Planet Bollywood
Producer: Sunil Manchanda
Director: R. Balki
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Paresh Rawal, Arundhati Naag
Music: Ilaiya Raja
Lyrics: Swanand Kirkire
Singers: Shaan, Amitabh Bachchan, Shaan, Shilpa Rao, Sunidhi Chauhan
Audio On: T-Series    Number of Songs: 7
Album Released on: 16 November 2009
Reviewed by: Ankit Ojha  - Rating: 6.5 / 10
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    There are many composers who work at a feverish pace to keep upgrading their sound to suit the ears of the current generation and to sell more soundtracks. And then there are a few who do not need to upgrade their sound for the simple reason that they strongly believe in their own music. Illayaraja is one of the latter.

    With his new Paa, expectations naturally turn out to be sky high for a number of reasons; the main reason being that it is the soundtrack of an Amitabh Bachchan starrer. Other reasons include director R. Balakrishnan’s second collaboration with Illayaraja, the first being Cheeni Kum, which went on to become a sleeper success both musically and moviewise. Also, due to the sole fact that a sample of the theme (which has impressed many music buffs) has been used for the background track of most of the trailers, the music’s ‘almost–invisible’ hype has broken the skyrocketing expectation limit. The question now is – does the soundtrack of the movie deliver?

    For a movie like Paa, the soundtrack has obvious reasons for being sober throughout, and it’s sober, subtle tone starts off right from the opening track of the soundtrack, a song that has been promoted off late in the TV spots worldwide. And while Cheeni Kum had Shreya Ghoshal as its constant, Illayaraja has taken fancy to the voice of Shilpa Rao, who sings wonderfully to Mudhi Mudhi Ittefaq Se. Starting off with a crash beat, which keeps looping every four beats till the requisite time. But during those four beats, the build-up starts to take place. With a soothing piano melody, coupled with a suitable, dreamy background pad, the whole introductory melody progresses toward an additional set of beats to it, and once the beats arrive, the listener might already have guessed and adapted to the mood of the song.

    And once Shilpa Rao starts crooning to Swanand Kirkire’s playful lyrics, you know that you are instantly going to fall for this one. With a wonderful melody and a stable, uninterrupted and smooth flow, this one’s a beautiful opener to an album one wasn’t expecting any genre of. This one has it in itself to reach out to the audiences. And with decent promotion and word-of-mouth, this one will be a universally popular to all the music buffs around the world, unlike the ‘Pritamized’ dance tunes that are somewhat strictly relegated to the youth. So switch off the lights, close your eyes, rest on your couch, insert the earpieces of your earphones into your ears, and drown into the simplicity and subtleness of it all!

    And while one wonders what is going to pop up next, Gumm Summ Gumm makes an entry with similar grand piano arrangements, which, sometime later, get coupled with simple, relaxing beats, dreamy pads and synthesizer samples, this one also makes its move forward. But unlike the last song, which had lyrics of a romantic nature, this one is more of a children related song. The lyrics will make you reminiscent of ‘Bheja Kum’ from Taare Zameen Par (2007), as those lines which are brought to life by K. Bavatharini, Shravan and chorus, who all sound like decently convincing children, mostly condense to form a simple question (probably directed to the central character of the film, Auro, played by Amitabh Bachchan) – What is your problem, boy? Speak up – we’re ready to accept you!. The difference the song makes from its lyrically similar song in ‘Bheja Kum’ is that while the latter is more negatively portrayed audibly as well as visually, this one has a more comforting and positive tone, which indirectly says – there is room for improvement. Situational that the lyrics are, the song might not find much patronage, but for the excellent rendition by the singers and the simple and absorbing music by Illayaraja, this one deserves a listen or two – and who knows, people might actually take to it!

    With one beautiful and one decent song behind us – we expect a decent next track. What we get instead is a rehash of the opening track, this time titled as Udhi Udhi Ittefaq Se. As disappointing as this may sound, it is not. In fact, this song entirely raises the bar of beauty of the opening track by Illayaraja. And since the lyrics by Kirkire are not entirely similar to the previous track, and yet entirely and equally absorbing, this one stands on its own as a separate track. Shilpa Rao returns to sing for this one, and this is where the track dips a little, as a feeling of déjà vu creeps in. Non-ardent music listeners might not be able to notice the difference between this track and the last one. Had they changed the singers on this one, it would have been much better. Nevertheless, this as well turns out to be a wonderful hear, and music buffs will lap this up as quickly as they did the first track.

    And now comes a brilliant track that enters with a BIG BANG! Not that I’m talking about any dance number, but this one really makes an impact with its superlative arrangements. Whether it’s the beats, the percussions, the pads, the synthesizer samples or other musical compositions, this one makes for arguably the best song in the album. Consider it a surprise package or whatsoever, but Hitchki Hitchki really scores on all counts. Kirkire’s lyrics are brought to life by Chauhan’s well-restrained vocals (neither too boisterous, nor too soft and fluffy), which has been put to good use by Illayaraja. The lyrics, which yet again get playful with words, have been well-written, as the words used are vivid and imaginative.

    There is some chance that the song’s title and the choice of singer while reading it on the back cover will mislead the music buffs, but all misconceptions are cleared once the song is heard. The song is not the least bit ‘powerful’ or ‘thump-inducing’, but sometimes, even the most basic sounds make an impact with their subtlety and purity. This one is pure, universal sound that unbiased music buffs will like. There is a meager chance this might not be appreciated by the youth who need more dance-oriented tracks, but once accepted wholeheartedly, this one is sure to be loved. Consider it to be right up to the rank of ‘Mudhi Mudhi Ittefaq Se’ and ‘Udhi Udhi Ittefaq Se’, as this one has immense replay value, just like the previous two did.

    It seems Illayaraja is so much in love with the melody of the Shilpa Rao-crooned numbers that he decided to make a third version of it. It probably might not be his fault, because it is possible that director R. Balakrishnan wanted a third, more somber and melancholic version of the song to suit the mood. Nevertheless, this song, which might not be as engaging as the first two, probably certainly suits the mood of the film. Though the lyrics are not really situational, this being the third version of Shilpa Rao’s opener, might not gain much patronage until the movie releases where people will get to pick favorites. But for the time being, this one doesn’t quite impress or register in the minds of the listeners.

    Yet another track that relies on situation to apparently make the proceedings of the movie slightly brighter, Halke Se Bole sounds more like a song that is set in a school with all the school kids singing in chorus – though we only get to know the real situation that is set when the movie releases. This song, short that it is, won’t really do much for the album. Skip this one if you want to and you won’t lose anything, but hear it and you won’t really feel bad after hearing it. The lyrics are decent, though not a lot to talk about. The music is also decent, but, like the lyrics, don’t go far enough to impress. Strictly okay.

    The next song doesn’t really have melody. The singer doesn’t sing well, and the music is far too melodic to suit his singing. Even the lyrics are not poetic. But guess what? This song works big time! And why? The reasons are quite a few – the singer in question is Amitabh Bachchan, who totally delivers according to his character (so much so that his voice gets shockingly unrecognizable – though ardent fans will recognize his voice in any case). Questioning the lyrics would be sacrilege, as they totally describe the story perfectly. Though situational, the song Mere Paa has emotional depth, because of Amitabh Bachchan’s excellent rendering of the track. While pseudo-intellectuals will disagree with me, I would advise the listeners to sit quietly at one place, slip in the earphones in their ears and listen to it carefully. It’s excellence lies in its mere simplicity, as also due to the simple fact that Illayaraja has sensitively managed to weave a melodic theme tune around it. This one is a clear winner!

    And speaking about the theme tune, its solo finally arrives, though its a tad disappointing that its remix. Viccky Goswami has managed to impress the listeners with a fantastic remix that hooks them from the very start with Paa Theme (Remix). The sole charm of the remix lies in the fact that the whole remix is not really heavy on club or house-related beats, but is slightly energetic all the same. The only sole fact that will nag the listener would be the wish that there should have been an original version all the same!

    Paa as an album might not really have a universal appeal because its genre is restricted to variations of soft music and romantic tracks, which will make universal music lovers throng upon the album, but the dance-crazy youth might not warm up to it due to its very somber feel. At the risk of repeating myself here though, this album is totally for the universal music lovers who love melodious tunes and poetically written lyrics and emotionally deep renditions by singers. As an overall statement though, it would not be incorrect to state that this album is surely a breath of fresh air in the midst of the barrage of Pritam soundtracks that pop in from anywhere.

    With not much releasing on the front for the end of 2009 anyway, this one turns out to be a gem that will face the risk of getting underrated for its simple music. The silver lining here though is the fact that fans of Amitabh Bachchan, of Illayaraja, and of Swanand Kirkire are sure to grab a copy to check it out. Once the listeners get accustomed to the simplicity and purity of the music in the album, they will be sure to lay their hands on them, which will probably make the album stay on the shelves for a reasonably good time.

    As a FINAL word for this review, all the people who are desperately in need of a change in music should buy this album for keeps! And as I end this one, Sachin Tendulkar’s famous catchline enters my mind– Go Get It!

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