November 14, 2010

The Return of the Musician

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s music is very much like his movies. Love it or hate it, but you can not deny that it is born out of arrogant conviction, that might be indulgent, but is intricate, imaginative, and interesting. His obsession with pure and classical art is apparent in the music he creates. It thus does not have an essentially popular appeal. But like his films, he doesn’t seem to be caring more about the audience than about his own creative energy, which is overtly saturated with melodramatic emotions. I consider him a flawed artist, but he is an artist anyway. That does not necessarily make him a good storyteller. But yes, that makes him a good musician. And that is the reason behind the difference between his music, that always works, and his movies.

I am not very fond of the music of his first film, but his collaborations with Ismail Durbar and Monty, ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, ‘Devdas’, and ‘Saawariya’, apart from the only song from ‘Black’, have been phenomenal. During the past decade he has been the only filmmaker with such a consistent record of high-quality playback music. Personally, his music gives me the fulfillment that I expect from none. In fact, I wait for his music more eagerly than his movies.

I have to accept that the music of ‘Guzaarish’ does not match the standards of the three preceding movies. Just one ‘Daras Bina Nahi Chain’ from ‘Saawariya’ was better than all the ten tracks of this. Also, a major disappointment is the poetry, which has been deteriorating consistently with every movie of his. Bhansali is more interested in putting together ideas and words, rather than working within the conventions of lyric-writing. In fact, I joke that the lyrics have also been written by Bhansali himself. Interestingly, and perhaps suitably, the CD cover does not credit anyone for ‘lyrics’. It says: ‘Words by Turaz and Vibhu Puri.’ The lyrics are not bad, but very typical, at times outrageously so. It goes with our idea of Bhansali. But imagine what a wonder someone like Prasoon Joshi would have created on these tunes?

Ultimately, the best thing about Bhansali’s music is that it allows you a discussion on it, a long, never-ending discussion. You just need to find someone who understands the basics of music, and more importantly, loves these songs. My brother and I have been doing this for more than a decade now. During the first few hearings, all our energies are directed to ‘understand the structure’ of these free-flowing, apparently ‘formless’ songs. It is always a challenge to correctly hum the lines, in sur. The challenge that these songs provide you as a singer is the single most fascinating aspect of this music. I would love to sit with someone who could just correctly hum these lines: “Bas itni si tumse guzaarish hai… Ye jo baarish hai, us mein teri baahon mein mar jaaoon… Bas itni si, chhoti-si, ek khwahish hai…

In this era of instant chartbuster music, here is one musician whose music, in spite of being an integral part of the films, is independent of them. ‘Saawariya’, the movie, came and failed, but its music still gives us the high that we have stopped expecting from Hindi film music. I am not expecting much from the movie releasing this Friday, being more than happy with the magic its music has created. Bravo, maestro! En core!


  1. Though i completely agree to your opinion on Mr. Bhansali and his charismatic music... but would slightly differ on your statement that says, "During the past decade he has been the 'only' filmmaker with such a consistent record of high-quality playback music." ... In my opinion, the man who deserves this comment even more is Mr. Vishal Bhardwaj. From Maachis to satya to Omkara.. Kaminey.. ishqiya... his magic prevails.
    as you rightly said... Bhansali's music is born out of certain arrogant conviction which further when explored ... makes you see his immense obsession with rich classical taste and touch to everything... But when you listen to Vishal's sir's music... there is this certain rawness to it. the music and composition will be as rich as a Bhansali creation.. but what makes it different is that while Bhansali's music comes out of a certain passion cum obsession... Vishal sir's music is a baby of a subtle womb. Its not boisterous... its not loud...
    i personally believe that this softness to his music is largely because he is a very sweet person in real life as well..:)
    Bhansali's music is an exaggeration of life... Vishal sir's songs are earthy... very 'comman man-ish'... one would hum the tunes of 'Dil to baccha hai ji...' and 'jag ja'.. 'Namak'...'Beedi'... than 'daras bina nahin chain..' and this is not just because, 'daras...' is a classical masterpiece, definitely difficult to sing.. but also because its lyrics and musical tones, ups and down doesnt appeal to my 'general-basic' understanding of music. which is also why it is a Bhansali creation.. completely agreed. but my point being that.. 'Dil to Bacha hai ji...' is as rich as 'Daras..' in terms of composition, lyrics and its aesthetic appeal. but it is the universal appeal that 'bacha' makes that sets it apart.
    Also.. vishal sir is definitely more versatile in his composition.. so he can do a 'jag jaa' from Omkara.. and also a 'DHAN TE NAN' from Kamniney...
    With Bhansali... the problem is.. the moment i listen to his music.. the constant image that my mind forms is of the last scene in Devdas where Paaro runs through the Haveli to meet Deva... or Nandini running through the Haweli.. yet again when sameer leaves the house (HUm dil de chuke sanam)... Loud... dramatic...'climaxish' background scores.. though i love those pieces but i feel.. this definitely restricts my thoughts on Bhansali's composition.
    yes, both of them are legends and are masters of their own genre.. and its stupid comparing their music styles... but i think it is interesting to listen and observe.. that where does it all generate from. what is the thought process which goes into making of such master musical creations... :)

    P.S. - Bhansali is superb! super cool!! but Vishal sir is the true rockstar!! He is 'THE BEST!!!' killer!!! (yes, i am a die-hard fan of Vishal sir..!) hehehehe... :)

  2. How could I forget the music of Vishal Bhardwaj!
    Yes, I agree with you completely. He has been consistent. He is versatile. His music is raw and earthy and more universal. And thanks to his association with Gulzar sa'ab, the lyrics of his songs are mind-blowing.

    But I would personally choose to disagree that 'Dil toh bachcha hai ji' is as rich as 'Daras Bina Nahi Chain'. Richness, layers of musical tones and undertones, intricacies - all these things in Bhansali music is unparalleled.

    For anyone who disagrees, try humming 'Daras Bina Nahi Chain' as the audio plays. It has been three years, and it is still growing on me. I am still learning from it. It has been eight years since 'Devdas' and I am still discovering new details... This is what I call richness... and it is not present in the works of other musicians....

    Again, comparing them is not correct. And it is a matter of personal choice. VB is a rockstar. No doubt about it. I consider him the most talented person in the film industry today.

    But as I said, the challenge a Bhansali song provides to me as a singer is the singles most fascinating aspect of it. This virtue is not very welcome though. A junior at college, great singer, did not like Bhansali's songs as he 'didn't feel like singing them'!!!

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  4. :)... point taken!! just played 'Daras...' on my lappy once again... and i completely understand what you mean.. "Richness, layers of musical tones and undertones, intricacies in Bhansali's music..!!

    P.S.- VB is still the best!! My rockstar!! :)

  5. " spite of being an integral part of the films, is independent of them."

    Now, thats a compliment :)

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  7. (...cont)

    p.s. not a follow up of Bhansali and Bharadwaj discussion, but of my last comment :)

    i always wonder, why the effect of most of songs (barring usually the title tracks#) in films of Aditya Chopra (my most 'loved' filmmaker btw :) on me usually faded with time on me, even though they seems to blend beautifully with the narrative, situations, whatever... and what drives me crazy that this happens to be a conscious decision on the director's part to keep the tunes 'simple' (forgettable?)!

    it's usually very contrasting with the music that Yash Chopra has for his film. they delve much deeper and for much longer in me... (all the brilliant scores of Shiv-Hari, the late Madan Mohan...)

    actually, i dont even remember playing tracks from Adi Chopra film for it's melody value (track like 'na jane...' is an exception for me). i usually play them more for nostalgia of the movie... on the other hand, songs of Yash Chopra " spite of being an integral part of the films," are also usually independent of them, and more timeless to me...

    #i consider 'tujhe dekha...' and 'humho huminse churalo' as his title tracks

  8. @Shaheen: even I played 'Daras Bina' on my laptop after our first discussion....

    @Priyadarshi: Very right observation. The music of Veer-Zaara has managed to give me that fulfillment I find in Bhansali's music.. It was also, an integral part of the film, but still independent...
    Today I do not like that movie at all.. but I would die for its music...

  9. ha ha even i played 'Daras Bina' just to revisit it once more (this, and 'Yun shabnami' are my fav tracks from Saawariya)... although i never, and still don't get whatever u all meant by all those 'layers' and other intricacies of music...

    it one of my greater *wishes* to learn and develop a deeper understanding of the music (that is why i refrained from commenting on the above discussion)...

    nevermind. someday... :)

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