Rumour is rife that Ismail Darbar may compose for one of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s forthcoming projects, either Guzaarish (starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) or Chenab Gandhi. The initial collaboration of these two was a godsend after the quite remarkable musical score for Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), arguably the most complete and cherished of our generation, and the excellent Devdas (2002)...since conquering the world (of Hindi music) at that stage, Darbar saab suddenly disappeared into hibernation as far as composing music was concerned (we had Kisna (2004) but that was classical) and instead focussed on other commitments such as his roles on reality TV shows like 'Star Voice of India' etc.
So his return for an international movie (English speaking) that is shrouded in controversy, “The Unforgettable”, is a surprise albeit a very pleasant one! It’s a short soundtrack (in Hindi) with two original tracks, a few instrumentals and some remixes. Darbar saab also composes the background score for the movie. Apparently, his motivation was his ambition to compose for such a project, says the meastro:
“It was my wish to compose music for an unconventional film and my wish has come true with this album. The lyrics just touched my heart and I have tried to bring out the meaning of the words in a similar heartfelt manner. The singers have sung beautifully, doing justice to the compositions. Hope the listeners like the music”...
Well listeners, do we like the music or is our beloved composer showing signs of rustiness after such a long period of absence?
The first track “Tanha” has Ismail Darbar written all over it! So much so that it has reminisces of HDDCS and Devdas that echo throughout giving you goose-bumps in the process. It is melodious, at times upbeat, at times haunting but always classy, soulful and rich in authentic flavours. Expect nothing short of a magical composition via the full array of (authentic) traditional instruments such as the santoor, flute, tabla, piano and much more that mere mortals like us will never be able to decipher...
Darbar saab pulls the strings of an orchestra-like-arrangement like no other and pushes the vocalist further. Sunidhi Chauhan’s talents are rarely tested like they are here and I applaud Darbar for giving her the opportunity. And she delivers in brilliant fashion with the most bewitching of renditions. Listen out for her low octave vocals, melodius alaaps and emotional breathing (listen out for her melting voice to “Sanson Mein” at 4:47) culminating in a shy giggle at the end, which breaks the spell she has had on you throughout! Simply wonderful Ms Chauhan! The stunning poetry by Afsar Ahmed and Ayesha Darbar will need repeated listening to be fully appreciated. Overall, “Tanha” is beautifully layered with quality upon quality and challenges the listener to unravel it slowly…if nothing else it will remind you or give you a taste of Darbar’s forte, a way of listening to music the way it’s meant to be heard. Mind-bogglingly exquisite!
“Toote Hue” is another emotional roller coaster by Darbar although it doesn’t quite reach the same majesty of the composer's talents that “Tanha” did. This time the maestro gives us a more westernised / rock tune with an electric guitar providing a sound base for the rest of the composition that is largely dominated by the percussion and drums. That said there are periods of this lengthy track (post-stanzas) such as at 2:50, when the composer can’t help but return to classical Hindi orchestration, it’s in his blood after all! Then at the 5:00 mark he adds a haunting violin to the piece that provides for a different taste altogether. But the effect of this is positive because it's done so seamlessly you won't even realize it's happened!
As a result the whole track feels multi-faceted again and keeps your attention right until the end. Kunal Ganjawala is another singer whose talents are completely wasted but he is undoubtedly in overdrive here with an emotional rendition full of anger, heart-break, anguish and despair. You can simply hear it in his voice which alternates at each stage of his realisation and the misery caused by the actions of the woman he loved! Lyrics by A.M. Turaz depict the emotions of a broken man quite vividly. So “Toote Hue” is another quality composition that demands repeated listening to fully digest and you know it’s hit home when the full eight minutes pass and you are still listening attentively…that’s another Darbar trademark.
Track three is an instrumental called “The Unforgettable Theme” and coming from Darbar’s top drawer, it’s sheer bliss. The entire composition is as soothing on your mind as sonically (a composition) can be. In particular the dovetailing of the melodious tabla and the piano gives us shades of the genius Darbar is capable of. Ssshhh….words can’t describe the beauty of this instrumental so please just take a listen and let your emotions speak out for you…
“Padma’s Theme” is a haunting piano piece to end the soundtrack. It’s another fine composition befitting of the standard shown elsewhere.
Tracks five and six are “Tanha Remix” and “Toote Hue Remix” respectively and whilst they are well mixed by DJ Sanj, they really feel out of place in such an authentic album. Maybe the producers felt they had to fill it up given the small number of original compositions? But they are unnecessary.
Form is temporary and class is permanent. That is what we learn about Ismail Darbar from his music for the highly emotional and haunting story that is “The Unforgettable”. Whatever controversy surrounds it, the music certainly delivers (the only downside being the lack of overall tracks on the album). He may only have given us a mild flavour of his talents here but it shows that he is not finished, not by a long shot! One can only wait for the music of Guzaarish and/or Chenab Gandhi (assuming SLB has resumed the collaboration) with absolute relish. Expect nothing short of majesty. The return of the prodigal son is most welcome indeed!