Since 2009, when Amit Trivedi shook up Bollywood’s notion of filmi music with his Dev D soundtrack, Trivedi has carved a reputation for creating melodies that never fails to surprise listeners.
From electronic music to folk sounds, Trivedi weaves in a rainbow of influences in his songs and it’s served to make him distinctive precisely because there isn’t really a single style that is recognisably Trivedi’s.
If there’s one quality that we expect from Trivedi, then it is that he won’t be repetitive. Lootera, however, is an exception. The soundtrack to Vikramaditya Motwane’s film is filled with soaring music that matches Lootera’s vintage look and the songs are easy listening, but this time, it seems the influences got the better of Trivedi.
Listen to Manmarziyan, for instance. It’s one of the songs that has obvious western influences. The gentle strum of the acoustic guitar, the harmonised refrains (sung by Trivedi and lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya’s) are reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel’s music. But the song struggles to make an impact, perhaps because Trivedi adds ornamental bits to the song rather than focusing on the simplicity that made songs like Canticle/Scarborough Fair so poignant and memorable.
The influence of Western music is also obvious in Zinda, where you hear everything from a crashing chords from an electric guitar to singing violins and a tinkling piano. There are just too many musical elements vying for attention. While the song works in parts, it feels a little disjointed and the vocals don’t make much of an impact.
Shikayatein is another song in Lootera that is disappointing because our standards for Trivedi are just a little higher than for other Bollywood composers. Pretty as it is, the song sounds like a variation of Meethi Boliyaan from Kai Po Che. The instruments and the way Trivedi uses them is similar as is the tune. The difference: while Meethi Boliyaan was mesmerising, Shikayatein has none of that magic.
It’s when Trivedi plays around with Indian influences, like vintage Bollywood music and folk tunes, that Lootera’s music works beautifully. Ankahee, for instance, has lovely little interludes by violins that remind you of the old photos that showed how songs would be recorded in studios with a live orchestra. Ankahee ends up sounding a little monotonous, but it starts off well.
The standout tracks of Lootera are Sawaar Loon and the bilingual Monta Re. The proof that Trivedi did his homework about old Bollywood is evident in Sawaar Loon, sung by Monali Thakur. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics match the rich nostalgia in the music and as you listen to the harmonised flutes, violins and the tinkling tune of the musical jewellery box, you’re transported to a sepia-tinted era. And yet, it’s unmistakably modern too.
Similarly, in Monta Re, Trivedi is able to weave elements of Baul sangeet (Bengali folk music) with the distinctly Western strum of a guitar. Trivedi has a love for experimenting with ethnic Indian sounds, folk music and Western instruments, and in Monta Re the experiment works. Swanand Kirkire singing the song helps because his voice is, as always, very expressive.
If Lootera’s soundtrack had any other music director’s name on it, then all of these songs would have thrilled all of us. For Trivedi though, perhaps unfairly, the standards are higher and we want every song to be strikingly original and memorable. Lootera disappoints because only Sawaar Loon and Monta Re match up to our expectations of the magic we expect in an Amit Trivedi soundtrack.