There is a power-packed melody in the background of Vidya Balan-starrer psycho-thriller Kahaani. The brilliant Piya tu kahe rootha re, which had composers Vishal-Shekhar at the helm, had Pakistani singer Javed Bashir’s powerful vocals merging with some hard-hitting electric guitar riffs — a rousing blend of sounds and styles. A thumping score on similar lines is what Akira, AR Murugadoss’s Hindi remake of his Tamil thriller Mouna Guru, could’ve gone for. We can do with dialled back and deconstructed experiments in the case of this bright composer-duo. What’s hard to digest, however, is them making a soundtrack that sounds exactly like so many others floating around. Be it their last outing, Sultan, or Akira, the duo hasn’t evolved in terms of their musical identity and has come up with a combination of some average and below average tunes.
The album opens with Rajj rajj ke that comes in three versions. While the original song has been sung by Indian Idol Junior runner-up Nahid Afrin and Vishal Dadlani, another is an auto-tuned version with Sonakshi Sinha’s voice and a remix. The prelude followed by Afrin’s voice is promising, as she sings to a constant synth chord followed by powerful riffs and drumbeats. The 14-year-old’s delivery of vendetta and angst in a full-bodied melody is impressive and the hookline begins to seep in after a while to turn this into a relatively fitting centrepiece. Sonakshi Sinha’s version of the same piece is slightly pitchy but quite on the surface. The remix version, which just makes the existing melody faster, could have been completely done away with.
Then comes one of the better melodies from the album, Purza, the lyrics of which feature an interesting line, “Mai purza tera, na aadha, pauna tera”. Arijit Singh moves away from his usual style to deliver a breezy melody. A guitar is paired with the accordion and drums, and has him hooting, scatting, changing his voice texture and making it move. It is somewhat sonically absorbing, mostly because we aren’t used to him attempting something like this. But the problem with the album is that even its better songs aren’t any more than ordinary when put in the larger soundscape.
Kehkasha tu meri has Shekhar behind the microphone and the duo reusing one of their old tunes — Haravali pakhare from the Marathi film Balak Palak. It’s a monotonous melody that is neither emotionally compelling nor cohesive. This is followed by Baadal, sung by Sunidhi Chauhan. The song, an average melody, works only because of what Sunidhi Chauhan does to it. Her cinematic voice has the power to transform something transient into transcendental. It has a slow-building structure with guitars, pianos and synths, but sticks to the same drum loop throughout. It’s sung well but is unlikely to stick.
The album isn’t revelatory in any manner. Vishal-Shekhar need to re-look into their current compositions and not be afraid to nosedive into something new, weird even, to discover sounds that made them find that peerless phase some years ago.