Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy (SEL). Who can forget the name of a truly fantastic musical trio that belong to an extremely RARE breed of current Hindi musicians that can proudly be tagged as ‘true’ and ‘authentic’ music composers, ones that strive to push the ever saturated boundaries of modern ‘music’. In fact apart from A R Rahman, one can argue there is no one better in the current day and age. Having said that it must also be noted that they are generally quite selective when it comes to showcasing their potential as shown in 2008 when we saw a disappointing venture with YRF (Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic). However they undoubtedly proved their class later with the superb music of Rock On!! which still sits in many of our playlists to this day. Looking back, that superhit OST should not have been a surprise since they always strike gold with their favourite producers, one of which is the inimitable Farhan Akhtar.
With the birth of a new year lurking round the corner, the trio return to the big stage to give FRESH hope to music lovers and as if ‘luck’ would have it, they have teamed up with Farhan again (and his father, the great lyricist Javed Ahktar) in his latest production Luck By Chance in which he also co-stars. Suffice to say one expects glitter of the finest kind but can SEL re-create the magic of past winners?
Well one thing’s for sure, there is certainly gold of the purest form when SEL open the soundtrack with Yeh Zindagi Bhi, a true gift from the music gods for the new year, a song that reignites that (lost) longing of life’s happiness, dreams, hopes and serenity. The trio play wizardry with the (soft) synth instruments such as the drums but the sounds are soothed simultaneously by Loy’s joyful piano play, in fact the whole composition is nothing short of excellent particularly at the inception of the gorgeous and heart-warming chorus that is repeated throughout:
Choone hai… taare isse, chahiye… saare isseJo palkon ke tale, hai apne sapne le ke chaleYeh kehdo vo chale sambhalke…na karna koi ghile Kahi jo tokhar aisi laghe, ke sapne toote aanso chalke… (Javed Akhtar, Luck By Chance)
Furthermore I have no superlatives for the quality of the singing, so you are just going to have to make your own conclusions. Both Shekhar Ravjiani and Loy Mendonsa leave you breathless with their rendition particularly since neither are full time singers. Javed Akhtar’s poetry is just as inspiring, the greatest lyricist of our time continues to dazzle the mind. Overall the track perfectly encapsulates the ode on life and it’s ‘highs and lows'. AMAZING OPENING TRACK!
Baawre must rank as the most unique track of the soundtrack with a splendid twist to the qawaali / classical singing genre. Whilst all the traditional sounds are present; harmonium, tabla, dholak, hand clapping etc, the trio improvise brilliantly with the melody, pace and the singing to produce a very entertaining fusion of sounds that is bound to create a stir on the big screen! Who would have thought the pairing of Shankar Mahadevan and Loy Mendonsa would provide such a good partnership but that is what happens here as they utter the mystical words of Javed Akhtar in awesome style! This is the sort of audacity that we have come to associate with SEL and it’s enacted so well, one can do nothing but applaud the effort. THIS IS KUDOS OVERSPILL! (Give Baawre Remix a try as its an interesting alternative although no match for the original).
If you enjoyed the relaxing rock melodies from Rock On!! then there is a good chance you will enjoy Yeh Aaj Kya Ho Gaya, a short track founded on the sounds of some classy arrangements particularly percussive drum beats. Sunidhi Chauhan may have lost her limelight to others (particularly Shreya Ghoshal) but that’s only due to limited opportunities and here she proves her ability with a fine performance that reminds you of her best (e.g. Belibaas from Silsilay). Admittedly the lyrics are not as striking as elsewhere but the song is definitely worth a listen and has strong potential to grow on you.
One can say that Shankar Ehsaan Loy have done well so far with the music of Luck By Chance but suddenly, without notice, they simply amaze again in the penultimate track Sapnon Se Bhare Naina. The wicked trance music is immensely gripping to say the least and reminds you of the hypnotic tunes of past gems such as those in SEL’s very own Johnny Gaddaar….But the track would not be half as good were it not for the incredible vocals of Shankar Mahadevan whose subdued tone sits in contrast to the mystical melody and consequently provides a perverse attraction to the track in the process. The overall effect is brilliance personified! The lyrics (by Javed saab) are equally magical. Overall this one carries the WOW factor for sure in one of SEL’s best for Luck By Chance. A MUST LISTEN!
If you can get away from Sapnon Se Bhare Naina, you will reluctantly arrive at the final track called O Rahi Re which may sound a bit of a let down initially (put that into context however since you have just heard a great track previously) but given time will grow on you to become a firm favourite! The slow melody shimmers from Ehsaan’s acoustic guitar whilst a classical string based instrument draws you closer to the underlying quality of this track. That divine intervention is by none other than the sitar begging the eternal question….is there more beautiful sounding (musical) instrument on the planet? Your indulgence does not have to end there either because shifting the focus from the music to the singing reveals another underlying charm that is emitted by Shankar Mahadevan’s controlled vocals, they just have to be heard to be believed. Javed Akhtar’s marvellous poetry rounds off a fine effort to what is easily the most underrated song of this album. Just give this one a chance to cast its spell on you and then try to find an antidote! DON’T MISS THIS ONE!
Whilst A R Rahman ranks as the greatest musician of our era (and rightly so), SEL are unquestionably the STYLISTS of the industry and rank as elite musicians that are ahead of their time and on top of their game. The music of Luck By Chance further showcases the music brand of ‘SEL’, their exceptional talent, diversity and daring audacity. Look no further than the amazing Yeh Zindagi, Baawre, Sapnon Se Bhare Naina and the delightful O Rahi Re. Then reflect on the grandeur and warmth of the music before saying a big thank you to Shankar Ehsaan Loy for giving us a great end to 2008- here’s hoping it proves to be an omen for 2009. Brand ‘SEL’ Rocks!
Reviewer’s additional comment: It is too easy to overlook the lyrics but on this occasion a special mention must go to Javed Akhtar whose poetry here is truly inspiring at times and proves that he is a legend in his own right.