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Music review of Padmaavat: Sounds of War

The film’s politics, its tenor, the positioning and representation of its main characters a certain way is more than just incongruous, but what isn’t is the director’s ode to his blue-eyed raga, which, in the past, has featured in most of his films.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Written by Suanshu Khurana | New Delhi |
Updated: January 26, 2018 4:05:28 pm
 padmaavat movie, padmaavat music review, Padmaavat music, sanjay leela bhansali, bollywood music, indian express, entertainment news, music review Actress Deepika Padukone in a still from the movie.

Composer: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Lyrics: AM Turaz, Siddharth and Garima

In a scene from Padmaavat, there is a conversation between Rawal Ratan Singh, the king of Chittor, and his ousted royal sorcerer, Raghav Chetan, over raag Yaman. While Singh is imprisoned at this time in Allauddin Khilji’s dungeon, Chetan, who has now aligned himself with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s brutal Khilji, plays the notes of the joyful pentatonic raga on his flute to exasperate him.

The film’s politics, its tenor, the positioning and representation of its main characters a certain way is more than just incongruous, but what isn’t is the director’s ode to his blue-eyed raga, which, in the past, has featured in most of his films. In the Deepika Padukone-Shahid Kapoor-Ranveer Singh-starrer, Bhansali has managed to scoff at himself with this reference to what is known as his favourite raga.

As for its usage in the film, Yaman is dominantly found in Ek dil hai sung beautifully by Shivam Pathak. To those who are calling it a rehash of Laal ishq and Ibaadat, it isn’t. In that vein, it would be a rehash of Chandan sa badan (Saraswatichandra), and Man re (Chitralekha) too, two of the most popular ditties in the raga. Various permutations and combinations from a raga, because of the same set of notes, can be a reminder of a certain piece. That doesn’t make them a rehash. In this piece what’s more interesting, however, than the tune itself, are the charming rhythm structures. The soft drum beats followed by a qawwali-like structure through claps and a groovy theka on the tabla — it moves comfortably in varied spectrums.

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The five-note Vrindavani Sarang is what the popular Ghoomar is based on. Bhansali manages to turn basic Rajasthani folk harmonies into gleaming shapes. The komal (dissonant) note in the second line of the chorus, where we hear Rani sa padhra, is lustrous and an instant reminder of the celebratory yet somewhat restrained folk sung by Rajasthani women in their homes during weddings and rituals. I haven’t heard such perfect chorus —both male and female — in a long time as the piece moves between inviting lyricism and much edginess.

Swaroop Khan and Shreya Ghoshal do a fine job. One can hear clear notes of the nagaada, khartaal and shehnai along the dhol — mainstays of Rajasthani folk. There is also the trademark Ghoomar theka, which turns the ditty into a captivating piece that ends in a thrilling crescendo. Holi opens with much gusto in Phagun’s mainstay, raag Miyan Malhar, which, when Richa Sharma begins, leads into Tilak Kamod. One of the better Holi pieces in a long time, Sharma sings with a peti and dhol and has her robust voice deliver a fine ditty. The rough edges and the vibrato can be heard and we are glad that the piece hasn’t been auto-tuned.

While three pieces work to a tee, the other three don’t. Neeti Mohan’s Nainowale is a sweet but a relatively modern melody. The only interesting bit about it is the orchestral structure on the sitar. The snap of the fingers is strange and jarring. Khalibali is Khilji’s dance song. There is an attempt to use middle eastern notes, but the song just doesn’t work. Binte dil is the weakest composition in terms of this album. How is a tune based on middle-eastern compositions done on a synth supposed to suit a war epic? The beats and arrangements are too contemporary for a period film. After some well-composed pieces, these two are absolute disappointments.

Bhansali is a better composer than director. The statement is being made after seven consecutive films which have been very interesting musically. No director-composer, except perhaps Vishal Bhardwaj, can match the rich compositional tapestries Bhansali is capable of weaving. Some tracks work while some just don’t. Buy it for Bhansali’s distinct sound and the exuberance only he can offer.

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