Shantanu Moitra is one of those rare composers on whom music lovers can always rely to deliver soul-soothing sounds and some of the most beautiful melodies. Last year, in addition to a couple of splendid scores in Eklavya – The Royal Guard and Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, he delivered his second masterpiece after 2005's Parineeta – Khoya Khoya Chand. For close to a year it remained to be seen if Moitra can maintain his ridiculously high standards. However, with the release of WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR, we get to once again indulge ourselves in his eclectic Hindustani tones and tantalizingly ear-pleasing melodies.
If you're more of a film enthusiast, then perhaps the mention of the legendary name Shyam Benegal will raise your brows towards this soundtrack. Yes. The men who revolutionized New Indian Cinema of the 70s returns after 2005's BOSE to once again provide his insightful commentary on the ever-changing face of society. Not that Moitra needs any reassurance, but I can only imagine his flattered feelings when Benegal approached him, knowing as how Benegal maintains a loyal and immensely successful relationship with perhaps the greatest Indian MD of all time, A.R. Rahman; a rapport that still continues in the forthcoming project Chamki Chameli.
As usual, veteran Swanand Kirkire aims to compliment Moitra's timeless tunes as lyrical ingenuity. However, Ashok Mishra is the new name beside the lyrical credits. No matter how much he's proven himself in the past, Moitra's challenges still remain tough, as he tries to maintain the highest of quality that was heard in Khoya Khoya Chand, all the while trying to live up to the incomparable duo of Shyam Benegal and A.R. Rahman. All the best Mr. Moitra!
We start this journey off with the highly animated Sita Ram Sita Ram. Moitra shows his versatility as a composer/arranger, as we get a very folksy feel, through the bumpy play of banjo and violin, all the while maintaining strong eastern highlights within the bass and percussion. Melodically, the song is pure enjoyment! Krishna Kumar, you may know him better as K.K., puts a wonderful spin on this upbeat number. It's quite extraordinary, as I've never really heard a song of this style before; a sort of Indianized Ho-down. Ashok Mishra's lyrics are situational but satisfyingly pleasant. Verdict: Pure fun!
The song has also been remixed for the dance floors. Surprisingly, the remix is extremely pleasurable! That's saying something now...
I was simply licking my chops upon reading that Mohit Chauhan and Madhushree were heading the duet for Ek Meetha Marz De Ne. I was anything but disappointed! Upon the opening notes you know that this is going down as one of 2008's best. Mohit Chauhan once again steals our heart in this extremely romantic ballad, written poignantly by Swanand Kirkire. Arrangements are as soft and soul-stirring as can be. We have a romantic background highlighted by pure acoustic riffs, mingled within the gorgeous bass line. Other instrumental highlights that flourish are piano and flute. Madhushree, as always, lends the most gentlest of touch in her supportive rendition. Both vocal textures share such great chemistry, only recently matched by perhaps the Sonu Nigam-Shreya Ghoshal duo. Finally, it's Moitra's melodic genius that gives this song such steam and height. Verdict: Absolutely awe-inspiring piece, drenched in the richness of romance and love. Wow!
Dildara seriously picks up the tempo with a bit more conventionalism. Another romantic piece, Moitra fades away from his strengths, which we heard in tracks two and three. Although the song on the whole is still appeasing, it seriously lacks depth in the arrangements. Melodically, the number is strictly alright, and has been somewhat downgraded by the lack of Moitra's usually rich arrangements. Veterans Sonu Nigam and Sunidhi Chauhan are just right, as usual. Verdict: Although enjoyable, something is missing here.
Aadmi Aazad Hai carries that folksy touch that was heard in the album opener. One of those chorus-heavy pieces, Kailash Kher leads with gusto and flair. Melodically, the song is just fine; but can only truly be appreciated on screen. The heavy Indian influences in the rhythm seem a bit too bland, as there isn't much creative space given to the rhythm. Ashok Mishra's lyrics are pretty average. One looks back at Kasto Mazza (Parineeta), seeing as both songs fit the same category, and this song's flaws begin to glow. Verdict: Purely situational, the track lacks punch and the usual sincerity we hear in Moitra's creations.
Munni Ki Baari is completely and totally situational, and really doesn't even warrant an exposure to it. Melody is non-existent and arrangements are ordinary, hinging heavily on drums, bass, and percussion. Ajay Jhingran's vocals are hard to listen to. Verdict: Ignore this song. I know I will.
WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR rockets out of the gates with three tremendous compositions, most notably Ek Meetha Marz De Ne, which is already going down as a classic in my personal library. Unfortunately, things cool off considerably in the following three numbers. It's obvious that WTS isn't exactly another Parineeta of Khoya Khoya Chand, in fact it's probably one of his weakest soundtracks, yet Shantanu Moitra continues to give us at least a few extremely high-quality compositions in each and every one of his outings. That's what makes him a winner in my book. All the best to the entire team of WELCOME TO SAJJANPUR!
Aakash Gandhi is Managing Editor and Senior Writer for PlanetBollywood.com. He also freelances for the Asian Variety Show at avstv.com.