Some of the most poignant elements leading into a delicate execution of raag Bihag open a track called Sunn bhavara in Shaad Ali’s latest, OK Jaanu. Sung by Shasha Tirupati, whose name is relatively unknown in Bollywood (her last outing was Mohenjodaro), along with a taanpura and tabla, this four-and-a half-minute thumri, sung as if at a classical baithak, is the reason why this AR Rahman album matters at all. In an otherwise subdued, ordinary, sometimes downright hodgepodge of a record, Sunn bhavara’s freshness and Tirupati’s brilliant rendition makes it the only piece in the album that didn’t have us want to click to the next. It has been a long time since any Bollywood film delivered a semi-classical melody of this calibre. This Malargal kaettaen equivalent from Mani Ratnam’s OK Kanmani is pleasingly organic.
The title song is a reminder of Yuva tunes, but in an extremely superficial way. Rahman and Srinidhi Venkatesh sing alongside an electronic arrangement. The drums create a basic loop to deliver a catch track, which, however, is very forgettable. Enna sona by Arijit Ghosh, with a basic electric guitar riff paired with a flute, is pleasant. It’s a melody that stays only till it plays. If it wasn’t for the brilliant orchestration from Rahman, Enna sona would’ve sounded as if from the marquee of Jeet Ganguly or Mithoon. But an acoustic guitar along with Punjabi lyrics and some pounding percussion through electronic drums makes it stand out a little. Saajan aayo re is a semi classical piece in Darbari Kanada, paired with electronic music, and has been sung well by Jonita Gandhi. Rahman’s classical tracks — the ones that blend elements of Carnatic classical and Hindustani music — aren’t the easiest to grasp. But Gandhi has done a fine job of attempting this difficult, but overall mediocre composition. The next track, Maula wa salim, has been sung by AR Ameen, who is Rahman’s son. A sufi piece, and entirely in Arabic, it is soothing and has a lullaby quality to it.
Jee le has Rahman’s vocals sung in falsetto and then put through a machine. There is no better way of saying it, the track sounds odd and just doesn’t work. It takes the idea of synthetic music to the extreme and not in a good way. Kara fankaara has Hard Kaur rapping only like she can with glazes of synth and electronic beats. The back melody is the same as the original Tamil piece. The only difference is that the rap is in English and Punjabi instead of Tamil. The Humma song, remake of the iconic Rahman ditty from the ’90s, begins with some interesting sonic flourishes, which die out as soon as Badshaah enters with his innuendo-laden rap. Even the legendary hook, which plays out often, can’t hit it out of the ballpark.
When Rahman delivered Roja, his debut Bollywood album and a remake of Ratnam’s Tamil version of the same name, the fresh sound was pioneering in more ways than one. Most Mani Ratnam films, the remakes of which had Rahman at the helm, such as Saathiya, Yuva and Guru, among others, came with stellar soundtracks. But OK Jaanu disappoints in more ways than one. It does have a couple of mediocre gems, but overall, during the transition to Hindi a lot more than just the lyrical cadence is lost. Even Gulzar’s lyrics sound extremely lacklustre. A substandard album. Only tune in for Tirupati’s Sunn bhavara.