Monty Sharma is a name to be reckoned with when you think of the future of Hindi Film Music. Of course he has an illustrious background as a background composer, including Sanjay Leela Bhansali's treasured collection of cinema. It was last year, in SLB's highly-anticipated SAAWARIYA where Monty took centre stage as a full-throttle filmi MD. The rest, as they say, is history.
But many a times, it's the sophomore attempt that proves most difficult…especially if the debut was so successful. CHAMKU is Monty's second offering, and I'm pleased to announce that he picks up right where he left off in Saawariya. Actually, the man already reinvents himself, as he gives this project a much more edgy sound, very much similar to the Underground music of artists like Karsh Kale, Talvin Singh, and Midival Punditz – a genre of sound rarely ever heard on the Hindi Film Music Scene! Sameer, who seems to be rediscovering himself, provides Monty with lyrical support once again.
Aaja Milke… Monty starts things off on a truly special note – the ridiculously beautiful vocals of Ms. Shreya Ghoshal. As the percussions slowly kick in, you know this one is going to be a whiff of fresh musical air. The arrangements, although remaining pleasantly constant throughout, are like nothing you've ever heard before in their relentless simplicity. Shail Hada (of Saawariya fame) provides us with a brilliant duet along with the princess of the industry, Shreya. Fitting the trend without flaw is Monty's carefree melody. Finally, he classes things up with a slight acoustic feel, highlighted by brief sax refrains, which is like divine intervention. Sameer's lyrics, although a bit clichéd, match the compositions innocence and energy. Verdict: We couldn't have asked for a better start… Oh, this is going to be good!
Oh yeah. If you want edge, then you‘ll get just that in the one-of-a-kind composition, Bin Daseya. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the melody, vocals, and lyrics. In fact, they are all superior. However, this song warrants utmost respect for its electronica flavo. The heavy synths, electric tabla, and groovy bass lines make it feel as if you've warped into the Underground and are grooving with the players of the Asian Massive Movement. Richa Sharma renders in her trademark Punjabi dard-bhari vocals, and does the piece complete justice. The lyrics by Sameer are appropriate and completely situational. Verdict: Wicked beats galore!
Picking up right where Bin Daseya left off is Kithe Jawan. Once again we have the edgy underground sounds with pure synth sounds. However, Monty has added a transparent classical layer, headed by the sarangi. The east-meets-west blend is absolutely beautiful. In one interlude we have the sarangi singing in all its glory, and in the next we have the soulful play of the guitar. I honestly am at a loss of superlatives to capture the mood and sound of this gorgeous number. Richa Sharma is her perfect self once again. However, like the earlier piece, this one should be appreciated for its ingenious beats and creative treatment. Verdict: REPEAT!
Gola Gola is Monty's response to Ismail Darbar's classic Dola Re Dola (Devadas). Although the visible similarities are extremely limited, you get the same feel – lots and lots of fun! Again the song leans on its eastern hinges quite dependently. Filled with dhols, tablas, shehnais, and countless other Indian percussions, this number has been creative with great confidence. Monty releases his inhibitions…his melody is a beautifully complex design of patterns and structures, all coming together in complete unison. And of course…it's catchy! Abhijeet, where have you been buddy? The man makes a grand comeback as his chemistry with co-singers Amitrajit Bhattachajee and Vaishali Samant is commendable. Verdict: This one could very well challenge the popularity and grandeur of the great Dola Re Dola!
Monty just goes crazy in the final track of Chamku – Trance. I honestly don't even know how to review this track! You'll understand what I mean when you give this wicked piece a listen. Don't get me wrong, it's a ground-breaking “remix” with trance effects and limited vocal add-ins (multi-language add-ins mind you!). The vocals, which seem to integrate into the music, transforming the vocals into musical synths themselves, are handled by Anaida, Salim Shahzaad, Prem Raagi, and Sowmya Raoh. Club DJs are going to have a blast with this one! Verdict: When you combine this song with Bin Daseya and Kithe Jawan – it's east-meets-west underground music, quite possibly, at its very best! Hit the dance floors!
In my humble opinion, next to Rahman's Jodhaa-Akbar, CHAMKU is the best soundtrack of 2008. Monty Sharma does what's rarely ever done – surpasses his wildly popular debut with something we've never heard before. This soundtrack has romance, sorrow, flair, dance, edge, underground, electronics, and God knows how much more! Buy yourself five copies of this CD – First, rip the CD and put it on your iPOD. Then, put one CD in your home entertainment system. Place the second CD in your car CD player. Give the third CD to your best friend. Place the fourth CD on your shelf, where you can display it proudly. And finally keep the fifth CD in a locked safe, in case you lose any of the others. By the way, you may want to buy back-ups for each copy, since I'm sure they'll go bad from over-play! I hope you get my point. Rock on Monty! The man is here to stay…
Aakash Gandhi is Managing Editor and Senior Writer for Planet Bollywood. He also freelances for the Asian Variety Show at avstv.com.