The songs in Dear Zindagi that don’t work so well carry the burden of the awkward Hinglish hangover of the film’s title. Love You Zindagi and Just Go to Hell Dil are decent tracks that have their moments. But the phonetic strain of their hook lines trickle down to the rest of the composition. Love You Zindagi is Amit Trivedi on auto-mode, a rehash of the peppy English Vinglish title song; and Just Go To Hell Dil, is a standard power ballad that has much to owe to another English Vinglish song, Gustakh Dil. In both, lyricist Kausar Munir seems to be in an uncomfortable zone, producing lines that are either too simplistic Keh do muskurahat ko. Hi, Hi, Hi, Hi, Keh do ghabrahat ko. Bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, or, just unnatural, as in Just Go to Hell Dil.
These come across as too synthetic for Munir, whose strength is playing with more rooted language. She gets to exercise that in Tu Hi Hai, a song that sounds like a breezy Trivedi track dreaming up a sunny, cheerful 90s Indi-pop music video, where “mohalla” and “beema” cohabit beautifully with “guitar” and “diary”. Arijit Singh, shifting gears between an old-fashioned playback singer and a smooth performer, is perfect. The good cheer and easy-listen vibe of Tu Hi Hai is passed on to Taarefo Se. With a title that could have been a ghazal’s, it begins like a moody Hindi film oldie and plays out like a simple, hummable song that becomes increasingly jazzy. Singh brings so much improvisational value to the basic melody that it is hard to imagine a substitute. Trivedi understands his star-singer’s potential and allows him to make the song his own. Munir is in form and pitches in delightfully feel-good phrases like “sufi shikayat” and “filmy shararat”. Trivedi, who is always trying out new ways of making the arrangement sound fresh, gives it the clear sound of a live acoustic set. These two songs, played back-to-back, are easily the best stretch of the album.
And with Lets Break Up, we have the second Hindi film song of the year that instead of grieving a “break-up” celebrates it. Like Break Up Song from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, it turns out to be a lot of silly fun. Trivedi toys with synth-based disco and makes Vishal Dadlani sound fabulously drunk and autotuned. The album has two versions of Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le and I found myself liking the Alia Bhatt version more than the one by Singh, which is sincerely sung but a little..boring, Bhatt’s version has an interesting arrangement and her artfully modified singing is effective.
Ultimately, Dear Zindagi features everything from an uninspired Trivedi to moments that bring the best out of the composer; it is also refreshingly free from Trivedi’s own vocals —a growing problem in his albums of late that he seems to have addressed. The lighter, casual songs are much more original and enjoyable than the others: a simple truth the promos seem to have completely missed.
Our picks from the album
1. Taarefo Se
2. Tu Hi Hai
3. Let’s Break Up