Umrao Jaan Soundtrack

Bollywood is in remake fever giving new sound and colour to yesteryear classics. After the soundtrack of “Don” which faced a lot of harsh criticisms for the music not matching the quality of the original, here comes the sound track of J.P.Dutta’s “Umrao Jaan” with music by Anu Malik and poetry by Javed Akthar . I am happy that I haven’t heard the sound track of the original version, which makes me to listen to the album without any prejudices and expectations. Even if I had heard it, I would never compare it with the original. My high expectation on the album is only because of the Dutta-Malik combination who gave us some worthy soundtracks like “Border” and “Refugee”.

Classics and Nostalgia

No matter how great is the music in the new version; it cannot and will not match the class or standards the original version has set. It is mainly because, it is not just the quality of music which makes us love those old songs so much, there is something more to it, it is the nostalgia of yours attached to each of the songs, which a new soundtrack can never give you. Whenever I listen to “Kaatra En Vaasal (Paigham from Lakeer in Hindi)” song from the Tamil movie soundtrack “Rhythm”, it immediately will remind me of my first day in college, because at that time, it was the newly released A.R.Rahman album and I was listening to it repeatedly while traveling to the college. If they remake the movie “Rhythm” and even if A.R.Rahman scores a better music for the same movie, I would still prefer the music of the original version as it reminds me some of the best episodes of my life but it doesn’t mean that the music of the new version is any lesser good than that of the original version.

New Sound

Also I don’t understand what the big fuss about the new sound is, what matters is the new melody. We people these days look for innovation in sound and rhythm more than the main melody in the song. It is pretty simple, music has to please your soul, relax your mind with fresh melodies and this album has got just that. I am not against new sounds but it is not mandatory for me, what I look in a song is a pleasing melody and only next comes everything else. People would call the music boring and outdated, even if Naushad comes with a “Mughal-E-Azam” in this era. That is the extent to which we have got used to this often misinterpreted term “the new sound”.

Music of Umrao Jaan

Considering the nature of the movie, Anu Malik has concentrated on main melody than innovative orchestration or sounds, like we use to listen in A.R.Rahman’s scores for period films. You cannot listen to a heavy bass line in a mujra (as you can listen in Rahman’s mujra Mein Vaari from Mangal Pandey) of Anu’s score for Umrao Jaan. Anu restricts himself to the style of music and instruments that is authentic to the period and that only adds simplicity and in turn beauty to the score. The songs are situational and are written suiting the various moods and emotions of a courtesan. Strings flowing like a river stream sounding her inner emotions - Sarangi giving the exact sound of the period and adds the sound of various emotions like love, longing and loneliness - Sitar pieces are like plucking the heart strings - tabla beating out with rhythm of Umrao Jaan’s heart - flute flourishing like fresh breathe of her embracing Nawabs in the court – Chal Chal sounds tracing the legs of her and all put together creates the perfect aura of each and every song.

I read in Anu’s interview that Javed Akthar insisted to write the lyrics first for which he had to compose tunes. It is quite a toll task considering the nature of such poems, the music has to complement the beauty of the words in poem and yet find its own beauty in its melody. It is a kind of perfect blend of the beauty of the words in the poem and the melody which can deliver a soul stirring number that also befits the situation in the movie. Anu Malik seems to have struck a right chord in doing that convincingly though not perfectly. The songs are slow, takes it own time to buildup, has got often heard Naushad style of subdued orchestration, nothing new in sounds or overall format but what makes it pleasant and appealing is the simple melody. Alka Yagnik is the voice of new Umrao Jaan, quite a surprising choice but she has done justice to the compositions. I am not going to single out a song as all the songs sound equally good to my ears. This album may not be for everyone, not that it has complex classical compositions but its pace and similar orchestration in all the songs may test one’s patience. Yet the album is a perfect companion for one’s loneliness.

May be Ismail Darbar would have done a better job giving new sounds and complex orchestrations by interweaving western classical elements with pure Indian classical melodies, but it is not about who should have done it and how it should have been, we can only judge the songs for what it is. I am not saying that the soundtrack is great but it is not bad either, Infact very good.


Zero said...

You should check out the soundtrack of the original (by Khayyam). I just loved a couple of songs from that.
And, well, I haven't checked out this album.

Suresh Kumar said...

Sure, i will listen to it and i know the compositions would be better (as many of them say)

Anonymous said...

Anu Malik is good but Ismail darbar wud have been better as he is too good in classical music (like Hum dil... and Devdas). Alka Yagnik is good but again Kavitha Subramaniam wud have been definitely better for these songs-Prakash.

Suresh Kumar said...

but the probability that it would have been better doesn't make these songs sound bad....right? that is what i am trying to say...