The presence of Hindustani classical musicians as composers in Bollywood has mostly resulted in unalloyed sounds. So it is heartwarming when one comes across a classical musician and a sarod player at that, scoring for a film and making it fall in the contemporary musical lexicon. Having said that, sometimes, in the process to rediscover the connection between raga and emotions, a classical musician/composer can go overboard by putting in their own identity and forgetting the film’s own. Here is where composer Soumik Sen’s restrain surfaces. Gulab Gang’s music, albeit not falling in the great category, is somewhat interesting. The album kickstarts with high adrenaline Gulaabi, a song full of power-packed sarod interludes and Malabika Brahma and Shilpa Rao’s voices.
After almost three hearings, Brahma’s raucous voice does not work. It is overtly screechy. As for the composition, it is definitely catchy. This is followed by Dheemi dheemi in Kaushiki Chakrabarti’s voice. It is not hard to spot her Patiala gharana gayaki. But here comes the problem of expression. While Brahma overdoes it, Chakrabarti keeps it low, which is unlike her live concerts replete with expressive thumris. But despite alaaps and taans in place, we can’t find soul. Akhiyaan is a really soft song in Chakrabarti’s voice and moves slowly with just a flute and guitar. There is no percussion, which is the song’s strength. Cheekhe kyun meri siski (Saraf is a revelation) is brilliant. It needs to be heard on the loop before one can make sense of its structure. Rang se huyi rangeeli is the most clear composition and our favourite. Mishra Pilu is what we spotted in this old-world folksy tune, thanks to lively harmonium interludes and a gorgeous theka on the dholak.
This is Sen’s best. Chakrabarti sounds mellifluous, with not a note not out of place. Then comes the wonderful Rangi saari gulaabi chunariya originally renderd by Shobha Gurtu in the colourful raag Pahari. Sung in the film by Madhuri Dixit and her mother, this one is far from perfect. Madhuri’s voice is nice, but falters often. The moment Madhuri hits a surprising komal swar, she falls back into line. I’m more than glad that Sen has not pitch-corrected Dixit or her mother. There is strange honesty — it isn’t pitch-perfect but has something meaningful and moving. The song follows a lovely orchestration, with a brilliant use of shehnai and harmonium. Sen uses his voice in Jai ho. His rich voice is better than the composition.
But we wait for the masterstroke from a classical musician to create something outstanding and that is what we are unable to find. Gulab Gang’s music is not conventionally appealing but might grow on you. The music is likely to work better for the film as compared on our playlist.