Jan 6, 2009

Dev.D and Rule

People who know me will tell you I have probably never used the phrase "kick-ass" to describe anything. But there's a first time for everything. The music of Dev.D deserves that appellation. It's as if some rugby fly-half drop-kicked you right into the yonder sky. It's an enjoyable ride, by the way.

Amit Trivedi (music), Amitabh Bhattacharya (lyrics, along with Shellee and others), and Anurag Kashyap (director) manage to do three things: they exhibit a superlative range of genres, provide a solid texture (a mix of urban melancholy, mofussil brass, and quiet yearning), and most importantly, they demonstrate great faith in their choices. There are 18 tracks, and while some of them do falter, just taking the effort to put in 18 more-than-decent tracks (haven't seen that kind of depth and scale since Rahman's Bose) gives them many brownie points.

The list of my personal picks begins with the dulcet banaarasii Dhol yaaraa Dhol sung with great desire by Shilpa Rao and backed by Kshitij. Some of the turns gave me the kind of goosepimples that I usually get with some Rahman interludes. Raa.NjhaNaa is a small downbeat version of this song.

The album has many such doppelgangers - pairs of tracks taking gloomy/bouyant U-turns, hard rock/street music incarnations, or turning from joy to lament. The two Dev-Chanda Themes are especially interesting - the first is a slow bluesy hum (and a fine one at that) while the second is a very moody whistle with a touch of menace.

The album continues its excursions off the rails. There are a couple of Punjabi songs and a Rajasthani song mixed to club arrangements. Then there are a couple of songs that just don't seem to belong here. They're from some Indi-rock-pop album. It gets very difficult to mentally put this lot together - your mind has to make several leaps to reconcile them. What's uncanny about the soundtrack is how it keeps riding the waves of romantic exhilaration and cavernous dejection. Shruti Pathak's paayaliyaa is a great example of this.

Then come the songs voiced by Amit Trivedi - these tend to be garrulous (the harmonium-guitar fuelled duniyaa), scruffy rock (nayan, aa.nkh micholii), or dripping with melancholia (saalii khushi). He's off the sur in places, but that seems very calculated - or is it?

And at last, for the dhokhaa-daayak "emo[tio|sa]nal atyaachaar" songs. That phrase is so cheesy and so appropriate that it will turn into a worn-out cliché. Especially for the brass band version (an immaculate concept, if any), which on repeated hearings could so easily turn into hilarity by the time the movie hits the screens. That might actually work against the intended mood. Don't hear it too often if the song needs to retain its novelty freakness! The rock version is safer, with a great opening guitar riff and sung with throat-shattering gusto by Bony Chakravarthy.

Phew. Undoubtedly, there are a hajaar music influences at play in Dev.D's soundscape. I found myself thinking of fragments from several songs. In several places, the lyrics are both wonderful and with an original flavour. A loser's tale has seldom been more plunge-worthy. Whatever happens to his movies, Anurag Kashyap's track record in getting music that you can also touch and feel remains intact. In many ways, the follow-up to the collaborations with Vishal Bhardwaj is appropriate. Amit Trivedi's music is intertwined with Amitabh Bhattacharya's words in a wholesome concoction. Where did all these people come from, you wonder - these Labh Jajuas, Shilpa Raos, Shellees, Toshis and Aditis and Shrutis, Manis and Kshitijs, and most of all, these Amits? The efforts in composition, writing, performances boggle the mind.

An album so trippy, you find yourself on your backside often, staring into that strange sky. You bitch. Indeed.

A more detailed and appropriately awe-struck review here.


Unknown said...

I havent heard the rest yet, but emotional atyachaar is cult :D :D

Ajay said...

Weird, my RSS feed seems to have missed this - caught it in your link to the "word of the year" post.

An absolute tour de force of an album. I use that phrase with great care :). Amit Trivedi is a composer to watch out for.

My pick would be Duniya ye Duniya - electric guitar and harmonium, what a concept!