'Raman Raghav 2.0' music review: Kudos Ram Sampath, for this sensual, sinister soundtrack

Swetha Ramakrishnan

June 22, 2016 10:13:57 IST

Put yourself in the shoes of a music director. If you were given a brief to produce the music for a film that revolves around a brutal serial killer, what melodies or genre would you go with?

Ram Sampath, the music director behind the eclectic soundtrack of Anurag Kashyap's Raman Raghav 2.0, probably had this conversation with himself. And while we don't know any details, the result is passionate, layered, multi-genre musical story-within-a-story; a soundtrack that has its own character.

In an interview with Firstpost, Kashyap had mentioned that he doesn't set out to glamourise violence in Raman Raghav 2.0, and neither is he portraying anti-social elements as "cool". "It's scary as shit," he said about the portrayal of a serial killer. But how do you make music out of that, without sounding like the Zee Horror Show?

Raman Raghav 2.0 leads the Indian cinema brigade at Cannes. Image from Facebook

Raman Raghav 2.0 poster. Image from Facebook

It's easy to use words to denote evil, to celebrate it while also vilifying it. But it's that much more difficult to express the over-arcing sentiment in Raman Raghav 2.0 in its music. Sampath chooses to go all out dark and mysterious with his soundtrack. All five tracks in the album are references to conflict between life and death, good and bad, right and wrong. But its in his execution of this theme that we see pure genius.

The soundtrack's first song is a trance-fusion ghazal of sorts, 'Qatl-e-aam' crooned by the extremely talented Sona Mohapatra. It may seem like the token commercial song in the album, but 'Qatl-e-aam' is much much more. In this opener, her vocals may seem restrained in favour of a groove and pace, but it shines bright in an unplugged version.

'Qatl-e-aam' unplugged is a cleaner, more powerful rendition of the same vocals, but without the pace of a trance number. It sounds like a ghazal that would be played at the gates of hell; which is to say it is sinfully melodious, and very catchy.

"Duur duur tak koi na rishta tu hai itna sookha, teri khaal mein renge keede, tu sachcha behuda' (You're so dry that you have no relationships in sight; You're such an imposter that you probably have worms in your skin)"

These are words from possibly the best song of the Raman Raghav 2.0 album, titled 'Behuda'. If you liked the playful, almost noir-like quality of 'Muskaanein Jhooti Hai' from Talaash, this is a far more nuanced, more mysterious version. It's sensuous, playful and Nayantara Bhatkal's voice is like butter on a sizzling pan. Together Varun Grover and Ram Sampath have created a song in 'Behuda' that is most resonating of the tone of the film. It makes you feel like you're sitting in a jazz club with a glass of smooth whiskey, listening to a seductive woman tell you a story of a murderer.

What is most impressive about this soundtrack is the use of multiple genres: a slow ballad, alt rock, fusion, ghazal, grunge, dubstep — it's all there. Siddharth Basrur's breathtakingly moving vocals in 'Paani Ka Raasta' starts off as a ballad about remorse and despair, another way to interpret the darkness with which the film is laced around. The song eventually becomes louder, much like your conscience, and enthralls you with its riffs.

And then comes the Raman Raghav theme song: it's rapt, too fast for you, and borders on sensational. As a listener, you're constantly playing catch up with its beat — and the foot tapping/head moving is proof. As soon it lets you settle in with its instrumental narrative, it springs back again. 'Raghav Theme' catches you by surprise with its constant fluctuations, and i'm guessing this is in tandem with the plot of the film. Very good use of impactful dubstep by Sampath.

The Raman Raghav 2.0 soundtrack doesn't shy away from baring its soul to you, the listener. It dazzles you, captures your attention, and it seduces you into entering a world of grey where it's okay to make music about the darkest societal elements. You carry the guilt along with you, just as each of these singers carry it in their vocals. It's a sinister soundtrack, fitting for a film like Raman Raghav 2.0.

Updated Date: Jun 22, 2016 10:13 AM