Narendra Kusnur's music musings …


Jab Tak Hai Jaan/ Music: A R Rahman

Genre: Hindi film music

YRF Music/ Rs 175

Rating: ***

OVER the past couple of years, A R Rahman seems to have drastically cut down on his Hindi film work. In 2010, he had only two releases ― Mani Rathnam’s ‘Raavan’ and Abbas Tyrewala’s ‘Jhootha Hi Sahi’. Last year, there was only Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Rockstar’. And this year, he’s done Gautam Menon’s ‘Ekk Deewana Tha’ and the late Yash Chopra’s ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’, with nothing lined up over the next few months.

Of these, only ‘Rockstar’ really matched up to Rahman standards. Though he used only one rock song ‘Sadda haq’ and concentrated on many other genres, he also had successful tunes in ‘Naadaan parindey’, ‘Katiyan karoon’ and ‘Kun faya kun’. The best thing about ‘Rockstar’ was that he used Mohit Chauhan’s voice on all songs to portray Ranbir Kapoor, thus maintaining consistency.

In ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’, Rahman goes back to his frequent practice of using an assortment of singers, some of whom are yet to make their mark in Hindi films, or who probably belong to the ‘Rahman camp’.  He’s done that in so many of his later films – ‘Yuva’, ‘Guru’, ‘Rang de Basanti’, ‘Jodhaa Akbar’, ‘Ghajini’ and ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’ ― and though he did produce many good songs in these films, the overall efforts were not necessarily cent per cent consistent, unlike some of his work in the 90s.

The same thing happens with ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’. The songs have been created well, but the singing is rather inconsistent. A couple of songs really work, while some have very obvious drawbacks. Gulzar’s lyrics show flashes of brilliance, but his dependence on pure Punjabi on two numbers may make them hard to follow in some regions.

What’s really creditable, of course, is the quality of the arrangements, and how Rahman has used various instruments. Production-wise, ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ is first-rate, though on a few songs, one also gets the feeling that his dependence on orchestration is at the cost of melody.

The film has six songs, one reprise, one instrumental and one Aditya Chopra-penned poem set to music. The opening Punjabi song ‘Challa’ has been sung by Rabbi, who seems to have an obvious hangover of his hit song ‘Bulla ki jaana’. But what obviously makes this song is Keba Jeremiah’s brilliant guitaring, Ranjit Barot’s tight drumming and the short back-up vocal stretch.

Half the media has alleged that ‘Challa’ is a copy of Eagle Eye Cherry’s ‘Save Tonight’, based on a quote by one source, but there is no similarity between the two, except that they both begin with acoustic guitars and have a similar tempo. Tunewise, they are totally different, and even the orchestrations are not similar.

‘Saans’ has very Gulzar-styled wordplay like ‘Saans mein teri, saans mili toh, mujhe saans aayi; Rooh ne choo li jism ki khoshboo, tu jo paas aayi’. This song has been brilliantly orchestrated, with a haunting symphonic feel and Naveen Kumar’s melodious flute. However, the normally excellent Shreya Ghoshal seems a bit forced and unnatural, specially when reciting the word ‘Saans’, whereas Mohit Chauhan sounds a bit like Udit Narayan. The reprise, sung by Shreya, is shorter and sweeter.

‘Ishq Shava’ again has excellent arrangements, a Middle Eastern feel using the oud, mandolin and saz, and Gulzar gems like ‘Baadalon pe paaon rakho kabhi; Un mein zameen nahin hoti’. But the main melody line has a heard-it before feeling, and the song uses the very obvious Arabic word ‘Marhaba’. Moreover, while Raghav Mathur sounds crisp, Shilpa Rao’s voice jars.

The biggest treat comes from ‘Heer’, with Harshdeep Kaur sounding melodiously outstanding on this Punjabi folk-inspired tune. It’s the kind of song that grows on repeated listening. Of all the singers Rahman has promoted, Harshdeep seems to have the greatest future.

Neeti Mohan, who began with the band Aasma and recently sang the ‘Student of the Year’ song ‘Ishqwala Love’, comes up with the catchy ‘Jiya Re’. Again, her voice may not really be extraordinary and she seems to struggle on the higher notes, but she’s helped by a peppy, sing-along tune, Chandresh Kudwa’s guitarwork and a neat rap stretch by Sofia Ashraf. Nice, party piece.

Singer Javed Ali, a Rahman favourite, sings the title song along with Shaktisree Gopalan. This is perhaps one of the soundtrack’s weak spots, with the singing going haywire, the tune sounding like a nursery rhyme and the antara reminding you of one part of the ‘Padosan’ hit ‘Main chali main chali’.

The instrumental ‘Ishq Dance’ is a rhythmic delight, with drummer Ranjit Barot and percussionists Faizan Hussain and Nishad Chandra bursting with sheer energy, and the back-up vocals, guitar and bass adding life. This could be used as a great interlude in Rahman’s live shows.

Finally, we have Shah Rukh Khan reciting Aditya Chopra’s poem which begins ‘Teri aankhon ke namkeen mastiyaan, teri hansi ki beparwah gustakhiyaan, teri zulfon ke lehrati angdaaiyan, nahin bhooloonga main, jab tak hai jaan’. Again, a great musical backdrop gives this some zest.

Overall, ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ is the kind of soundtrack which may not impress on first hearing, but grows when heard regularly. Though one may crib that this isn’t among Rahman’s best in terms of the nature of the songs, it’s definitely above par as far as instrumentation goes. A little more emphasis on melody than on sound would have taken it a few notches higher.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Classic


Comments on: "CD review/ Jab Tak Hai Jaan; Music: A R Rahman" (3)

  1. Hi Narendra

    Just a quick correction. The song called Challa is wrongly titled. It’s the punjabi word “jhalla” meaning a bit mad, a mast malang. If you hear carefully that is what Rabbi is singing and I have confirmed this with the singer himself. As to why it was changed to Challa, my guess is that some mktg type figured no one south of the Vindhya’s would understand the word so best to go with Challa. And that, to me, is like cheating. Totally disappointed with the entire team for letting it go:-(

    • Thanks KJ for this very nice and valuable input. I wonder why they did that… I did notice the slight ‘jha’ while singing but thought it was a bit deliberate

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