Poetry in motion pictures

Poetry in motion pictures

The Panel

Prasoon Joshi is executive chairman and regional creative director, South and South-East Asia, McCann World group, but his work as lyricist has been his most creative. He’s written some of the decade’s most successful songs.

Ram Sampath is a composer and producer with the music production house, The Mint. His work includes several advertisements and three feature films. He travelled around India recently, recording ‘thumri’ singers and revisiting his classical roots.

Swanand Kirkire is a writer and lyricist. Kirkire made an impressive debut, writing for Sudhir Mishra’s ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’ in 2005. He has teamed up with music director Shantanu Moitra and the duo’s most recent work is for ‘3 Idiots’.

Bishwadeep Chatterjeeis a veteran sound engineer who has worked on numerous blockbusters such as ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, ‘Devdas’ and both ‘Munna Bhai MBBS’ and its sequel ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’. He is an avid music lover.

The list

Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

Here was an entirely new sound. Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy captured the pulse of the film with an original, feel-good sound that had an edge to it. The songs were beautifully woven into the narrative, moving the story forward.

Brimful of melody: (clockwise from top left) Stills from Delhi-6; Dil Chahta Hai; and the songs O Re Chhori from Lagaan and Kajra Re from Bunty Aur Babli.

Lagaan (2001)

Every song in A.R. Rahman’s first big soundtrack of the decade is beautifully written. Like the film, the soundtrack has a grand quality to it. And again, the music added much to the movie. Even the English bits in O Re Chori worked.

Saathiya (2002)

Again, one of Rahman’s best—all the songs have josh (energy) and there are some very unconventional compositions. Rahman is experimental with Gulzar’s lyrics and the end product is edgy. You can never get bored of this soundtrack.

HazaAron Khwaishein Aisi (2005)

Bawra Mann is one of the best songs of the decade. The soundtrack used classical music beautifully with songs that were driven by good, poetic lyrics, and it is also a good example of successful fusion experiments—there’s a rock-heavy song as well as a folksy number.

Parineeta (2005)

Shantanu Moitra, who also did the music for Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, made his mark in 2005. Parineeta also had some great lyrics. And the retro sound captured the 1960s era, in which the movie is set.

Omkara (2006)

From Rekha Bhardwaj and Sunidhi Chauhan’s voices to Gulzar’s lyrics and Vishal Bhardwaj’s music, this soundtrack possesses a well thought-out rusticity. The lyrics are full of innuendoes and metaphors, yet the songs just take you in. Beedi... struck a chord with all types of listeners.

Rang De Basanti (2006)

This is an iconic album, not just because it expresses the angst inherent in the film so well, but also because it is an examination of a certain mindset. It made the word “paathshala" cool. Rahman has pushed his boundaries here and each song has a distinct character. He also introduced new voices such as Naresh Iyer. The panel agreed that Rang de Basanti is the most important album of the decade.

Taare Zameen Par (2007)

Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy used a lot of restraint in this album in keeping with the sensibility of the film. The lyrics were beautiful and Shankar Mahadevan sings Maa without any flourish. There’s a simplicity to the songs, one that distils the thoughts behind them beautifully. When it plays on the radio, you can shut out the world.

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007)

Technically, this is one of the decade’s best albums. There is a remix feel to it even though there has been no mixing as such. The base consists of Indian tunes, to which Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy have added their touch and made it foot-tapping. The sound is mainstream, but with interesting lyrics and riffs. The most beautiful song of the album is Bol Na Halke Halke.

Delhi-6 (2009)

This album sees Rahman at his most experimental. Its been his decade and with Delhi-6, he proves that he can take a simple folk song, layer it with drum beats and make it memorable. A truly eclectic album with varied influences, and lyrics which complement the experiments.

The process

It took us and our panellists a little time to decide whether the best of Hindi film music of the decade should comprise a list of entire soundtracks or just individual songs. There are many examples in Hindi cinema of a song outshining the album or film it is a part of. At first, we compiled a longlist of songs, but our panellists felt that even in the longlist, many deserving songs had been left out. Besides, a soundtrack is a better yardstick with which to judge a composer because it reflects an entire sensibility and character.

The longlist of soundtracks took us less than 2 hours to put together. The evening at the coffee shop of Taj Lands End in Bandra, Mumbai, turned out to be as much about sharing stories behind the making of songs, both famous hits and the lesser-known ones, over double espressos and Darjeeling tea.

Works of two of our panellists, Prasoon Joshi and Swanand Kirkire, featured in the longlist as well as the final shortlist. While they did not nominate their own works, the other three panellists were unanimous in their opinion that Joshi’s work in Rang de Basanti and Delhi-6, and Kirkire’s work in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Parineeta are among the best of the decade.

Arriving at a consensus on nine out of the 10 albums was easy. The final spot had three contenders: Kalyug, by various music directors, which had the popular song Jiya Dhadak Dhadak; Parineeta by Shantanu Moitra, and Dev.D by Amit Trivedi. Opinions were sharply divided, but finally Parineeta got most votes.

The panellists also felt that some iconic songs, which are not in the selected albums, could not be ignored and should be listed as anthems of the decade (see box).