There are very few Bollywood composers today who sit in their studios and study scripts for days until they hit a brainwave. Composer Ram Sampath, whose small but significant oeuvre is marked by inventive soundscapes, and who does not adhere to the industry’s whims, is a composer who follows a script and finds his sound from it. No wonder then that every soundtrack from Sampath’s arsenal etches out of the mood and plot of the film.
For Raman Raghav 2.0, Anurag Kashyap’s upcoming crime thriller, Sampath takes one through the menacing journey of a man wanting to kill. In a world that Sampath creates, there is both malice and misanthropy. The compositions do not follow a fixed template and find a variety of ways to flirt with darkness. There is an unfettered joy in listening to most of it — grunge, electronica, progressive rock and some semi-classical music presented with panache. Problems are few and far between.
The album opens with Qatl-e-aam — a complex melody that merges ghazal and trance. The ada of a ghazal — the kind that has the langour we have revelled in for years, is combined with rollicking riffs, heavy drumming, electronic distortions and a hypnotic sound that can work on loop. It’s a difficult composition, presented well. The contrast is important to notice here, the two different worlds are fused together and joined with the umbilical cord of some brilliant percussion and tabla bols.
Sampath knows exactly what Sona Mohapatra’s voice is capable of and things it cannot do (The two have delivered many pieces together). For this one he gets her to deliver the kind of songs many composers haven’t been able to get out of her. The reprise version of Qatl-e-aam is important here because it tells us about the soft melody that Sampath’s complex mind has come up with. The layers and embellishments would have happened later. It begins with a beautiful guitar prelude. Mohapatra does a very controlled attempt at this, unlike her “open voice” delivery. She compresses it, gives it a delicate tone, keeps it soft and flirtatious. Guitar, soft keys and a basic backbeat accompany her. It may vaguely remind one of her tone in Jiya lage na from Talaash.
Sachha behooda is bass heavy and sung by Nayantara Bhatkal in a whisky-soaked smooth voice. With the verve of jazz, it opens with soft synth touches followed by strings. In contrast, it’s paired with Grover’s menacing lyrics that go Jiski neeyat lagi faffoond ki parte, tune naakhoono se phoda chhala. The “gansta” feel is uplifting but could be better and sharper. Siddharth Basrur, frontman of bands Goddess Gagged and Scribe, attempts Paani ka raasta. A progressive rock piece, it begins with soft riffs paired with the voice. It builds from a beautiful acoustic backing to a fast-moving electric finish.
The theme of the film has Sampath on the loose. It’s one of the finest theme pieces (instrumental) in any film in a long, long time. A sarangi gives the larger background and there are layers on top of it — loaded synth and electronic sounds and complex drumming patterns. It’s a heavy dose jam session. One can just so easily imagine the head of a serial killer, the colours in it, the speed with which its running in various directions.
If the lyrics of Masaan gave us a glimpse into Grover’s brilliance of a gentle, powerful poetry, Raman Raghav 2.0 shows the menacing side of his brain. He takes the melody Sampath gives him, and produces poetry that’s brave, intelligent, with all the rhyme and reason in place and yet colloquial. Raman Raghav 2.0’s tunes want us to run to the theatres and lap up this film. Sampath’s done a lot of Kashyap’s work already.