Karwaan music review: A diverse album that hits the sweet spot between philosophical and frivolous
Karwaan also strikes a balance between commercial and indie as its album goes beyond Arijit Singh, and also involves Prateek Kuhad, SlowCheeta and Madboy/Mink.
Akarsh Khurana's upcoming road trip film Karwaan boats of an album that goes beyond the philosophical trappings that films of the genre usually fall prey to. The music as much fun as it is pensive. Producer Ronnie Screwvala has lined up a range of indie artistes to put together a diverse album, that oscillates from frivolous to contemplative.
The first song, 'Chota Sa Fasana', however, bows down to Bollywood's obsession with arguably its most saturated singer: Arijit Singh. One cannot blame the makers though as Arijit takes the otherwise predictable beats of the song to a whole new high with his immensely enjoyable vocals. While director Akarsh Khurana's lyrics and Anurag Saikia's composition have every-road-trip-song-ever written all over them, Arijit injects life into them through his voice that is laced with the joy of discovering something at every turn. Since the director has penned the lyrics himself, they appear rather simplistic and only serve as an extension of the film's narrative. National Award-winning composer Anurag Sait makes his Bollywood debut with this song but does not bring much nuance in the process.
Put Arijit's song against renowned indie artist Prateek Kuhad's tracks in Karwaan, and one can clearly tell who the better artist is. Kuhad, who entered Bollywood with his rendition of 'Kho Gaye Hum Kahan' in Nitya Mehra's 2016 romantic comedy Baar Baar Dekho, has been used to his optimum potential in Karwaan. His first song, 'Saansein', is also a hummable road trip song but sounds, and feels far more thoughtful than 'Chota Sa Fasana'. The tempo is slower in most parts but the song is never low on energy as Kuhad introduces a musical instrument with every note or line. Unlike Arijit, Kuhad does not try to pitch higher. His voice is more relaxed, as if he is humming while on the road, instead of recording within the confines of a studio.
Kuhad's second song 'Kadam' sounds like a signature composition right from the start. While 'Chota Sa Fasana' marks the anticipation phase of a Karwaan (journey) and 'Saansien' delves more on the present, 'Kadam' is more retrospective in nature. It is, in fact, a sweet existential song and a respite from all the existential angst-laden tracks that dominate the market today. Kuhad, as is his trademark style, does not sound like he is trying hard. He proves that he is a one-man-army by taking complete charge of all departments. At the same time, he is also big on details. Kuhad employs additional produced sound effects that work well as ambient sounds, of wheels and whooshes.
The makers have also roped in another indie band Madboy/Mink for an interesting track. Naseeruddin and Ratna Pathak's elder son Imaad Shah composes and pens 'Bhar De Hamaara Glash', sung by Saba Azad. She has a voice designed for a cabaret number and Imaad capitalises on this by lending jazz notes to this song. It lends a much needed sense of stability to the album. Delectable to a fault, the number suffers from only one minor shortcoming. The lyrics lose their clarity towards the chorus when a number of musical instruments jump into action.
Anurag Sait composes another song, interestingly titled 'Heartquake'. Here, the frothy part of Karwaan comes in as Khurana's lyrics are very colloquial, in not only tone but also choice of words like 'heart-quake', 'connection' and 'you know na'. But his quirky lyrics are countered by the vocals of Papon who brings the quintessential earnest lover's voice to the table. Papon sings with all his heart, "Meri shayari bhi zyada deep nahi." Word.
Rapper SlowCheeta takes the fun quotient several notches higher with 'Dhaai Kilo Bakwaas'. His composition (along with Shwetang Shankar) and vocals are definitely on point. But he surprises the most in the lyrics department. His commentary on toxic masculinity, under the guise of extremely catchy rap sequences, is a knockout punch. Also, the intro and subsequent stanzas of the song reflect the diversity of languages in India, as they borrow expressions liberally from South Indian languages. This inclusion of other cultures in the music adds to the credibility of the film as a road movie.
The final song of the album, 'Heartquake (Aftershocks)', combines the energies and styles of Papon-Anurag Sait and SlowCheeta. Khurana's lyrics in the original song demand rap sequences to amp up this track more suited for a SlowCheeta template. The rapper adds the much needed pace to the song but Papon's steady voice also goes for a zany makeover. However, it was a good call on Khurana's part to come up with two versions of the song. While the peppy version allows SlowCheeta to shine, the original version allows Khurana's eccentric lyrics to get noticed.
Overall, the music of Karwaan manages to hit the sweet spot between the rational and the random. The seven songs trace the various stops of this road movie.
Listen to the entire album here.
Karwaan stars Irrfan Khan and Mithila Palkar. It marks the Bollywood debut of Malayalam superstar Dulquer Salmaan and Screwvala's new production banner RSVP Films. It is slated to release this Friday on 3 August.
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