the similarities to his older work, but I’m going to refrain from doing that here. Instead, let’s just say that it’s an enjoyable track that really doesn’t offer anything different. The really odd thing here is that Anu’s voice actually does fit for this song, if it’s going to be picturized on Ranvir Shorey, as Ranvir’s voice has the same high-pitched quality to it. The always excellent and criminally underutilized Vasundhara Das provides the high-octane aggressive female vocals. Lyrics are average. Don’t think so much, put up the volume, “shut up” and "naachle" while listening to this track.
Malik switches gears with the final new song on this soundtrack, “Yaad Teri Aaye” wherein he plays to his romantic strengths as a music director. Mohit Chauhan (“Is This Love (Kahin Na Laage)” from the recent “Kismat Konnection” soundtrack), excels in providing the vocals for this genre of song. This beautifully romantic track’s main instrument is the acoustic guitar, wonderfully played throughout the song as it supports the soft vocals by Mohit. Lyrics by Amitabh Verma are memorable and sweet. Unfortunately, in this day of the razzmatazz dance tracks and tricked out slow songs, a straightforward romantic ballad like this is usually overlooked. Don’t make that mistake. Add this to your playlist right away. Anu Malik has truly impressed with this track.Turn out the lights, look out of your window at the soft light of the rising moon and listen to this song as you fondly remember your precious lover. Whisper into the welcoming darkness of the night, “Yaad Teri Aaye” and pray that she will hear you.
Let’s round out this album and review with the now standard set of remixes that end the album. First up a remix of the title track, “Talli!” by DJ Amyth which brings Hard Kaur front and center with pumped up Dhol percussion. Thankfully this is the version with Mika and Anmol Malik and not the Anu version. This one will be huge in all the clubs and will have some real staying power. The track is a really good remix by Amyth that keeps the spirit of the original song, while pumping up the dance rhythm. The second remix by Amyth is of, “Karle Gunaah” and has a heavy techno drum machine/synth keyboard rhythmic base that takes the track to another level. Gone is the leisurely pseudo Flamenco/Middle Eastern musical melody, what’s left is a lean, mean dancing track that will also be a huge club hit. Two really good remixes by DJ Amyth. It’s nice to see a DJ who knows that it’s always best to keep the original spirit of the songs and play to the track’s strengths.
2008 really is the year that Anu Malik came roaring back onto the music scene after almost being written off. “Ugly Aur Pagli” is a cool soundtrack for your hot summer that easily holds up to repeat listenings and gives Pritam a run for his money in terms of contemporary soundtracks. You can add the entire album to your playlist as there isn’t a stinker in the bunch. Get drunk, karle gunaah, shut up, naachle, and remember your loved one while you question, “Who is Ugly and who is Pagli?”