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Om Shanti Om: A Music Review

18 Sep

Movies, as Akira Kurosawa observed with such penetrating simplicity in his book Something Like An Autobiography, are not just a visual medium – they’re an audio-visual one. To ignore one is to harm the other.

In Indian cinema, we’ve taken this lesson so much to heart that sometimes the visuals suffer for the audio. Conventional wisdom, in Bollywood especially, runs that the ultimate factor in determining a movie’s success at the box office is its soundtrack. Examples to the contrary litter the field, including one of my all time favorite albums Dil Se, which went on to launch AR Rehman’s West End debut under the aegis of that purveyor of all things bound to make a million or two, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

That movie was remarkable in many ways (it introduced us to Priety Zinta, gave us – horribly miscast – Kashmiri and Malayalee lead characters, launched Sukhwinder Singh as a singing sensation, catapulted Malaika Arora Khan from the status of yet another hot model to ultimate item girl and was the only time Shekhar Kapur, Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Verma came together to make a movie) but it remains one of Shahrukh Khan’s biggest disasters till date.

But on the other hand, I have no explanation whatsoever for the success of, say, Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, a dated, badly written piece of crap starring SRK, Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan that was apparently made as a bit of industry charity to help out struggling Salman-faithful producer KC Bokadia. The only thing that sleazoid movie had going for it was a halfway decent soundtrack with exactly two hummable numbers and a scene in which a heartbroken, drunk SRK talks (so said the subtitles) to a “horsie”. Hee.

Anyway, getting back to business, Om Shanti Om is director Farah Khan’s sophomore effort after the very successful SRK-Sushmita Sen starrer, Main Hoon Na. The plot seems to weave in the same Bollywood-insider-pokes-gentle-fun-at-industry vibe of her first movie: Om is an extra in 1970s Bollywood who falls in love with Shantipriya, the “Dreamy Girl” of the era (debutante Deepika Padukone). Things happen, the two fall in love, get murdered and are then reborn as Sandy and Om. It would have been all sorts of fun if Om had turned into Shanti and vice versa but I don’t think that’s going to happen, alas.

Now it’s been a while since I had any fresh Bollywood music to listen to, so suffice it to say I leapt on the soundtrack with cries of joy… Okay, so, no, I didn’t but I considered doing it. Here’s what I found:

Ajab Si – I’m a sucker for simple melodies, especially when they manage to trick me into thinking I can sing them only to realize a few minutes later that I’m now a big hit in the local frog world (“Sorry, Mr. Frog, but I can’t make it to dinner today. I’m taking the year off from flies.”) but my neighbors have already put their house on the market. Ajab Si is definitely one of my favorites off the album, its lyrics perfectly conveying the wonder of a man who can’t believe his luck as he observes the girl of his dreams from up close.

Dard-e-Disco – If my calculations are correct, Sukhwinder Singh has sung precisely two songs: Chhaiyya Chhaiyya by AR Rehman and this Other Song by every other music director out there. It doesn’t matter what they call it, the “dependable” Mr. Singh always sounds exactly the same. I’ve long since stopped listening to anything when I hear his voice because my brain has now received the message loud and clear – a Sukhwinder Singh song is not for listening, it’s for seeing. Shame, really, because given the right song, I bet he’d hit it out of the park. Not that he does anything wrong with this number. He really is a very talented man – half the numbers he’s given would have tanked out of sight if he hadn’t lent it whatever punch he has left. It’s just that it’s yet another variant of the Other Song. Question: if I’m this sick of this song he keeps singing, how do you imagine he feels?

Deewangi Deewangi – For the space of a quick second, I thought this was a qawwali. Never have I been disabused so fast or so rudely. Here follows a short letter to Javed Akhtar:

Dear Javed uncle,

I hope you don’t mind a complete stranger calling you ‘uncle’. I find it helps me pen this letter a lot more politely. I understand you are at the whim and mercy of the people who make the films. You’re just doing your job, satisfying the clients. But at the end of the day, when I pick up the disc, all I can see is that you are the man responsible for penning the immortal refrain “All hot girls, put your hands up and say – Om Shanti Om/ All cool boys come on make some noise and say – Om Shanti Om”. So, what’re all the fug girls and dorky guys gonna do, uncle? Hold each other’s hands and go see Saawariya, is my guess. Next time someone leans on you to write “cool” lines in angrezi-e-Amreeka, please throw a fit and then throw them out. You’re Javed Akhtar, for God’s sake! Just ask Shabana auntie. She’ll remind you.

Best wishes,

Amrita.

Main Agar Kahoon – This is my second favorite off this album in spite of Sonu Nigam’s dedicated efforts to ham it up. Featuring what I later realized was the theme music, it’s elevated immeasurably by the brief appearance of Shreya Ghoshal.

Jag Soona Soona Lage – You know this is a sad song right away by applying the Bollywood Code for Displaying Emotion, Rule # 3, Section 11A (Sadness): When a woman with a voice deeper than Lata Mangeshkar sings, she is always sad. Unless she’s horny. She cannot be sad and horny at the same time, however. Sorry. So here’s Richa Sharma and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, all sad and lovely. By far my favorite song in this album. I’m going to be the hit of the frog world with my cover of this one. Yeah, baby!

Dhoom Tana – I had visions of Sridevi in the pre-Yash Chopra/ dedicated Jeetendra phase all through this song even if it has a habit of making sudden detours through Shammi Kapoor country for no rhyme or reason. I’m always skeptical about a track that tries too hard to be all old-timey, not because I’m fundamentally opposed to reinterpretation or nostalgia but because it’s really hard to pull off. This one takes a few minutes to get used to but ultimately, Vishal-Shekhar ought to get down on their dimpled knees and thank Shreya Ghoshal and Abhijeet for rendering it with just the right amount of conviction. Especially Abhijeet who keeps singing “Mrig-naini tu na jaane, prem kitna mere man mein hai” (“Doe-eyed one, thou dost not know the amount of love in mine heart”) without once breaking down into hysterical giggles. Kudos. Still, this one’s hardly likely to make it to my iPod. I am curious about its picturisation though.

Daastan-e-Om Shanti Om – When a movie about rebirth is called Om Shanti Om, it’s a given that Karz is the first thing that pops into your head… if you’re a fan of Bollywood at all events. Rather than ignore the elephant in the room, OSO takes it on head-first. And – I can’t believe I’m typing this but – does a really good job. Oh, the lyrics and the refrain of the updated version aren’t a patch on Ek hasina thi, which has been haunting Bollywood lovers for decades. In fact, the first thing that Daastan made me want to do was listen to Ek hasina thi all over again. And in a weird way, that actually helped. And how happy am I to find that Shaan sang this song? For a while there I was afraid he was going to devolve into the lightweight Cheshire Cat singer of Bollyworld. Good to know someone’s using him to good effect at last. Just don’t tell Sukhwinder.

Deewangi Deewangi (Rainbow mix) – see above. Also, note to producers: it’s very nice of you to go the extra mile and make a rainbow mix for the gay and lesbian community of the desi diaspora. I’m sure the non-fug and non-dorky bits are properly appreciative.

Soundtrack available at a shop near you or at your favorite pirated music joint. Movie releases November 9.

[Originally published at Desicritics.org]

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15 Comments

Posted by on September 18, 2007 in Entertainment, Movies, Music, Review, Video

 

15 responses to “Om Shanti Om: A Music Review

  1. Saakshi O. Juneja

    September 19, 2007 at 1:22 am

    You know me having a strong feeling that this film will fail to impress the audience. SRK’s presence gurantees box-office recovery but on the whole the film will flop with respect to mass appeal. There is just somthing not right…can’t really put my finger on it. Not that I found Farah Khan’s Main Ho Na to be any good.

    On the other hand, I am really impressed with SLB’s Saawariya. The promos add the little jist of mystery….what you say?

     
  2. Amrita

    September 19, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Saks – well if its anything like MHN then its bound to be pretty brainless but i think it’s gonna do well because of Saawariya. I think Saawariya is gonna be much prettier and stuff but at the end of the day its a SLB film and I can sense the melodrama already. And I can’t stand it! But then I’m in the minority I guess coz I found Black a bit hysterical and not in a funny way. HDDCS, imo, remains his best film because he didn’t go overboard in it the way he has with every film since then. Waiting to hear the soundtrack though. 🙂

     
  3. the mad momma

    September 20, 2007 at 2:30 am

    God – I searched high and low to figure out why MHN wasn’t a huge flop and nothing came to me. Nothing. This one shows as much promise. Why does SRK agree to such brainless boob ideas? And I am sorry if this is not a very deep remark… I am just so busy laughing my ass off at the post.

     
  4. Beth

    September 20, 2007 at 9:17 am

    I’m really excited about OSO – I thought MHN was both clever and affectionate, and when I am pressed to name my favorite Hindi film that’s usually what I say. Love your letter to Javed. I bet you could write tons of those!

     
  5. Amrita

    September 22, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    MM – coz it makes mucho moolah 🙂 glad I made you laugh, achy breaky tooth and all.

    Beth – I think its the hyper-Bollywoodness of it that appeals to a lot of people. It was a pretty bold choice for Farah to highlight exactly those things that most Indians complain about in typical bollywood fare but i guess it paid off. It definitely wasnt mean or vulgar like some spoofs can be. And yes, given a choice between the other release that day and OSO, i’ll take the spoof over the melodrama. … And yes, i’m brimming over with letter ideas. Maybe I should do a letter writing segment the way Craig Ferguson does. 😀

     
  6. Bikram

    September 25, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Wow, exactly what I’d have written if I were to pen a review of this album.
    Only mismatch being this – my favorite from this album is “Ajab Si”, followed by “Mai aagar Kahu” and then “Jag suna suna lage”.
    And yeah, while listening to “Dastan”, I too had a feeling that it’s telling the story of Karz. Some days back I had read in Bangalore Times that Karz 2 is being made. So, I thought maybe this Karz 2 is named “OSO”. But nope. Someone else is canning Karz 2. Still, this particular song is so close to “Ek Hasina Thi” that I’m sure the base story of both Karz & OSO is pretty much the same.

     
  7. Amrita

    September 26, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Bikram – i believe OSO is Karz-in-Bollywood. the Karz 2 you’re talking about is being made by… are your ready? THE HIMESH! aka himesh reshammiya. 😀 Ajab si is definitely beautiful!

     
  8. Sanna

    October 14, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Great reviews Amrita!

    Potentially saving me a fortune considering the only way I can get to a cinema playing bolly movies is to travel the 90 minutes into London and then navigate the underground.

    Following an exceedingly humiliating moment on the Virgin train to Manchester where my headphones managed to unplug themselves from my laptop (yes, they do indeed have the ability) and expose the entire train carriage filled with all but one desi person to the “all hot girls” fiasco of Deewangi Deewangi I was considering starting up a petition against the random “we are trying to appeal to the NRdesI demographic” english line. But having read your letter to uncle Javed, I am now certain the issue is being looked into and can finally relax!

    Much across-the-pond love!

     
  9. Amrita

    October 15, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Sanna – omigod, that’s like my number one nightmare!!! 😀 right back at ya with much sympathy.

     
  10. Somebody

    October 16, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Amrit, (about Dard-e-Disco) – It’s not that Sukhwinder doesn’t sing any low-key-note romantic or other versatile songs, it’s that the songs that become his blockbusters are actually in his high pitch. Listen to Bluke Umbrela’s Barfaan, Kisna’s Aham Brahmasmi, NASHA HI NASHA HAI’s Pyar Hota Hai, Ishq’s Heer, etc and ask yourself if there’s any other singer who could have done even a close justice to the songs. Ask Sonu Nigam, Ismail Darbaar, Subhash Ghai, Vishal Bharadwaj, and other people who really understand the music, and you’ll know why they say great things about Sukhwinder Singh.

     
  11. Somebody

    October 16, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Amrita, (about Dard-e-Disco) – It’s not that Sukhwinder doesn’t sing any low-key-note romantic or other versatile songs, it’s that the songs that become his blockbusters are
    actually in his high pitch. Listen to Blue Umbrela’s Barfaan, Kisna’s Aham Brahmasmi, NASHA HI NASHA HAI’s Pyar Hota Hai, Ishq’s Heer, etc and ask yourself if there’s any other singer who could have done even a close justice to the songs. Ask Sonu Nigam, Ismail Darbaar, Subhash Ghai, Vishal Bharadwaj, and other people who really understand the music, and you’ll know why they say great things about Sukhwinder Singh.

     
  12. Amrita

    October 17, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Somebody – Sukhwinder, is that you? Lol, j/k! I didn’t mean to imply that SS didn’t have the chops Quite the opposite really. It’s just that ever since Chaiyya Chaiyya, people seem to have pegged him as a particular kind of singer and very few composers seem interested in exploring his talent. Look at the examples you’ve given: are they running against type? yes. how much airplay did they get? next to nil. You can say this is the choice made by TV channels/radio stations but the fact is, when an album drops, the producers know how they’re going to promote it – and when it comes to a SS track, they’ll promote the hell out of the “Other Song” (I was being sarcastic there, btw) rather than his more interesting ones.
    Bottom line: I think he’s being treated badly.

     
  13. tania

    November 12, 2007 at 8:32 am

    i fink main hoon ha was very very good it waz amazing it wasny even a flop neys om shanti om looks really good it will be a hit on the other hand saawariya looks amazing and it wll defentily be a hit was meant o watch both of them this weekend but things came up so im watchin it next weekend

     
 
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