Composer: Jasleen Royal
Lyrics: Raj Shekhar, Jaideep Sahni, Neeraj Rajawat, Aditya Sharma, David Klyton
Hichki, Yashraj Films’ latest venture and Rani Mukerji’s comeback film after a four-year hiatus (her last was Mardaani in 2014), touches upon Tourette’s syndrome — an inherited genetic condition which involves disparity among the brain’s neurotransmitters. Hichki or hiccups is also a reference to the concept of interruption and disturbance — literally and otherwise — that the disorder causes in some people’s lives.
For the seven tracks of this film, which is an adaptation of the film Front of the Class, based on the book of the same name, producer Aditya Chopra and director Siddharth Malhotra have roped in 26-year-old composer Jasleen Royal, whom we heard as a vocalist first. She was the refrain in the lead protagonist’s head in Dear Zindagi, sang Preet in Khoobsurat, and more popularly Din shagna da in Phillauri and the jingle Paytm karo.
Her outings as a composer include the commendable tunes in Baar Baar Dekho and a couple of ditties in Shlok Sharma’s Haraamkhor. The minimal adornment, internal monologue-style verse her music usually follows is absent in the tunes of Hichki. It’s partly interesting but with not much melodic invention. Nothing never really stands out.
The album opens with Harshdeep Kaur crooning the title song in which Royal makes the shehnai sound like a peepni with a single rhythm loop. This beginning remotely reminds one of AR Rahman’s Wat wat in Tamasha. It’s notable that Royal has always taken much inspiration from her favourite composer. It is definitely one of the better tracks on the album. We loved the transition, albeit for a few seconds, into a dholak and voice format. The Soul of Hichki is the same song but with a different, more synth-oriented arrangement. Ironically, the first one comes with more soul.
Royal often touches this with a sarangi and makes it a refreshing addition. Jaideep Sahani weaves the term ‘hichki’ well in the lyrics. Madamji go easy is a Tamil rap by David Klyton and has vocals by Benny Dayal. It is heavy on tinny-sounding percussion. Nothing worth writing home about. Khol de par, sung by Arijit Singh, belongs to the category of elevating and cheerful pieces Amit Trivedi is known for. It begins beautifully — with Royal singing the tabla bols softly to a guitar — and the music and lyrics continue to cascade effortlessly, but get lost somewhere in the middle.
Teri dastaan begins with a piano prelude, which continues to back the piece as Royal gets behind the microphone and sings in her childlike voice. She even attempts a falsetto here, something we’ve never heard from her. It isn’t a faulty composition but is similar to many songs she’s done in the past. The song appears again as Naina’s theme, mostly on the piano, but the lyrics are replaced with humming in this version. Royal also uses the xylophone and fine string arrangements here. The number is intelligently produced and sounds wonderful. Phir kya gam by Shilpa Rao is a typical indie pop track that uses an acoustic guitar, mostly, and has Rao nailing the bass notes. The soft beatboxing in the background is a unique idea.
Hichki is not the finest album around at this point. Many bits in it are repetitive and one may not want to hear it beyond the title song. But one needs to give due credit to Royal for putting together seven very listenable tracks with intelligent orchestration, compared to albums that are delivering absolute cacophony. She is definitely going to be the one to watch out for.