Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Barfi (Hindi) - Pritam

The promos of Barfi got me really curious because the visuals had a distinctly French Cinema feel to them and so did the art design. I wondered how Anurag Basu (of all people) could conceive a film that looks very European. When the music released, I did not really take keen attention because the composer was Pritam – a composer about whom I didn’t not have a very great opinion, given the number of songs he is known for copying. One of the most baffling mysteries for me has been “Did Pritam really compose the classical-dance based ‘Mere Dholna’ in the film ‘Bhool Bhulaiyya’? If yes, how the hell did he pull it off?” But my first listening of Barfi album made me really sit up and take notice. The tunes and arrangements were unusually retro and that too, more in the style of blues and country music rather from Old Hindi Film Music. When I heard the album the 2nd time, I knew that this is one surprise cracker and I had to pen my thoughts about the album.

Barfi & Ala Barfi – There are two versions of this song – one by Mohit Chauhan and one by Swanand Kirkire. It is difficult to pick the best version. The song is a throwback at funny songs of Kishore Kumar. The tune and the vocal expressions completely go into Kishore territory of comically-conversational tone while the arrangements are largely in the country music genre, with guitars, accordion etc. The lyrics aptly fit the lyrics, complementing with funny lines in equal measure (Munna mute hi aansoo bahaye!).

Main Kya Karoon – Pritam chooses country blues with simple guitar strumming and a lilting conversational tune with Acapella harmonies. The vocals, by Nikhil George, with intentional croacking to bring in the cutesy feeling, are somehow suited to the kind of the tune and the lyrics that this song is laced with. Wonderfully composed interludes, replete with Irish violin, render the European touch to the song. The song has only 1 stanza but doesn’t feel short – probably because of its nice melody and great arrangements.

Kyon – Pritam goes retro again, this time into the Frank Sinatra mode. The swinging rhythm and hummable melody, with right vocals paint the playful mood evoked by the lyrics. This is one of those songs where everything is just about right. Right choice of singers (Papon, Sunidhi Chauhan , adequate arrangements, melody and simple lyrics. The way the strings section soars in the interludes, with bells – its Pritam’s ‘coming of age’ moment in exuding what is called as ‘class’, atleast in my perception. Oh yes, this song “might” resemble many country blues songs of the yore, but as I cannot locate any one definite song that seems like an original source, I’d like to give it to Pritam for crafting a wonderful composition in that genre.

Phir Le Aaya Dil – There are two versions of this composition, which I’d rank as the best of the album. One by Rekha Bharadwaj and one by  Arijit Singh. While Rekha’s version is more like an unplugged version (with only guitars and minimal percussive elements), Arijit’s version does have some good elaborate arrangements. The composition is more like a “Shankar Mahadevan meets Ghulam Ali” mould where the melody is very Ghazal oriented and rendition somewhere reminds me of Shankar’s style. The Piano interlude in Arijit’s version is very Rahmanish in treatment while lyrics by Swanand are top notch. This is perhaps one of the finest compositions of Pritam. And to be fair, both Arijit and Rekha did a great job in rendition.

Aashiyaan – sung by Nikhil George and Shreya Ghoshal, this song is strongly reminiscent of C.Ramchandra’s “Gore Gore” (which itself was copied from a western song). That said, this song does hold onto its own in terms of melody and instrumentation. Though Pritam is notorious for lifts, I am inclined to believe (going by the overall output in Barfi) that he only took C.Ramchandra’s song as reference Pritam took this song as reference (similarities exist) and developed this composition with his own ideas, adding a new colour and dimension to the melody thereby changing the original substantially. Very playful in tune with well-conceived arrangements having accordion, violin, string section etc., this one is as lilting as Kyon.

Saawli si raat – Arijit Singh’s deliberate flattened vocals could be a dampener slightly but the melody largely follows a nursery rhymish format (kiddish) – probably apt for the situation in the film. But Pritam pulls it off impressively with minimal arrangements (guitar) that slowly evolve into slightly denser with string arrangements and tabla. Simplicity is the key to this song.

I read that Pritam usually reserves his best for director Anurag Basu. I have liked only one song from one of their previous collaborations – “In Dinon” from Metro. But I seriously did not expect that their collaboration could be this good. Barfi is by far Pritam’s best album in his repertoire and perhaps his most innovative one. Probably saying so doesn’t hold much water because I hardly listened to his work but from the ones I have heard so far, this is the album about which Pritam must be feeling proud and he should be. With absolutely hummable melodies, soaked in country-ballad arrangements with very great support from vocalists as well as the lyricist, Barfi is a cut different from the music we have been listening to off-late, because of the unpretentious simplicity it exudes. A fantastic bouquet without a single thorn, Barfi will probably stand the test of time, unlike the pyar ki pungis and other stuff Pritam usually creates. I hope Pritam treats this as a new beginning.