Why hello there faithful Planet Bollywood (PB) readers! Welcome back to another riveting, exciting, and sexy review of the latest Bollywood soundtrack, “Bachna Ae Haseeno”! Ranbir Kapoor, son of legends Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, star of the famous “cheeky” movie “Saawariya”, has been signed by the drowning in flops Yash Raj Films in order to give the studio a desperately needed hit. It’s interesting that the Chopras seem to have reverted back to their romantic roots in making a romantic dramedy in which the story circles around three women and one lucky guy. What remains to be seen is whether Ranbir Kapoor can excel in a more contemporary setting, and also whether Yash Raj can plant the seeds to the successor to the aging Shah Rukh Khan (the only bankable star who has been able to deliver the production house’s biggest hits).
We seem to be seeing somewhat of a passing of the torch as current superstars Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, and Saif Ali Khan are quickly for the most part entering their early to mid forties. As the super stars have aged, so have Bollywood films as writers scramble to come up with material that is suitable for an older hero. That’s not such a bad thing, as we have been exposed to many different kinds of stories because of that; however as a result, youthful romantic movies have fallen to the wayside. Now we are on the cusp of another generation “next” surge, as Ranbir Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Harman Baweja, and Imraan Khan seem poised to take Bollywood to the next generation and beyond. What might happen is that we’ll see a gradual de-aging of Hindi films and perhaps more opportunity for younger writers/directors with really fresh ideas. If this film by Yash Raj is any good (and given their track record recently, I say that with some doubt), then it will serve two purposes. First it will bring back some luster to the lackluster year that the Chopras have had with their films. Second, it will establish whether Ranbir Kapoor can act outside of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s direction to carry a film on his shoulders.
Of course it’s not just Ranbir’s film as there are three beautiful ladies joining him in this fictional quest for love. Real life lover and now reel life lover Deepika Padukone competes with the slightly older yet sizzling Bipasha Basu and both are given a run for their money by the seemingly innocent and down to Earth Minissha Lamba. The film is directed by Siddarth Anand who previously directed the excellent “Salaam Namaste” and the under-rated “Tara Rum Pum” and is the kind of new age Bollywood director who really gives a youthful/progressive feel to his films. His favorite music director duo is Vishal-Shekhar who have scored all his previous soundtracks. While the music for “Salaam Namaste” was very good, in comparison the music to “Tara Rum Pum” did not achieve the same heights (not that it was bad, it’s just that it was fairly average and didn’t leave any kind of aural impact on the audience). So, will three times be the charm? Will a talented director be able to inspire V&S, who have been on a bit of a creative downslide recently (with average sounding albums like, “De Taali” and “Tashan”), to be able to come up with something that will turn them back to being innovators? Most importantly, will Yash Raj Films allow the director and music directors to truly be creative and break out of the typical Chopra mold? Let’s find out together!
Ah, you have to love the life a jet-setting reviewer. Planet Bollywood spares no expenses to enable me to capture the true romantic feel of the album as they send me on an all expenses paid trip to the sandy white beach called Platis Yialos on the Greek island Mykonos. First class yaar! Ah, the white sand, blue skies and typical white Greek homes exude romance to the nth level, what better place could there be than this to write the review for “Bachna Ae Haseeno”?
The blue waters of the beach give way to the driving techno Punjabi folk beat of the night as the next track, “Lucky Boy” begins. Whenever I hear English lyrics in apna Hindi songs, I cringe a bit because it can come off as tacky at times. Luckily that is not the case here primarily due to the always-excellent lead vocalist Sunidhi Chauhan who pronounces the words quite sensuously. Speaking of sensuous the video for this track focuses on Bipasha Basu who I am sure will be quite the temptress for Ranbir’s character. This one’s for all the girls with attitude out there, and no one does attitude filled tempestuousness like Sunidhi Chauhan who absolutely rocks on this track, the male vocals are by Raja Hasan who sings the Punjabi folk portions with mucho gusto. Also, wonder of wonders, but guess who shows up to the party? Why the omnipresent Hard Kaur of course! She seems to be on every single recent soundtrack as every producer races to sign her for all the “party” songs. I have to admit that she does have certain flair to her voice. Hard Kaur worked with lyricist Anvita (and their mothers) to come up with the catchy Punjabi lyrics, “Nain preeto de” which truly adds another fun loving dimension to what could have been a run of the mill dance track. Hard Kaur sings the very powerful lyrics that partly go, “…I went from London to Japan…but I couldn’t find my man….jo chura le mera chain…..he makes me say goddamn” and adds the suitable punch to the song in all the right places. That’s where V&S have been really clever; they took a straightforward dance track, combined it with excellent vocalists, and added a different flavor of Punjabi folk interspersed throughout the song (in an almost qawwali like fervor) to create a tune that will leave you subconsciously humming along. Director Siddarth Anand told V&S that he wanted a superhit track. I don’t know if this one will be a super-hit as that may very well be reserved for “Khuda Jaane”, but it is catchy as hell and will burn into the membranes of your brain. “Lucky Boy…you’re my lucky boy…jaane kaun banega mera lucky boy”will be the chant of all the girls out there who have their men wrapped around their pretty little fingers”!
After the sensitive yet romantically lustful first track, and the driving sensuousness of the second, we move on to what may be one of the freshest songs to come out of V&S’s music bank. It’s a dance song! No, it’s a romantic track! No, it’s something more…it’s both! With “Aahista Aahista” V&S have poured some soul into this one, as the melody will just grab you and throw you to the ground. Lucky Ali (of “Ek Pal Ka Jeena” fame) provides a fresh and unique feel for the track as does the excellently sensitive vocals by Shreya Ghoshal. V&S wisely bring the acoustic flamenco guitar to the forefront throughout the track as Robert Miles inspired synth keyboards/percussion/sounds create a wisp filled ambience. Play it quietly, or play it loud, the song is truly melodically beautiful. The lyrics by Anvita are picture perfect in that she stays away from the usual clichés. The song was shot in Yash Chopra’s mainstay, Switzerland and shows Ranbir and Minissha dancing madly in the snow with mountains in the backdrop. Nice to see, that though this song could easily have been shot in a club, the director has tried something different. Also, it’s important to note that Siddarth Anand wanted Lucky Ali for this song and thankfully V&S followed his mandate. Remember…. don’t go too fast; take your time while you romance the night away…. “Aahista Aahista”!
If the title of the film doesn’t tug at your nostalgic soul then the sight of Ranbir with a Dafli (hand drum) in his hands will definitely bring forth memories of his father Rishi Kapoor. The next track sounds like something taken from an RK film, or the classic Yash Chopra template, with a bit of a twist that is. “Jogi Mahi” at face level and perhaps on first listen sounds like a typical dhol infused Punjabi number; however, if you give it time to breathe and listen to it a few times, you’ll begin to enjoy it even more and that’s purely because of the twists ‘n’ turns of the melody. Shekhar gets behind the mike and delivers a stand out performance. Give credit to lyricist Anvita for not using the typical rabba, dhol, ishq, and dholna route, but instead being creative with the lyrics such as…. “jogi mahi, heer ranjna..sab nu ja ke main yeh bholna, baat bol ke…..raaz kholna”. The effort to use different rhymes and lyrical rhythmic structures are much appreciated and makes this seemingly traditional song seem fresh. Joining Shekhar on the vocals is the always dhol-tas-tic Sukhvinder Singh who brings more energy to the song. Newcomer Himani Kapoor provides the vocals and during the beginning of the interlude sounds a bit like a younger Kavita Krishnamurthy, but then breaks out into her own unique tonal quality. The entire song is driven forward by frenetic kinetic dhol playing that will get anyone and everyone on their feet, as this should become a wedding reception staple for years to come. Come on…put your hands in the air and sing along with me, “Jogi mahi….”!
We now inexplicably and mysteriously interrupt this album for a remix/re-imagining of the first track, “Khuda Jaane” by Abhijit Nalani. I was a little worried at first as the original track’s selling point is the romantic slow burn of the musical melody. What would happen if that is sped up by adding strong percussive beats? Would the romance be gone? While it’s true that the remixed version is not as romantic as the original or as memorable, Abhijit does a decent job in speeding up the song with some good drum machine programming and synth bleeps ‘n’ bloops that make the slower original a really good dance track. Thankfully the voices were not sped up to sound like helium sucking chipmunks. This one is one to play really loud, as it’s that rare breed, a decent remix and “Khuda Jaane” we need more of those!
The final track, “Bachna Ae Haseeno” is notable for taking the R.D. Burman classic, and updating it with a modern sound. V&S interweave (seamlessly) the original classic song including the vocals by the legendary Kishore Kumar. What makes this track even more special is that the singer that they’ve picked to sing along with the legend is Sumit Kumar, Kishore Kumar’s youngest son. It’s a nostalgia fest as the track begins with the familiar trumpet playing melody of the original song (with catchy lyrics by great Majrooh Sultanpuri) that any fan of Bollywood will recognize immediately. This segues into some rapping (with lyrics and singing by Vishal). From there the incredible Kishore Kumar’s voice imparts its power onto the listener immediately grabbing attention. It’s not long before Sumit Kumar joins in to play a vocal jugalbandi with his late dad. This one will leave you smiling and hitting the nostalgia tinged repeat button…while you sing out loud (and perhaps a little off-key if you are a bathroom singer like me), “Bachna Ae Haseeno”!
Ah, I must say the life of a reviewer is the best, here in Greece just to review the soundtrack with the sounds of the ocean and bright blue skies to warm the heart. Wait a minute! What’s that noise? No…no…don’t tell me it’s my alarm clock! It’s then dear reader that I realize that I was never in Greece and it was just a dream. I wake up painfully on the keyboard of my laptop as I slowly realize that I had fallen asleep after writing this review. That’s disappointing, but the good news is that this soundtrack by a reinvigorated V&S is not a dream and certainly won’t put you to sleep. It’s a memorable soundtrack and stands out in the crowd of factory music albums being released in 2008. Add “Khuda Jaane” and “Ahista Ahista” to your playlist and set them on repeat, they are that good. In fact, just add the whole album for a complete listening experience because it’s so hard to find an album that is enjoyable from beginning to end. If there are two words to describe listening to it…it’s that the album is romantically fun. That about sums it up, as I go back to my dreams of Greece and listen to “Bachna Ae Haseeno” again.