What's Your Raashee? - A Musical Extravaganza!
Baazi (1995) earned him a name. Lagaan (2000) set him a standard. Swades (2004) made him a versatile director (having tried out three genres – historic fiction, action thriller, and social drama). And Jodhaa Akbar (2008) finally made him a name to reckon with. He is none other than the passionate Ashutosh Gowariker whose next film What’s Your Raashee? (which is an adaptation of Madhu Rye’s novel Kimball Ravenswood, a satirical take on marriages and astrology) has created tremendous buzz ever since it was announced and that could be for many reasons – the second-time pairing of Harman Baweja and Priyanka Chopra after their half-decent, half-disastrous sci-fi epic Love Story 2050 (2008), Ashutosh’s first-time venture into a romantic comedy, Priyanka Chopra’s twelve distinct characters, and of course, the MUSIC.
The music is in the news because of the apparent end of the musical collaboration of Gowariker and A. R. Rahman with the former trying out something new with relatively unknown and newcomer Sohail Sen (son of Sameer Sen who himself was part of the 'Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen' fame). With expectations reaching an all-new high with the innovative marketing UTV Motion Pictures has tried out, considering the promos and the posters, Sohail Sen creates a curiosity level among people, with their minds churning out questions like: “Will Sohail Sen be able to make music for Ashutosh Gowariker?”, “Will Ashutosh Gowariker’s music succeed without A. R. Rahman?” and “Will the expectations generated from the buzz be met?”
But worry not, as Ashutosh Gowariker, Sohail Sen and Javed Akhtar have collaborated together to bring us a world-class thirteen-track musical extravaganza that turns out to be far different from the usual bubblegum fare the Bollywood composers have churned out in the recent past. Sohail Sen has given us a winner in the form of What’s Your Raashee?, with each of the first twelve songs being dedicated to a particular star-sign, personifying it by capturing the mood of the star-sign-associated person through his fantastic music and Javed Akhtar’s cleverly written lyrics, thus making this album Gowariker’s biggest musical outing of his career.
The quality shows from the very start with the song "What’s Your Raashee? (Pal Pal Dil Jisko Dhoonde)" (made for Aries), an out-and-out jazz song that starts off with the saxophone, an effect that sways you off your feet. Never before in Bollywood has Jazz music been dished out in such an international manner and given such an international feel. Alternatively made the title song of the film, this goes about depicting the problem the protagonist (Yogesh, played by Harman Baweja) has trying to find his dream girl. In fact, the chants of ‘What’s Your Raashee?’ take the song to another high, and you would be singing it aloud sometime after the second hear. Just when we think that the swing beat would continue, the song’s tempo heightens for a while to give variety. Sohail Sen comes behind the mic to give us a smashing solo, which will linger in your mind for a long time to come. This one not only makes for a pleasant hear, but also gives a grand opening to the album, whilst enhancing expectations for the tracks to come.
The expectations are fortunately met with the next track, which has a romantic outing. This one, titled "Jao Naa" (made for Aquarius), has been the most publicized track in the whole album so far. The track has been lapped up well, and it shows – the strums of the guitar attract you from the off, followed by Sohail Sen’s delightful singing for what turns out to be a powerhouse track that will be on your playlist and the radio charts in the days to come. Tarannum Malik vocally backs up Sohail Sen, but though Sen dominates her voice, it leaves a distinct, dreamy feel on the listener. The video (seen on TV and online nowadays) doesn’t harm its prospects at all – in fact, it leaves an even better mark, making the viewer smile. A must listen, and a beautiful number at that!
Just when you expect the feeling of romance to continue, Sohail Sen gives us a classy up-tempo track that gives us a rather R&B / hip-hop styled dance number – a style you’ve never heard of in any soundtrack of Ashutosh Gowariker’s previous films (“Yunhi Chala Chal” from Swades (2004) was more philosophical). Called "Aaja Lehrate" (made for Gemini), this one takes its time to grow on you, and once it does, you get into the groove as well. Shaan is his usual best and Bhavya Pandit provides the firebrand vocals that are required for the track. If there’s a disappointment, it’s is the abrupt and unusual ending when it switches to a club vibe.
Romance is back with "Bikhri Bikhri" (made for Cancer), but this time with a distinct Indian touch and intense feel to it. Yet again, Sohail Sen runs away with the accolades as the composer-come-singer pulls out another winner! The ‘antara’ portions of Marianne D’Cruz (and Sohail Sen, whose ‘antara’ is on reverb in the background, giving the song an entirely dreamy touch) only enhance the overall impact the song has upon the listener, who might already be floored with the exquisite Rahman-esque touch and the trademark poetic lyrics by Javed Akhtar. Though it is as romantic in nature as the first two tracks, this one is high on the emotional quotient and has a hint of sadness to it. Expect music connoisseurs and romantic music lovers to lap this up with excitement.
The romance numbers of the 1990s return in a soft-rock avatar with "Sau Janam" (made for Pisces), a melodious number featuring Sujata Bhattacharya (popularly known as Madhushree to the world today) and Udit Narayan. Both singers give their all to this song and remind us of the many duets Narayan was involved in (mainly with Alka Yagnik). Music lovers will surely associate this song with quite a few oldies including “Akele Hain Toh Kyaa Gham Hai” from the Aamir-Juhi starrer Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) and “Rehna Hai Dil Mein” from Indra Kumar’s Mann (1999). But the underlying beauty of this song is that whilst reminding us of various songs from the past decade, it doesn’t sound re-hashed or copied, and rather underlines the ‘the good old times’ successfully. Another melodious outing that continues the smooth sail of listening to the album, this one requires the repeat value and patience to make this song a desirable hear to the listener.
What happens when 'old' meets 'new'? What happens when hip-hop beats meet retro synth? What happens when an urban number reminds you of the 1950s? The answer is "Aa Le Chal" (made for Scorpio) which, to begin with, sounds like a typical hip hop number but later brings out a fresh cocktail of the sounds of today mixed with the sounds of yesteryears. Asleesha Gowariker (sister of Ashutosh Gowariker) comes behind the mic to give an Alisha-esque feeling to the song. One cannot help but feel for Harman Baweja’s character as he utters his dialogues in this track about a scorpion (Priyanka’s character) who is a hopeless romantic and wants Harman to do all kinds of things (like writing her name in the sky, to which a non-flustered Harman replies, ‘Aasmaan pe… tera naam? Alright’ which brings a reaction from the listener in the form of a smile). This one though, turns out to be more of a situational track that would look good on screen, provided the video has been well thought-out. But considering Ashutosh Gowariker’s passion and dedication to make a film, I think it should work out really well. Overall, a pleasant hear.
Jut when we thought about Alka Yagnik in the earlier song Sau Janam, she makes a trademark entry into "Pyaari Pyaari" (made for Virgo). As she starts singing in the first stanza, one realizes that though there have been many award-winning singers in the recent past, Alka Yagnik’s place can never be taken – she has created a certain space for herself, just like veteran singers such as Asha Bhonsle and Lata Mangeshkar. But I’m pleased to see the choice of songs she has been singing in the recent past, testifying as well as justifying the fact that she has become quite selective on what she wants to sing (she has been doing almost all of her previous songs under the compositions of A. R. Rahman, e.g. “Tu Muskura” from Yuvvraaj (2008), and “Ringa Ringa” from Slumdog Millionaire) (2008)– and that’s really good news. Sohail Sen’s voice is very restrained here, and it works for this beautiful piece of work, which has just the right orchestral arrangements to make for a memorable outing. This has to be the most impactful track after Bikhri Bikhri, and one that will strike gold for the avid music listener as well as Sen! I am left speechless after hearing this, just as I was for Bikhri Bikhri.
Starting off ordinarily with the accordion, "Su Chhe" (made for Taurus) turns out to be a contemporary Gujju track with some Gujarati lyrics peppered here and there, but with a subtle difference (the difference being the absence of the irritating and over used “Hey-Jee-Ray” scream). The start doesn’t sound promising, but as Bela Shende starts singing, you suddenly change your mind and decide that the tune is hummable and the music pleasant. Pleasant since it builds on an already enjoyable soundtrack. Give it a listen because you won’t find the typical tried-and-tested formula of making Gujarati styled tracks in Bollywood – instead, you’ll find something different, upbeat, and modern. A simple and nice addition to the soundtrack, though nothing earth shattering.
The accordion continues in the next track but this time coupled with the harmonium, to create an old world feel yet again for "Salone Kya" (made for Sagittarius). The lyrics, whilst situational, provide something really fresh. Sen uses all his skill to create a different atmosphere for each track, which in turn reflect the feelings and the personality of each star sign and the associated character that Priyanka Chopra plays. Arrangements and mixing stand out in this song, with vocals by Tarannum Malik who sounds like a strange mixture of Alka Yagnik and Shreya Ghoshal, but nevertheless, performs really well alongside Sohail Sen (good as usual). The song will have it’s fair share of admirers looking for something new but also detractors, for not matching the best that the album has to offer. Another unique song, this one should also score on screen.
Amazingly we have had 10 songs already and each one has registered an impact in its own unique manner, one wonders what the remaining tracks will offer? The next one "Dhadkan Dhadkan" (made for Leo), captures Leo’s intensity with a fantastic array of energetic arrangements! Starting with a pad that fades away, the sudden orchestral arrangements light up a track that shines throughout and such an impact was last heard in “Dil Ka Rishta” from A. R. Rahman’s Yuvvraaj (2008). The duo of Tarannum Malik and Sohail Sen return after Jao Naa and Salone Kya to give a totally different feel to this song. The inspiration is such that you end up picturing the song onstage or in some auditorium. Whilst situational in nature, it continues the successful run of the album on it’s closing tracks.
The piano returns alongside traditional instruments for the penultimate track"Koi Jaane Na" (made for Capricorn). Rajab Ali Bharti’s semi classical style really ups the song a notch or two. Sohail Sen’s backing reverb-based crooning to the title takes the song to an all-time-high. Bela Shende amply supports him with her saccharine-sweet vocals that compliment this all Indian feeling song with its distinct emotional touch. Lyrics by Javed saab are philosophical and at times heart-wrenching, expect this to bring a tear to your eye. One of the few 'reflective' songs on the album, this can't be missed!
The album ends with an icing on the whole cake with the second part of What’s Your Raashee?, titled "Chehre Jo Dekhe Hain", an exquisite medley of the twelve tracks gone by in the album. This turns out to the song in which Priyanka is supposed to appear in all her twelve avatars simultaneously in just one song; the very song Priyanka was told to have to dance for 12 hours in one stretch, without a break! Sohail Sen croons the lyrics of Javed Akhtar, which hint at a few things e.g. that the time has come to choose his girl. This song will be a blast when seen in the pre-climax and climax portions. It's as pleasant as the first part of the title track, though its definitely more upbeat and lively due to scenario presented. People will have their own preferences but I think I prefer the first part due to it’s smooth, slow and lazy feel. But you will have to listen to find out which one you prefer!
Ashutosh Gowariker, Sohail Sen and Javed Akhtar give us one of the classiest, grandest and most eclectic musical extravaganzas to come in a long time (along with Dev.D which released earlier this year). Overall, What’s Your Raashee? , being a relatively smaller film of Ashutosh Gowariker compared to his previous three epic movies, musically springs out one of the biggest surprises this summer. This one is a must buy, not only because it pack in a variety of sounds (ethnic as well as urban – each one sounding unique and different from the other), but also because of the logical placement of the tracks (linked to each star sign), which allows us to visualize the way things go in the movie, making us expect something more out of it. This being Harman’s first film with a top soundtrack (with the music of Love Story 2050 (2008) being strictly decent, and Victory (2008) below par), Harman should be proud. And so should Ashutosh Gowariker, with his new musical protégé – Sohail Sen. With such a sparkling debut soundtrack, he is here to stay for sure!
REVIEWER'S TIP: Requires attentive, relaxed and patient hearing; strictly for the connoisseurs of music.