By Rohit Mehrotra 

The Hindi film music universe is filled with emotionally impoverished creators and malnourished listeners. These wealthy creators have been quietly chipping away at melody and have left us appreciating even mediocre innovation. Forced prettiness of airbrushed vocals has been suffocating to say the least. Music to them has been all about engagement and gone are the days when music was a currency in larger cultural dialogue. Everyone is in a hurry for God knows what. I am pretty sure that the makers of Gulabo Sitabo are from a different universe. I haven’t seen the teaser or trailer. I just played the music album and here is what happened afterwards: 

Madari Ka Bandar has a rockstar called Ankur Mukharjee who has played ‘various pluck instruments’ according to Zee music credits. Anuj Garg’s voice complements Tochi’s voice in a breathy manner which makes the song even more relatable. The composition is pretty simple and that in itself is at a premium these days. Tochi Raina is pleasant, largely. I loved the way Dinesh Pant has written the song that is emblematic of a lot of sikanders who find themselves carrying the weight of their sikander-ness, only to dance to the cheap tunes of a dharmi or adharmi madari. Let us hope they can find sweetness in the sour sea of struggles. A word on the production – there is a fabulous bass play all throughout with restrained drums among other things, and this riot is not once cacophonous or distracting. What a beauty!

Jootam Phenk is penned by Puneet Mishra and composed by Abhishek Arora. The Clarinet/Saxophone play by Shirish Malhotra is very close to ‘Laili jaan’, and it does full justice to the genre. In fact, I was quite worried that the lead vocalist of the song would try to over-intensify and over-sing the song. That has, thankfully, not happened and kudos to the composers for that. Ankur Mukherjee is in top form with the guitar and even though it is a lightly arranged song, the production is rich and the sound splendid. Piyush Mishra is strictly average. 

Mika singh and Shantanu Moitra? Yes please! In Kanjoos, Puneet Sharma’s lyrics are top class. ‘Ok’ waale text ko bhi ‘k’ mein he niptaye…of course this is epitome of kanjoos-ness. There is not a ‘nukta’ that would make you cringe in the song. Mika is restrained and the sound gets very drum dholki daphli towards the end, but remains well executed. Still, the winner of the song is Puneet Sharma’s lyrics. 

Kya Leke Aayo Jagme is penned and sung by Vinod Dubey. The song is composed by Shantanu Moitra. The instrumentation is earthy and the Kabir Amritvani vibe of the song struck a chord with me. There is beauty in simplicity and this song captures it in a way that is easy to fathom but hard to execute, especially by those who encourage bad songs and try to appear intelligent by complaining ‘oh god one more remix?’. Shantanu and Vinod have won me over many times over, and I think I cried every time they did so.

Do Din Ka Ye Mela: Reprise has been penned by Dinesh Pant and composed by Anuj Garg. Tochi sounds better and more confident in this song than his previous outing in the album. I am in absolute love with the arrangement of this song and the album as a whole, but more on that later.  I love the way how towards the end of the song (3:06 mins), Tochi pauses and economizes his delivery of ‘Jeevan chalte jaana hai’. Normally such delivery is reserved for a crescendo caused by excessive instruments. Here the only ‘crescendo’ you will experience is the one caused by your emotions. Marvellous! 

Budhau – Reprise is penned by Dinesh Pant and composed by Anuj Garg. Bhanwari Devi gets mellow with tongue in cheek lyrics here. The ‘by the chabutra‘ vibe of the song is amplified by the live percussion that is a handiwork of Sanket Naik. There are times in the song especially at ‘sans atki hai’, where you feel Bhanwari Devi is trying to hurry up. Still, this is but a minor grouse in a song that will echo for a long time after the film fades to the back catalogue of Streamers. 

Do Din Ka Ye Mela, by Rahul Ram. That should be enough for a review I guess. Still, let me make a fool of myself and try to ‘explain’ this version. Where Tochi’s version is wistful and a bit resigned, Rahul grabs the composition by the balls and shows us why the throw of his voice will possibly last long after the universe has ended. Rahul is the sufi we need. Don’t be fooled by his low notes in the song, for he will surprise you like a bouncer from Allan Donald that whizzes past the batter and keeper, cutting them into two. The arrangement is loopy and instrumentation solid. This is the song we need. 

Budhau by Bobby Cash, among other things has Backing Voices Design by Rajiv Sundaresan, Neha Karode, Trumpet by Robin Fargose, Congas and Other Percussions by Kirti Prabar Das, Bass by Manas Chaudhary and Acoustic Guitar, Ukulele & Various Pluck Instruments by Ankur Mukharjee. There is much reason to celebrate this song because the team  has really outdone itself. It is so beautiful that it feels easy. Everyone is top class here and everyone is having genuine fun. Maybe that’s why it has a Goan and Pahadi Sukoon. Not everything has to be Punjabi, you see. I absolutely loved the vibe and the background vocals of the song along with Mr. Cash. Isn’t It amazing what independent thought and simple brilliance can do to a song and  an album?

Gulabo Sitabo Theme composed by Shantanu Moitra reminded me of too many good things and all of them were musical including Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. There is a lot of cute scheming and harmless conspiring going on especially between percussion and string instruments that is just a delight to experience. Though at times the theme was a bit shrill for my taste but I am sure it is my budhau-ness and nothing else. There aren’t too many film themes these days that stay on your playlist for long. This would be a glorious exception. I am also including the Clarinet theme in that exception. Not even a minute long, but the mischievous play is on ample display and is all too melodious.

It is extremely difficult in a multi-composer album to retain the oneness of the sound. Credit to all the artists and technicians that they have made the album sound naturally organic. In terms of production, be it for individual songs or as an album, this is a ‘Class A’ production. Rohail Hyatt would be proud of this sound. 

I heard or read somewhere that ‘Mitha bol khazana hai’. I felt the same way about the music album of Gulabo Sitabo. A treasure to me resembles an original music album which contains all things lost, things like melody and stillness of a moment. Thank you to everyone who is associated with the film. Thank you for not treating your album as a vehicle for inflating the valuation of your hype house that is your production company/record company. And thank you for treating the listeners with respect; we have all forgotten what that feels like. 

(All the credits mentioned have been taken from Zee music official youtube jukebox page, because that’s what we do now)

The author is always whining and generally blogs here. He has no branches and no social media presence, thankfully.