There is this tricksy thing people do: use an uncommon word as the title of a project and hope that makes it stand out from the crowd. If you win, then you hit the recognizability jackpot; lose and it’s just one more thing that’ll keep the audience away. Thus, the latest from the YashRaj banner, Tashan.
Tagged “The Ishtyle… The Goodluck… The Pharmoola“, ever since I got a good look at the theatrical teasers, I’ve thought this movie was cocking a snook at all the criticism YashRaj has had to face in the past few years viz. style over substance. I guess Aditya Chopra’s tashan (style, modus operandi) is to never back down.
So the four main characters (played by Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar and Anil Kapoor) walk out in slo-mo through exploding bits of scenery a la Dhoom, sporting a variety of shades and accompanied by a bass guitar – and then Anil Kapoor informs us that the “furst impreson ij lasht impreson”. Indeed.
Tellingly, we’ve heard about Akshay’s paycheck (Rs. 12 crores), Kareli’s romance (now playing on a TV near you), and the directorial debut of Dhoom writer Vijay Krishna Acharya. What we haven’t heard even a rumor about? Is the plot. Generally? Not a good sign. On the other hand, I guess we have our answer: Chak De was an aberration. Which is all to the good coz I can now enjoy the final product in peace without being burdened by things like expectations. Good call there, Chopra Jr.
Okay… so, the music of Tashan. Vishal Shekhar, who ended the year on a high with the decidedly mixed Om Shanti Om, wield the baton on this one. What’s interesting about these two is that in addition to composing Bollywood tracks and appearing on reality TV shows, they also own a label of their own called Vishal Shekhar Counter Culture Records. Don’t laugh because I think they were earnest as proven by this here track by Raghu Dixit (and I liked the song). The reason I mention this is because Tashan is the first album where they’ve really impressed me with that Hindustani classical / rock background of theirs.
Dil Haara – My second-favorite track of the album, it’s such a pleasure when Sukhwinder Singh cuts loose. It starts slow, concentrating on Singh’s pipes, with a slightly rustic feel to it, and then the bass guitar from the teaser kicks in – and I suddenly want to buy a car so I can drive around to this track. And I don’t even drive! The lyrics by Piyush Mishra effortlessly continue the folksy feel of the beginning and he manages to keep it fresh. By the time the song ends on a surprisingly techno note, you’re pretty much sold on the album and want to hear more.
Pooja Ka Tashan – Four of the songs in the album are prefaced by a few lines of spoken word in which a character tells you what her/his tashan is all about. Sometimes, like in this first pairing, the relationship between the subsequent song and the character is pretty straightforward, for others I assume it will be more apparent in the movie. First up is Kareena Kapoor who reels off a couple of lines about how she’s totally hot and a tomboy or a rebel – I think they’re supposed to be the one and the same thing here. For a moment I thought she was telling me she didn’t like being a girl which would have been a really interesting twist for the story to take (sex change operation! gay man hiding in a woman’s body!) but nope, no such luck. She just doesn’t like to follow conventions.
Chhaliya – Now comes the good part. Sunidhi Chauhan’s remarkable patience in putting up with top banner dross is finally rewarded with a song she can sink her teeth into. Guitar riffs and a catchy beat compete with a folksy bit voiced by an unconventional choice (lyricist Piyush Mishra) to keep her company. And if the chorus sounds increasingly angry as it tells the boys to lay off, I’m sure they didn’t mean it. Lyrics, penned by Anvita Dutt Guptan, are once again not precisely the stuff great poetry is made of but absolutely perfect for this song.
Jimmy Ka Tashan – Look, I’ll be the first to admit that Saif Ali Khan has worked really hard to improve those bits of himself that frankly sucked when he made his debut. If you’d told me back then that Saif v. 1.0 would turn out to be this scrumptious, I’d have asked you what you were smoking. So, in the face of the kind of superhuman effort that clearly went into his reinvention and much as I’m digging it, it kind of pains me to say that there are some God given things you just can’t do anything about. Like your voice. He’s been speaking in a lower register for a few years now and that works on film but there’s nothing like recording your voice by its squeaky self to unmask all its flaws. So Saif v. 2.0 rhymes his naive wonder at the world and the strange people who live in it and how they might be injurious to his health… and I try to cut him some slack. He’s an actor, not a voice artist after all.
Dil Dance Maare – Do you remember this song from a David Dhawan movie in which Govinda kept asking Karisma Kapoor, “What is mobile number“? Okay, so musically? This song kicks that one’s ass. It marries folk to stoner to rock to typically Bollywood beats. It’s a total trip. But the lyrics, penned by Vishal and sung by Sukhwinder Singh, Udit Narayan and Sunidhi Chauhan, affect the same kind of zaniness except worse. It was touch and go for a while as to whether I was amused or annoyed by lines like “White white face dekhe, dilwa beating fast, sasura dance maare re, Oh very happy in my heart, dil dance mare re“. But the music wore me down and I decided I was having fun. If you can survive past the first stanza, I bet you’ll feel the same. The trick is to control that finger as it itches for the skip forward button. Oh, and don’t pay any attention to the chorus – I don’t know why they have that weird accent but I suppose it shall all be revealed by and by.
Bachchan Pande Ka Tashan – Akshay Kumar pays some kind of homage to Amitabh Bachchan by mentioning “Ganga kinare” (like in the song) and saying something about credit cards and Ram and Sita. I be not understanding pliss. However, he is the only one of the four who sounds genuine rather than a complete poseur. Kudos.
Falak Tak – This is my favorite track of the album. Electro folk isn’t the easiest feel to pull off, especially in a romantic song, but it’s absolutely seamless here. And what really impresses me about it is that it retains that indefinable Bollywood flavor. You can really picture this song in any Yash Chopra movie – but it doesn’t sound derivative in any way. I loved it so much, I feel like I’m setting myself up to be told that this is directly lifted from some South Indian movie I never heard of. God, I hope not. Udit Narayan and the under used Mahalaxmi Iyer sing Kausar Munir’s lyrics and take them up that extra notch. I’ve also come to conclusion that I really, really like the word “falak“. What? Like you’ve never had a favorite word.
Bhaiyyaji Ka Tashan – Huh. The movie hasn’t even released and I already want to club Anil Kapoor to death. If you thought that unfunny accent was some stylistic decision he took for the space of a scene or the promo, do I ever have bad news for you! He lays it on thick and heavy to mouth a series of disjointed sentences about: his language skills, his underwear, his work ethic and his need to follow old school villainy. It’s also interesting to note that back in the old days Raj Kapoor sang about his Indian heart – in 2008 this Kapoor proudly notes his Indian underwear. Sign of the times? On the heels of Welcome and Race, I really don’t know if I can take this. Dude, Anil Kapoor, 30 years of an interesting career and it all comes to this? I’m this close to egging your house.
Tashan Mein – This is the only song I feel sort of meh about. It has its moments of brilliance but it’s hard to get away from the commercial-turned-into-movie-song feel of it. When I first heard it, the hook fooled me into seeing a resemblance with what I call the Sanjay Gupta anthems – those really mellow rock songs he likes to set his movies to. But this song, with Vishal pulling double duty as co-writer with Piyush Mishra and co-performer with Saleem, is more complex than those songs. It’s okay.
Check out IndiaHits if you’d like to hear the songs before you buy. And yes, I would buy.