Every cloud has a silver lining, goes the adage. Sooner or later, the barren music scene of the last few years (one can even pinpoint the year film music truly slid alarmingly—from 2016) had to end, for how long could Hindi cinema go on minus its biggest USP? In the various analyses of why films and showbiz are no longer what it all used to be, one of the biggest reasons has been sidelined— the quality and use of music—ironically when at least 10 to 12 films this year were produced by the currently leading music company!
This year, however, some scores have truly scored in the respect of having situational songs with apt lyrics (though of admittedly varied caliber), tunes that are perfect for the subject and situation, impressive orchestration and correct vocals, like RRR (music by M.M. Kreem), Brahmastra: Part One—Shiva (Pritam), Uunchai and Qala (both Amit Trivedi) and Gangubai Kathiawadi (Sanjay Leela Bhansali).
Drishyam 2 (DSP Rockstar, as Devi Sri Prasad terms himself now) had just three songs, all lyrically perfect as well. The dubbed Sita Ramam (music by Vishal Chandrashekhar) had four nice tracks that were, however, not exploited well on-screen. Finally, there was Monica O My Darling (Achint Thakkar) that impressed in a different way and the melodious Raksha Bandhan (Himesh Reshammiya), which sadly sounded more than a shade dated.
The true glittering stars of most of these albums were three lyricists. Irshad Kamil did brilliant work not just in Uunchai but in that outright winner from Raksha Bandhan—Tere saath hoon main, composed wonderfully by Himesh Reshammiya, and in Kaala jaadu, scored by Pritam again, in Freddy. Varun Grover did sterling work in Janani and Komuran Bheemudo (RRR), as well as in Yeh ek zindagi in Monica O My Darling.
But even as the other mundane stuff ran riot, whether as a Punjabi overdose or otherwise, and he too was a part of it, it was lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya, as prolific now as that titanic AB of the past—Anand Bakshi—who scored high.
In Brahmastra, Amitabh brought in excellence in Kesariya, Deva Deva and Rasiya. In Drishyam 2, he outshone himself in all the three lyrics—Saath hum rahein and Sahi galat above all, apart from the Drishyam title-track. Amitabh’s only song from Qala, Ghode pe sawaar, was another showcase of what he could do. Kahani and Phir na aisi raat aayegi from Laal Singh Chaddha were two more examples of how the lyricist got to the very core of the situation for which he had to write.
But, perhaps, this was best shown by that funky verse Amitabh pulled off, even as a singer (which he originally came to Mumbai to become), along with composers Sachin-Jigar also as vocalists in the Baaki sab theek number in Bhediya. In the same film, Sachin-Jigar composed Amitabh’s populist Thumkeshwari and the soulful Apna bana le.
The composer of the year was undoubtedly Amit Trivedi, who showed the all-rounder quality of a true-blue Hindi film composer in the contrasting scores of Uunchai and Qala (Ghode pe sawaar, Rubaiyan, Phero na nazar se nazariya, Shauq) apart from his routine work in films like Chup—Revenge of the Artist and Doctor G. If he got the late 1950s and early ‘60s flavor of not just the composition but the aura in the orchestration perfect in the latter film, he harnessed the melody impeccably in the story-heavy Uunchai’s Haan kar de, Arey o uncle, Pahadi si ladki and Savera.
Yeh ek zindagi (a stunner of a hook) and Bye bye adios had newbie composer Achint Thakkar revisiting the era and aura of 1970s R.D. Burman with Asha Bhosle. He also forayed into the late 1950s with Farsh pe khade khade in the same film, Monica O My Darling.
What’s more, he recreated all this with singers like Anupama Chakraborty Shrivastava and Sagnik Sen, whose singing style and vocal tenor had heavy resemblances to Asha and Hemant Kumar respectively. Add orchestral veracity and the songs made us travel mentally to those times when a song stayed with us as a companion, regardless of whether it was light or sober and serious.
More, Achint himself penned the English lyrics of I love you so much and Hills of Malabar, for which he got in the vocals and compositional style of vintage Usha Uthup with Sarita Vaz and the veteran Vivienne Pocha. He also employed the vocals of Saud Khan, who went the 1970s vintage Kishore Kumar hog in Suno jaanejaan. Here, the tune and music were heavily in the Kalyanji-Anandji-Laxmikant-Pyarelal-Rajesh Roshan mould.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali, as composer, recovered ground that he had lost after a hat-trick of superb scores—Guzaarish, Goliyon Ki RasLila—Ram Lila and Bajirao Mastani—with Gangubai Kathiawadi. All the songs were worth listening and fitted the situations, but among them, Meri jaan, Jab saiyyan and Shikayat stood out and the lyrics and orchestration were of high standards.
The singers this year were so numerous, especially the youngsters, that too much space would be spent if we mentioned each one. However, Arijit Singh and Shreya Ghoshal were the clear toppers.
And last but not least, it was indeed very interesting to realize that the best work in Mumbai-made films, Pritam apart, came from Gujarati composers—Amit Trivedi, Achint Thakkar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Sachin-Jigar. Add Himesh Reshammiya’s Laxmikant-Pyarelal-inspired melodies from Raksha Bandhan that were seeped in melody, like Tere saath hoon main and Tu bicchade to that sounded fresh within an olde-worlde album. The rest of the 2022 musical merit came from the South—M.M. Kreem and DSP Rockstar.
In albums that were largely marketed by Sony Music and Zee Music Company, 2022 as a year, offered a great glimmer of a near-future renaissance in film music. Hope, like a good melody, is always eternal.