Malaal music review: Sanjay Leela Bhansali's soundtrack captures Marathi pulse in an inventive, eclectic album
To his credit, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has been able to conjure an eclectic soundscape for a film that has one overarching theme looming large — romantic love.
There has been ample curiosity surrounding Malaal. Not only is Sanjay Leela Bhansali's name attached to the project as a producer, but the ace director is also launching his niece Sharmin Segal and Javed Jaaferi's son Meezan in Bollywood with this film. The soundtrack has also stirred some interest within people, who have lapped up Bhansali's musical offerings in films such as Guzaarish and Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela.
Malaal offers a generous seven-track jukebox, which encapsulates a gamut of emotions, ranging from intense passion, jubilation and devotion to gloom and heartbreak. It kickstarts with 'Aila Re', an ultra-bouncy celebratory track. Much like 'Tattad Tattad' from Ram-Leela, 'Aila Re' is presumably Meezan's introductory song, as indicated by the actor's classic collar-tugging, slow-mo stylised gait at the beginning of the song. It seems Vishal Dadlani is becoming the preferred voice for party anthems, a role that he has taken up with aplomb. His raw, robust rendition effortlessly blends into the mood that the song attempts to create. The problem lies in its uncanny similarity to its predecessor, 'Tattad Tattad,' belted out by Aditya Narayan. Even if one cares to discount Ranveer Singh's hair ruffles and pelvic thrusts, the electric number was a gem in its own right. With parts of the 'Aila Re' score seemingly lifted from 'Tattad Tattad', it is hard to measure 'Aila Re' as anything but an inferior recreation of Singh's classic track.
With a mix of Marathi and Hindi lyrics, 'Udhal Ho' is a devotional song written for the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. Bhansali's ability to invoke geographical spaces through visual and sonic imagery works wonders in this composition. The vigorous lyrics and the booming acoustics situate the song right in the middle of the bustling Mumbai colony, celebrating the elephant-head god in all his glory. Adarsh Shinde's baritone merges with Rashid Khan's Banjo and the rhythmic percussion of Manjira (clash cymbals) to create a harmony of religious sounds. Bollywood has churned out a plethora of devotional numbers for the deity Ganesha in the past, including 'Deva Shri Ganesha' (Agneepath) and 'Morya Re' (Don). 'Udhal Ho' is sure to gain its plaudits in the near future.
There is an obvious profusion of Marathi in songs of Malaal, but in no way does it alienate the non-Marathi speaking milieu. 'Naad Khula' is an homage to dizzying, intense romance — the kind that drives people crazy, the kind that Bhansali is famed for glorifying. The lyrics, artfully penned Prashant Ingole, are buoyed by Shreyas Puranik's balmy voice. There is also a prolonged interlude where Tejas Vinchurkar's flute takes the lead to mesmerising effect. This is perhaps one of the most original romantic numbers to have been made in this decade, and arguably the best song in the entire album.
'Aai Shappat' is a naive romantic song about a budding romance. Rutvik Talashilkar's husky voice lends it innocence and Prashant Ingole's poetry is devoid of all embellishments, which works in favour of the overarching theme of simplicity and unworldliness in the track. Bhansali's musical credibility bursts forth in the number, ably anchored by Sanjeev Sen's dholki, dholak and tabla, and Talashilkar's guitar.
Shreya Ghoshal, who made her breakthrough with Bhansali's Devdas (2002), has come to be one of Bhansali's most frequent collaborators. The reason for this is perhaps that Bhansali's compositions are catapulted to unfathomable brilliance with the talent that comes with Ghoshal's pitch-perfect voice. In 'Kathhai Kathhai', Ghoshal bends and twists her vocal muscles to the optimum in order to express the hesitation and the shyness of young lovers. This is possibly one of the best gems to have come out of the Bhansali-Ghoshal collaboration.
Fans of Bhansali's music are aware that he has a natural inclination to resort to his traditional, classical sensibilities. Case in point: 'Zara Suno'. Shail Hada, the voice behind 'Khalibali Ho Gaya Hai Dil' (Padmaavat) and the Saawariya title track, has taken on the reigns of the composer for this one. Rutvik Talasilkar and Aanandi Joshi's voices are fresh and hold the promise of bringing something new to the Bollywood table in the future.
The title track of Malaal, 'Ek Malaal' is slow, haunting and exhilarating. It sings of despair, yet is opulently orchestrated. Shail Hada hits the highest notes with absolute ease that punctures a hole into the listener's hearts. It is a shame that the singer is under-utilised in Bollywood.
To his credit, Bhansali has been able to conjure an eclectic soundscape for a film that has one overarching theme looming large — romantic love. It is a stunning album (save 'Aila Re') steeped in classical ethos that throbs with the pulse of Maharashtra.
Malaal is slated to release on 5 July.
Listen to the album here
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