Bose - the musicHonestly, I had very few expectations from the score of Netaji Subhas Bose - The Forgotten Hero. For starters, the film & its music release seemed to be caught up in interminable delays and there was hardly any news about it, indicating problems at the producer/financier levels, which in my mind atleast, didn't augur a happy & cogent thinking crew. Few films that stretch out seem to come out well, and we hear that the film was over 3.5 hours long & not well-received on its initial set of test screenings. Perhaps the delay was in part due to Shyam Benegal doing some late post-production work. Then the first set of trailers appeared, and I wasn't very impressed. Plus, the lingering suspicion on whether A.R.Rahman would be able to segue into a Bengali flavour given reports that this album would need it.
Which was all fine in retrospect, because with almost every track, I felt myself going "This isn't too bad" and is probably why I will make a hearty recommendation for this music score.
The impressive thing about the album is that it has 20 tracks, the sheer number itself makes its a valued purchase. Of these, 7 are vocal tracks & the rest are "themes" or background pieces, including an orchestral variation of Jana Gana Mana. A more descriptive account of the tracks:
A.R.Rahman and the Western Choir, Chennai
This vigorously patriotic song establishes one of the three dominating moods of the album: the choral; the others being the melodic & the orchestral. With the Western Choir chanting Jai Hind! in harmony, the harmony dominates over the words. Lots of the tuba/trombone/trumpet like instruments sounding a positive, aggressive notes along with heavy rhythms. All playing excellent support to the vocalist, the music director himself, singing in all gusto. If you are prepared to overlook the heavily accented rendition which since are subordinate to the appropriate emotions being evoked, there isn't much to complain.
This track is the only one playing on the trailers, and believe me, it doesn't sound all that special on television. I have observed this with several other songs as well - that an opinion based on a TV trailer should be very cautiously made.
Kadam Kadam Badhaa_e Jaa
Vijay Prakash and the Mumbai Film Choir, Chennai
No song was more representative of Subhas Bose and the INA than this one, so ARR only has to supply arrangements for this. He employs a patently martial track & the choir is robust. Short and direct, the anthemic track is just as we know it.
For a film that aims to make aware the "forgotten" deeds of Netaji Bose, it is a glaring omission that the original composer of this song Captain Ram Singh(of the INA) is not mentioned on the credits. I still don't know who wrote the lyrics for this song - was it the Netaji himself?.
On a trivial note, though technically not a ARR composition, it continues the tradition of having a repetitive word sequence song, the likes of which always seem to appear in Rahman soundtracks.
Ekla Chalo Re
Nachiketa Chakraborty and Sonu Nigam
Unlike in the CD inlay, I put Nachiketa Chakraborty's name first above because he provides a stellar intro into this sonorous track. Tagore's immortal words are well paraphrased by Javed Akhtar to add another song in the kitty of quietly confident songs ("Do Kadam Aur Sahi", "Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna") that Sonu Nigam has got to sing for Rahman. The over-modulated rendition by Nigam may raise some eyebrows, but there is so much mellow positivity in this song that it doesn't matter.
Nachiketa Chakraborty only sings the "Ekla Chalo Re" refrain throughout, but he makes all the difference. The accompanying music elevates even this simple riff, with an outstanding rhythm change with "Eklaa Chalo Re" at the end.
jOdi tore Daak shunE keu naa aashE ... tabE eklaa chalO rE!
(Corrections welcome from Bangla-aware readers, I don't completely trust the lyrics with the cd, and couldn't find an accurate transliteration on the Web)
Hum Dilli Dilli Jaa_e.ngE
Mumbai Film Choir
This is actually a pretty decent track, though not very remarkable. I think the collective singing of the choir does elevate this song (the lyrics are all about the INA soldiers singing in military bravado). Perhaps meant more as a quick filler or bgm piece, this is a smallish track that fits in well with the album.
DEs ki miTTi
Sonu Nigam, Anuradha Sriram (backing vocals)
Amazing track. After several iterations of the album, I found myself coming back to this song for more. A song of longing for the country, the lyrics show why Javed Akhtar is unarguably the best film-lyric writer in the country today. The words describing the singer's yearning for his country are so evocative that it is not easy to remained unmoved. Also, the choice of words is quite novel for a Hindi film song.
The music in this one is also special. There are a lot of backing vocal voices, with Anuradha Sriram (she is credited as "Anuratha" - typo or numerology?). There is a very simple rhythm, lovingly embellished with ghu.ngruus and sweet violins playing. Oh, and there's a simple piano bit at the right places.
Now for some reason, this song evoked the feeling that this was quite Naushad-like. I don't know much about Naushad's music to be an expert, but perhaps something in the arrangements, Sonu Nigam's singing or the lyrics just brought the feeling of that era. Very instinctively. I can rarely resist the temptation to rewind to the song again immediately after I finish listening to it.
A.R.Rahman, Rafi, Rakeeb, Shaukat Ali
This is a meditative song about the practice of the "zikr" (seems to be more frequently a sufianaa practice), in which the many names of Allah are mentioned, remembered and evoked. This will accompany a "whirling dervish" sequence in the film.
Now this being a prayer song, I don't if there has been any composition involved here and if the chanting is as usually experienced.
Sapna Mukerjee, Satyanarayan Mishra
Sapna Mukerjee had more or less disappeared from the mainstream music scene for quite some time now, so I guess her return here is because of the Sahara connection (they're producing the film and she sings a lot of stuff for them). It's a lullaby (my friend Souvik tells me that Ghuumparaani maashi pishii mOdEr baaDi AeshO is a much recited lullaby phrase) and is somewhat wayward towards the middle and end. Very Bangla rhythms, but the song is a little disappointing.
The Theme pieces These are a mixed bag. The percussive Durga Rhythm is fabulous, with a shehnai foreground coursing through it and ends with an appropriate conch bit. This one is a little different from the following 12 theme tracks which have been recorded with the Czech Film Orchestra. The "Netaji-1" (essentially an "Ekla Chalo Re" instrumental), "Emilie-1" (where interestingly a riff from "Vande Mataram" seems to be present), "DEs ki MiTTi" themes are quite good, while I thought the remaining (two "Afghanistan" themes, the second parts of "Emilie" & "Netaji", "Kadam Kadam", "War", "U Boat" & "Hitler") themes were as yet unremarkable. Still, the aural diversity in this album is greatly enriched because of these theme pieces.
Of course, I'm not even including the orchestral version of the National Anthem in this discussion, because it always sounds fabulous and stirring.
In summary, quite an album and a valuable find. For the average Rahman fan, a CD worth hunting down for many several music shops haven't heard of it (atleast "Thakkar's Music Bank" had :-) ). Other listeners will find interesting tracks even if they don't have the time to devote to multiple listenings that an album like this deserves. The very fact that Rahman is first choice today for directors who can trust projects of such nature to him will mean that he grows more as a musician. This cannot even be subject to commercial considerations really, for it won't fit into those parameters at all.
Given the sweep of genres & orchestration, it would have been very useful to know a lot more about the singers, instruments and musicians involved than has been made available in the CD credits. But atleast all the lyrics are there.
I'm not even competent to venture any preliminary statements about the presence or absence of "Rabindra Sangeet" influences in some of the song, but I would be interested in knowing about them. When you listen to an album like this, you cannot help but be curious about the contributing musical milieus. So I got some info on the topic from the afore-mentioned Souvik - a small post on that later. Even if from just that angle, this has been a very satisfying and instructive experience.