Super 30 music review: Sairat composers Ajay-Atul's album could potentially be a great narrative device
The Super 30 album does away with any shred of glitz, instead giving four songs that sit comfortably within the narrative of the film.
Hindi films, for as long as one can remember, have been synonymous with its music. As Bollywood music aficionados, many otherwise-forgettable 90s and 2000s films found their place in DVD and CD libraries of our homes because of their iconic music. Case in point — Yaadein, Salaam-E-Ishq, Tashan, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na, Kyun...Ho Gaya Na et al.
Then, there was a surge of content-driven films with a token dance number, often introduced in the album for promotional purposes. Even a film as critically acclaimed as Stree featured a 'Kamariya' and 'Milegi Milegi' in a bid to make their film commercially viable. Most recently, Kangana Ranaut spoke about how she does not enjoy being part of promotional videos, but submitted to Ekta Kapoor's (producer of Judgementall Hai Kya) vision for the party number 'The Wakhra Song.'
Super 30 is a rare film that does not resort to this particular marketing ploy. With only five songs in its repository, the soundtrack of Super 30 itself serves as a narrative device, taking the film's story forward. Ajay-Atul, the National Award-winning music composer duo behind the path-breaking music of Sairat, its Hindi adaptation Dhadak as well as last year's chartbuster romantic track 'Mere Naam Tu' (from Zero), does an overall decent job with Super 30.
The first song in the album 'Jugraafiya' proves that Ajay-Atul are masters at creating a grandiose soundscape with romance in its veins. There is a signature other-worldliness to 'Jugraafiya,' an old-world charm that is bolstered by Udit Narayan and Shreya Ghoshal's vocals. Amitabh Bhattacharya, who collaborated with Ajay-Atul on both Sairat and Dhadak, paints a story with his deceptively simple and prosaic lyrics. There is no invocation to sublime concepts, snow-covered mountains or lush green fields. Instead, Bhattacharya digs deep into what love means within the humdrum goings-on of life.
'Paisa' underlines the temptation of accumulating — well, paisa (money) — to lead a comfortable and glitzy life. While Bhattacharya's lyrics are undoubtedly hard-hitting, the composition itself lacks the pizzazz that such a song usually requires. (Remember 'Paisa Paisa Karti Hain' from De Dana Dan? or even 'Daaru Wargi' from Why Cheat India?) . You are never convinced of the leela or maya (allure) that money brings and the resulting corrosion of the soul that the protagonist undergoes. Even Vishal Dadlani's high-voltage vocals cannot enliven up this forgettable number.
The snobbery and arrogance often associated with the knowledge of The Queen's language is delved upon in 'Basanti No Dance'. Beginning as a freewheeling conversation about how the economically disadvantaged feel the pressure to speak in impeccable English, the song soon takes the form of an angry rap against the entitled. The song uses almost no background instruments but percussion. Shot like a street-theatre play, the build-up is slow. But once the song reaches its crescendo, the harmonious claps give way to the collective roar of the dhols and tabla. Like many inspirational songs, this too features fiery lyrics, but what it also cleverly implements are audiences within the fourth wall, who cheer and whistle for these students, in turn manipulating viewers to cheer along.
'Question Mark' comes closest to being a promotional gig for 'Super 30', with an abundance of animation. Hrithik Roshan has himself sung this track, where his character is shown introducing complex mathematical concepts with examples of day-to-day activities. Although not as catchy as its spiritual predecessor, 'Bum Bum Bole' from Taare Zameen Par or the less famous 'Khol De Par' (Hichki), 'Question Mark' resonates with the overarching theme of Super 30 enough (for this reviewer) to gloss over its shortcomings as a musical composition.
The final song in the soundtrack 'Niyam Ho' encapsulates the crux of Super 30. 'Niyam Ho' is a hymn about the dream of an egalitarian society. It urges us to shake up the water-tight hierarchies so that opportunities and amenities are not just concentrated in a few hands, but are available to be grasped by all deserving candidates. Over 25 singers chant in chorus about the need to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots, lending it an almost-divine quality.
Overall, the music of Super 30 is arguably one of the weaker works of Ajay-Atul, but suits well for the film which uses its music, not for any other purpose but to steer the story of the film ahead.
Listen to the entire album here
All images from YouTube.
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