In modern day music-making, it’s hard to draw the line where songwriting ends and production begins. While the former includes creating the tune, working with the lyricist and on structure of the song, production means the arrangement, the quality of recording. In Hindi film music, the composer either does everything or supervises the production. In that respect, the album of Befikre is a first of sorts, at least in a major album helmed by a major composer. The songs are composed by Vishal and Shekhar but Mikey McCleary gets credit as the producer, in the credit list in the YouTube jukebox and, in terms of importance, almost at par with lyricist Jaideep Sahni. It seems to have made a world of difference. McCleary’s touch shines through the album. There is a breezy, Mediterranean vibe in the songs that otherwise follow the traditional Hindi film song format.

You can listen to the songs here .

It’s a contrast that works, best felt in Labon Ka Karobaar. The melody and lyrics—Jebo Mein Bikhre Hai Taare, Khaali Hua Aasma.., writes Sahni — are lovely, old-fashioned, sung with rare gentleness by Papon. McCleary, with economic use of a clarinet here and a melodica there, makes it sound like it has travelled in the hands of street musicians in Europe. Whether the Kiwi music producer was involved from the inception and had a bearing on the melodies or if he was roped in at a later stage isn’t clear. But Vishal and Shekhar seemed to have worked well around the situation, providing hummable, Indian melodies for McCleary’s foreign sensibilities. After listening to the final product, it’s hard to imagine one without another.

Nashe Si Chadh Gayi, for instance, stripped to its basics, seems familiar, a regular Punjabi number that tries to be Paani Da Rang in its antara. But McCleary soaks it in tequila and lets it groove to dream-pop beats in a glam beach party. Bollywood tracks with middle-eastern influences are either retro remixes (like Dil Cheez Tujhe Dedi from Airlift) or ones loaded with Sufiness(Afghan Jalebi). The Arabian tuned Ude Dil Befikre, sounds light and hip. Things get soft and romantic in Je T’aime, sung with the right kind of Western styled playback by Vishal Dadlani and Sunidhi Chauhan.

The only song that sounds utterly forgettable is You and Me, that has a generic, trendy, youthful tune. The arrangement seems bored too. Khulke Dulke is the Punjabi wedding number that revels in its bizarreness— it rhymes ishq ki bungee with have some fun jee, but I’m yet to succumb to its charms.

Befikre sounds unlike any other Aditya Chopra romance, or any Bollywood album for that matter. The trick of getting McCleary work with Vishal-Shekhar has paid off beautifully.

Our Pick

Labon Ka Karobaar

Nashe Si Chadh Gayi

Ude Dil Befikre

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