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Vintage Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. So no surprises, but a really good album.
The trio is back again after Rock On, which was one of the best 2008 had to offer. Melodious and lyrically philosophical (just the basic paths, choices, dreams, etc.) is how I would sum the album. But when your album is called Luck By Chance, you will get some of that thrown around. Apart from that, you can relate most of the songs to some previous track of SEL.
The albums starts with Yeh Zindagi Bhi, a really melodious track. This is sung beautifully by Shekhar Ravjiani (who is a trained classical vocalist and a former Sa Re Ga Ma contestant) of the Vishal-Shekhar duo. The duo have been frequently singing for SEL in the recent past and I am glad they are. This track has a Rockford feel to it, but it really kicks off when the chorus begins. The chorus completely elevates the song to another level. Loy is also credited as a singer, but I am not sure where he was in the track.
The second track is the fast paced Rajasthani folk song Baawre. It starts off with free vocals in true folk style before the folk rhythm sets in. It has a nice melody and fast feel to it and then proceeds to electronic beats with accompanying strings. They have mastered such tracks previously in Kajra Re and we have heard similar arrangements from SEL before but this track might be a winner just because of Hrithik Roshan performing in the foreground. Shankar Mahadevan sings this fine, the Rajasthani Ensemble is actually quite good and I still cannot figure out where Loy was in this track.
Next up is Pyaar Ki Dastaan. I don’t really need to tell that it is a romantic number. Indian Idol 3 contestant Amit Paul is behind the mike for this one with another SEL regular Mahalakshmi Iyer. You can tell the singer is new just from the detailing, effort and singing within limits. But Amit Paul surprisingly has a voice tailor made for such tracks and his voice is smoother. The melody has that hint of retro feel to it, just like Chup Chup Ke from Bunty Aur Babli. Overall decent track.
Sunidhi Chauhan sings Yeh Aaj Kya Ho Gaya. It is easy to tell this song is going to feel great in the movie with the guitar strumming in the background. Again decent track, but falls short of being a masterpiece like a couple of previous tracks.
The next one makes up for all that. Sapno Se Bhare Naina is easily the best track of the album followed by O Raahi Re. I am not sure of the raaga it is set in, but classical vocals accompanied by the bass guitar and electronic beats in most cases makes for a great listen. So does this. But the singing here is truly great.
A word about the lyrics here. Javed Akhtar is a veteran no doubt but after a point when the words are predictable, I personally cannot appreciate the lyrics as much. This album has classic Bollywood lyrics, not many words or phrases out of syllabus. Rock On was a different effort from Javed Akhtar, and was apt in songs like Pichle Saat Dinon Mein but was disappointing in the title track of Rock On.
The last original track is O Raahi Re, a philosophical call to the protagonist. It is quite melodious and easy on the ears with its pace and arrangement. Sung aptly by Shankar M. And I really liked the lyrics from Javed Akhtar here for a change. Sample this snippet of the stanzas :
Aasaaniya Mil Sakti Hai
Tujhko Zamaane Se
Par Zara Yeh Bataa
Jeena Hai Kya Yunh Tujhe
The last is a remix of the only remixable track, Baawre. It is well, a remix. So you know what to expect.
Overall this is a nice soundtrack from SEL, surely not as brilliant as Rock On, but they are themselves to blame for setting the bar so high. But they keep up their track record of consistently giving good uninspired (to be read as music that is not inspired by other sources) music, which in itself is an achievement. I seriously cannot think of a single bad soundtrack from the trio.
But all those times they fall short of outright brilliance.
If you have no clue about Slumdog Millionaire is, you might want to read this first.
Firstly, the album of Slumdog Millionaire is not your conventional album, it is a collection of the major pieces and songs that go on in the background; some instrumentals and some vocal tracks put in an almost chronological order of appearance in the movie. The sound is a mixture of heavy percussions and Indian classical music.
Note : If I reference to scenes or parts in the movie, they are enclosed within <M> and </M>, especially for those who haven’t seen the movie. Do not be too curious else you might spoil the movie for yourself.
As expected, it kicks off with O .. Saaya with heavy percussions. A.R. Rahman and M.I.A. take care of the singing. Don’t bother understanding what Rahman sings, more often than not you wouldn’t have a clue.
<M> Really catchy and it sets the pace in the movie, as the kids run through the slums followed by an overweight hawaldar </M>.
The next track is Riots, which is just some rhythm loops and a couple of other sounds thrown in. Quite passable and not really deserving a separate soundtrack.
Now this is a great track. Called Mausam & Escape, it starts with some Indian classical guitar playing accompanied by acoustic rhythms, then suddenly shoots into some amazing sitar playing, heavy percussions and catchy rhythm loops.
<M> This starts when Jamal is waiting at the platform for Latika and continues into the chase as Jamal tries to stop the gang from taking her forcibly. I am sure you remember this track. </M>
Paper Planes is the single by M.I.A. that was a recent hit in Britain. This is taken as it is without any changes. It is a nice track but makes for spectacular viewing in the movie as a train travels through deserts, cities, green plains and mountains. India in 2 minutes. The trailer which features the above scene and track is here.
Paper Planes Remix is okayish and passable. It does not feature in the movie.
Ringa Ringa is a very interesting song. Rahman acknowledged in an interview that he used the ‘Choli ke peeche’ track of Laxmikant-Pyarelal in this album. As you listen to this track, you would probably realize what the word ‘inspiration’, so overused in the Indian music industry, really means. He uses the same singers Ila Arun and Alka Yagnik, heavier background rhythms and a completely different tune but which constantly reminds you of the original track.
<M> This track features as Jamal and Salim walk in Kamathipura (or some similar place) to find Latika. </M>
Liquid Dance, I cannot recollect where it appears in the movie, is a tarana, with the syllables of a tarana, strings that are western classical (remotely resembling the Spirit of Rangeela tune) and heavy percussions again. Nicely done, but resembles a background track rather than a standalone soundtrack.
Latika’s Theme is a masterpiece. The track is just humming, which plays often in the movie and one of the most soothing tracks you would have heard in a long long time.
The next is Aaj ki Raat, which is the same track as it is from the Don OST. I thought there would be some changes, but a quick waveform analysis showed none [:)]. So if you loved the original track but if you didn’t like this, please consult a doctor.
The Millionaire track is another fast track which sounds brilliant in the movie, simply brilliant. This leads to one of the highest points in the movie.
<M> This plays as the country readies itself for the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire show, where everyone is hoping that the first rags to riches story will come true on the show </M>
Gansta Blues is quite passable, which sounds like a track to utilize the 20 hours/week from rapper Blaaze. I cannot recollect when it plays in the movie.
Dreams On Fire is the vocal version of Latika’s theme, again sung beautifully by the same singer Suzanne. Although I would prefer the humming version anyday.
Now for the final soundtrack which is probably the best track in the album, although I am sure to get opposing views. Sung by Sukhwinder Singh, Tanvi Shah & Mahalaxmi Iyer with the best parts in the song taken by Rahman, deservedly so. Lyrics by Gulzar, it is your conventional Bollywood song, and one of the better compositions of Rahman in recent times. This plays at the very end of the movie and the visuals that accompany it are going to be pleasantly surprising for everyone watching the movie. Oh and this track ensures that no one leaves the theater till the last credit has rolled by. Then the lights come on, and if there are enough females in the room, you might also catch a few with tears in their eyes at the end.
P.S. : I propose a ban on the release of more than 1 album of A.R. Rahman within a span of 2 weeks.