At the recently held Star Screen Awards, composer Pritam picked up the Best Music Director trophy for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. All upcoming award shows are likely to follow the same route, honouring him for an incredible year in film music that saw one hit song after another.

With three solo soundtracks (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Dishoom, Dangal) and a guest composition (Bas Itni Si Baat in Azhar), the prolific composer did not miss a beat in 2016 and kept listeners glued to his tracks all year round. How did the other composers fare in the face of such stiff competition?

‘Dangal’ jukebox.

Pritam kicked up a storm in the wrestling pit that is the setting for Dangal, Nitesh Tiwari’s biopic of Mahavir Singh Phogat.

The infectious, playful tune of Haanikaarak Bapu (Harmful father) in the tingling voices of Manganiyar child folk artistes Sarwar Khan and Sartaz Khan Barna was made even more special by Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics. His use of chaste Hindi words such as “balak” (boy) to rhyme with “vahan chalak” (motor driver) is as giggle-inducing as the song’s apt setting in the film’s rural milieu.

Raftaar’s girl-power rap in Dhaakad (Strong) was a nice twist to the otherwise male testosterone-driven hip-hop sounds where women are commodified in lyrics. The title track in Daler Mehndi’s rallying voice sounded like a sports commentator reporting mud-pit mayhem as the chorus repeats the battle cry refrain, “Re lath gaad doon, re jaada paar doon” (I will bury my club, will dispel winter away). The wedding song Idiot Banna, in the throaty vocals of Jyoti and Sultana Nooran, had the same sort of mad energy that rocked Banno (Tanu Weds Manu Returns, 2015). However, Jonita Gandhi’s cutesy Gilehriyan and Arijit Singh’s Naina were standard Bollywood tunes.

‘Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo’.

Even more special than the music of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was the post-release deluxe edition soundtrack featuring the sensuous version of the famed Fayyaz Hashmi-written nazm, Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo. Sung by Shilpa Rao, it was filmed on Saba (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) guiding Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) into her bedroom. Pritam’s techno-sound layered over Rao’s breathless vocals has an ethereal effect and shows his mastery with fusion. Pritam delivered no less than five chartbusters emerging from this soundtrack: Bulleya, The Breakup Song, Cutiepie, Channa Mereya and the title song. Each one is an indubitable winner.

‘Dishoom’ jukebox.

Rohit Dhawan’s comedy-tinged action thriller Dishoom had some nifty tunes that suited the genre. The spunky Toh Dishoom, pitting rapper Raftaar against the folksy Shahid Mallya, and the techno-Arabic mix of Sau Tarah Ke made the requisite noise on the dance floor. Ishqa was reminiscent of Shikdum (Dhoom, 2004), which was in turn a copy of Turkish singer Tarkan’s Sikidim, but Pritam seems to have updated the tune.

‘Befikre’ jukebox.

Pritam’s closest competitor was the duo Vishal-Shekhar, who landed much before him on the music charts, in July with the earworm Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai (Sultan). The other track, Jag Ghoomeya, sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Neha Bhasin, gave the composers another hit. They followed up their hit trail with the groovy numbers of Befikre in December, giving Pritam something to worry about ahead of the awards season.

Amit Trivedi had three soundtracks: Fitoor, Udta Punjab and Dear Zindagi, each of which had great tunes. Fitoor’s poor reception and the controversies surrounding Udta Punjab took away the focus from his work. The freewheeling spirit of Love You Zindagi (Dear Zindagi) is perhaps his best bet this year.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy had three solo soundtracks: Ghayal Once Again, Rock On!! 2 and Mirzya. The first two were washouts. The epic love story of Mirzya-Sahiban was mounted on the same scale as its grand score, but the film bombed despite some fantastic tunes. Often, a film’s box office performance is predicted by as well as shapes the music score’s longevity. Even an average score can get elevated if the movie turns out to a hit.

Composer Amaal Mallik was one of the busiest musicians this year, featuring in 10 multi-composer albums, but it was his turn as a solo-composer in M S Dhoni: The Untold Story, with such sweet melodies as Kaun Tujhe, Besabriyaan and Jab Tak that raised his stock. The lesser heard composer Ram Sampath experimented with dark sounds in Raman Raghav 2.0. It was an off-beat effort at best.

AR Rahman had a no-show in 2016. His only album, Mohenjo Daro, flopped along with the movie. His impending nomination in the Best Original Song category at the 89th Academy Awards for the soundtrack of Pele: Birth of a Legend could mean that our loss is their gain.

‘Ginga’ from the soundtrack of ‘Pele: Birth of a Legend’.