If Rang De Basanti had the iridescent Roobaroo, then the soundtrack of Delhi-6 has Masak Kali, which sounds roguish and romantic at once. A.R. Rahman picks up the accordion on this track; that’s immediately a blast of retro. Black and white dreams collide with Technicolour as Rahman matches bar for word. Lyricist Prasoon Joshi has outdone himself this time.
Music to the soul: A still from Delhi-6.
Joshi recrafts the language of Bollywood in an effortless manner with lines such as “Ghar tera Saloni, badal ki colony...” Singer Mohit Chauhan sheds his pahadi melancholy for a cheekier avatar for the song that’s perfect for the rakish romeo that Abhishek Bachchan plays in the film.
Arziyan by Javed Ali (of Ghajini’s Guzarish fame) and Kailash Kher isn’t your typical scorching qawwali, but a softer form of surrender in a ballad of sorts, evoking images of evening prayers in a mosque where the sun plays shadow games with lattice windows before it disappears into the fog again.
Dilli-6 is the trippiest number in the album, the kind you’d hear in a limo on Fifth Avenue, with a hissing bass line, and Viviane’s nasal voice singing “Yeh shehar nahi mehfil hai”, which pretty much nails the soul of the city. French lyrics by Viviane and Claire up the chic quotient.
The thing about Rahman soundtracks is that most of them have musical ambition, want to surge forward, break new ground and no longer remain confined within the space of an Indian sound. It’s the same with Rehna Tu. While I wish the vocals with Rahman on the lead weren’t so underplayed, the sound is as evolved as a Brian Eno production.
Rahman, who has been dying to get his hands on the Continuum Fingerboard since he bought it two years ago, brings it out for Rehna Tu. The short, recurring guitar section that triggers memories of the zither sparkle in Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, clap beats, sweeping cascades and fountains make for a bleeding-edge composition.
But my pick has got to be the lush ballad Dil Gira Dafatan. London-based Ash King provides a soulful calm alongside a feverish symphony of strings and flutes. Once again, Rahman boldly picks out of the box so you don’t hear a seasoned singer who will miss the beauty of the track and place his stamp on it.
Rekha Bharadwaj, who did the spitfire Beedi Jalaile in Omkara , makes an appearance on the funked-up folk track Genda Phool. The extremely talented and underrated music composer Rajat Dholakia brings his expertise to two tracks including this one as a music supervisor.
Bhor Bhaye, a traditional Indian classical composition, shows off Shreya Ghoshal’s gasp-inducing modulations as she comes unhinged in the thumri. Both Joshi and Rahman are massive fans of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (featured on this track), who owns the raga Gurjari Todi and all its sublime, psychedelic, highs.
Rahman connects all the dots between filmi pop, world music, Indian classical and folk in Delhi-6. Rahman-Joshi and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, a formidable team at the box office, should know now that half the game is won.
Lalitha Suhasini is a freelance music journalist.
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