Poetry, once the mainstay of Hindi film music, has been traded for the hook word, the rap section, alliterative refrains, nonsense lyrics, and trite Hinglish phrases around love.
A few songs flickered in the darkness across the movies of 2015. These were tracks in which the lyricists sought to define the film’s essence, the music soared, and faith in poetry’s near-trifling existence was restored.
Moh Moh Ke Dhaage, ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ Lyricist Varun Grover writes, “Hai rom rom iktaara jo baadalon mein se guzre” (Every particle of my body is a musical instrument that strings through the clouds). Singers Papon and Monali Thakur, who each sing a version, begin this particular line on a lower note, gradually pitching into a higher octave with embellishments, upon which the song reaches a shehnai and later a flute finish. Their singing gives resonance to the words and its transcendent meaning. The lyrics have other gems, comparing the ill-matched couple to day and night that needs to meld like dusk and the heart to a letterbox filled with billets-doux. Composer Anu Malik’s song arrives at a juncture when the odd couple who have had an arranged marriage is trying to adjust with one other.
Choone Chali Aasman, ‘Margarita With A Straw’ Prasoon Joshi writes, “Samundar ke seene se uth ke leher choone chali aasman”(From the heart of the sea a wave crests to reach for the sky). Rachel Verghese sings in an adrenaline- rushing voice for composer Mike McCleary, displaying the strength with which the film’s central character Laila (Kalki Koechlin) sets out on a road to self-discovery. A line, “Paer ke angoothe se paani chhua hai, thanda sa jaadu mujh pe hua hai ”(I have touched the rain water with my big toe, my body tingles with a magical feeling) tells us everything we need to know about the wheelchair-bound doughty heroine.
Carbon Copy, ‘Drishyam’ Trust Gulzar to cross-examine life irreverently: “Kya re zindagi kya hai tu?” (What are you, life?) and address the conundrum that has vexed us all. In doing so in a colloquial style, he also provides us with an equally puzzling answer, “Teri carbon copy hoon main” (I am your carbon copy). The song has a smooth rhythm on the guitar and Meghna Gulzar suffuses the track with even more charm when she whistles through the song alongside singer Ash King. This is composer Vishal Bhardwaj’s Adele-style hello to the classic Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le (Sadma, 1983). Carbon Copy fits the mood of Drishyam, in which the characters are constantly grappling with their own vulnerabilities, exemplified in the lyric, “Arre agle mod pe milna tu”(Meet me at the next crossroad).
Kattey, ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ Singer-songwriter Hard Kaur's lyrics sound prosaic: “Some girls sell their souls for a cameo role but I’m that type of chick that ya can’t ignore.” But when her edgy rap is juxtaposed with traditional lyrics sung by Rajasthani folk artist Bhanvari Devi, in which she says that she has seen all the Indian gods, each of whom now resides in her heart, a synthesis of poetry slam is achieved. Composer Ram Sampath experiments with various clashing sounds, mixing the guitar with the violin and harmonium and the powerful vocals of the singers to produce a track that encapsulates the angst, triumphs and febrile passion with which the film flows.
Agar Tum Saath Ho, ‘Tamasha’ Easily the year’s most soulful love song. Lyricist Irshad Kamil writes it the old-fashioned way. The two leads are having a conversation through a song that plays in the background and echoes their thoughts. Alka Yagnik sings for the female character, “Bin bole baatein tumse karoon gar tum saath ho” (I will talk to you without words if you stay). Arijit Singh sings for the male character, reacting, “Tum saath ho ya na ho, kya farq hai, bedard thi zindagi, bedard hai ”(Whether we are together or not, it doesn’t change anything, life is merciless and will remain so). Yagnik sings with a searing intensity calling out to the lover, and Singh snubs gently all affection till the two disagreeing voices reach an “Agar tum saath ho” (What if we are together?) crescendo and the song ends with her plea, “Har gham phisal jaaye”(All woe will slip away). Composer AR Rahman creates a sombre mood piece that is at the heart of Tamasha’s core conflict: the incontrovertibility of love.