Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa, popularly known as Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, have not had a soundtrack release since 2016’s Mirzya and Rock On 2. The acclaimed trio is now back with Meghna Gulzar’s thriller Raazi, based on Harinder S Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat. The May 11 release stars Alia Bhatt as a Kashmiri woman who is sent into Pakistan as a spy by the Research and Analysis Wing ahead of the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Raazi has Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy teaming up with their trusted collaborator, lyricist Gulzar, with whom the composers have delivered stellar albums in the past such as Bunty Aur Babli (2005), Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007) and Mirzya (2016). Even their least memorable soundtrack, for the movie Kill Dill (2014), had a few madcap songs.
While those films were song-heavy, and the soundtracks featured a melange of tunes, Raazi offers four songs in a soundtrack clocking at 19 minutes.
Arijit Singh kicks off the album with the patriotic Ae Watan. With straightforward lyrics from Gulzar, Ae Watan works because of its pleasant melody and Singh’s mellow vocals. The song’s patriotic zeal never really leaps out as a cry for aggression or a call for national unity like the more famous Ae Watan from Shaheed (1965) and the lesser-known one from 23rd March 1931: Shaheed (2003). Instead, Raazi’s Ae Watan is a more personal affair.
A female version, by Sunidhi Chauhan, features at the end of the album with slightly different instrumentation.
Dilbaro is a wedding number that starts off with a Kashmiri couplet sung by Vibha Saraf. Harshdeep Kaur steps in for the Hindi vocals to sing about a newly married woman looking back on her home and her father wistfully. Mahadevan sings a few lines in the end as the father (played in the film by Rajit Kapur).
Arijit Singh returns in the album’s best song, the title track. The song builds up from a base of bouzouki and light percussion before the esraj, looped beats and dholak register their presence. Singh’s voice, resembling his stupendous work in Padmaavat’s Binte Dil, echoes nomadic tunes from the frontiers. Gulzar’s simple but layered lyrics state that the way forward might be fraught with danger, but it is easy if the heart is in the right place (Gurpech hai rahein jeene ki / Kismat ik tedhi baazi hai... Raah seedhi hai agar dil raazi hai).
Raazi’s soundtrack is not the sound and the fury one would expect from a collaboration between Gulzar and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Despite appearing to be a utilitarian soundtrack for a thriller with minimal space for songs, it does have its moments.