The soundtrack of Halla Bol clearly establishes Sukhwinder Singh (Hindustan Ki Kasam, Biwi No. 1, Kafila) as a relevant composer in Bollywood. From the “serious" CD cover, you know there’s not much scope for the usual sugar-and-spice sounds that our films are made of. There are no romantic duets here; one motivational song, one qawwali, one devotional number, and one item-esque ditty are some of the tunes that make up this soundtrack.

In the lead: Actor Ajay Devgan

Shabad Gurbani is simply delivered, and from the heart. Full marks for the wise employment of Raga Yaman. Yaman/Yaman Kalyan, a multifaceted scale of the Hindustani classical genre, fits beautifully into the devotional mould. Remember immortal classics Chhupa lo yun dil mein pyaar mera from Mamta and Mun re tu kaahe na dheer dharay from Chitralekha? This raga has rarely let down any composer. From Do naina matwaray tiharay in 1943 to Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat to Chandan sa badan, music makers have consistently counted on the spell of Yaman. And it does not undermine Sukhwinder’s honest vocal delivery. Clever delays and reverberation techniques add to the vocals at the correct time and provide the required musical effects. Chances are that one may not notice the acoustic ingredients used: the well-balanced sounds of the tabla, side percussion, harmonium and harp.

Sukhwinder outdoes himself with the pulsating Jab tak hai dum. His voice provides dramatic contrast to the Gurbani recitation. The Hollywood-style racy music induces a blood rush. The lyrics of this inspirational song are hard-hitting. Credited to Sameer and the late Dushyant Kumar, the number announces Jo himmat na haaraywo zindagi sawaray, chal dikhaday saari duniya ko teri saanson mein bhi aandhi. The words go hand in hand with the melody of this smart, ready-to-rip chartbuster.

Sameer (and Co.?) certainly has done a good job with most of Halla Bol. In the philosophic Is pal ki soch, the vocabulary is uncomplicated and very easy to relate to. Imaginative, yet basic. The saxophone makes a surprise appearance in the unpredictable item number smoothly executed by Harsh Deep.

Halla Bol is a respite from the nasal brigade; the music is fresh and in sync with the times. The T-Series CD is priced at Rs145.

Kushal Gopalka is an archivist and student of Indian music who writes for Swar Aalap, a monthly newsletter.

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