Composer: Abhishek Sharma
There is a song called Aaj ibaadat, which is hidden at number eight in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 10-song album Baajrao Mastani. A flute prelude is followed by an age-old Vedic chant Mangalam bhagwan Vishnu that soon leads us to another way of addressing one’s God — Maula. It’s a unique Vedic-Islamic interaction, where a Vedic chant is layered with a word from the Quran. And it’s here — raag Yaman, which is more than just accommodating of the two worlds. Bhansali, at number eight, has placed a gem — lyrically, musically and politically — which cements his place in the industry as a music composer.
The only director who has managed to be an ace composer, in the last few years, is Vishal Bhardwaj. But Bhansali gets it better than just right with this one. The compositions of Baajirao Mastani are better than any that he composed in Guzaarish and Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. In fact the compositions can give full-time music composers a run for their money. The Maratha war epic starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra, swings between sombre, earthy, poignant, soulful and brash in the songs it features. Most of the album works, while some songs are just average.
The album opens with Deewani mastani. A 17th century Maratha powada (poem), like a war cry by Ganesh Chandanshive, acquires a different visage with oud and Shreya Ghoshal’s singing that has an attitude of a wizened street performer who enters a courtroom. The song, even in the middle, has oud playing touching Marathi folk and then enters a qawwali mode. The structure changes drastically, but maintains the theme. Brilliance hits loud and clear. Arijit Singh’s Aayat, with a strong ghazal ang and minimum orchestration, gets Singh’s voice to shine. There is a qawwali digression, which works well.
Mohe rang do is one of the more complicated compositions in recent times. The structure takes sharp turns that are completely unpredictable. It opens in raag Mand, turns to Puriya Dhanashree and later shifts gears to touch notes that are not a part of the raag. The shehnai prelude is otherworldly, so are the Kathak bols recited by Pt Birju Maharaj. Bhansali adapts Albela sajan yet again (it was also in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam). This one is in raag Bhupali, while the other one was in Ahir Bhairav. It’s a brilliant piece where a sitar segues into a shehnai and a chorus.
Malhari is the weakest composition of the album. The beats and arrangements are too contemporary to suit a period film.
Pinga and Fitoori are both intelligently crafted pieces, with strong shringari lavani ang. For the former, Bhansali has taken elements from some famous lavanis. Fitoori works better, with the sensuality of a lavani, traditional manjeera and a fantastic harmonium interlude in place.
In many parts, Baajirao Mastani sounds fresh, like carefully restored music from Bajirao’s times. Some tracks work better than the others. Buy it for Bhansali’s distinct sound and a balance between restraint and exuberance.