Shaad Ali’s sports biopic Soorma brings us the second Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy soundtrack of the year after Raazi. Gulzar graces us once again with his lyrics.
In 2013, the monster success of Rakeysh Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and its rock-and-folk inflected soundtrack set the template for other Bollywood sports biopic soundtracks to follow. There will be that one love song because the hero cannot just play sports. There will be the training montage song. There will be the song in which the hero crawls back from rock bottom and vanquishes all odds in the climax. Soorma’s 23-minute soundtrack, too short an affair for a Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy-and-Gulzar collaboration, has a song for all of these situations.
Soorma stars Diljit Dosanjh as Indian field hockey player Sandeep Singh who became paralysed because of an accidental gunshot in 2006. He made a miraculous comeback to the field and went on to become the Indian team’s captain in 2009. The trailer, released on June 11, revolved around Dosanjh’s struggle to get up and running as well as his romance with Harpreet (Taapsee Pannu). The film will be released on July 13.
The album begins with Ishq Di Baajiyaan, the love song. Kudos to the composers to use Dosanjh as the singer – who better than Dosanjh himself to sing the best composition in his own film?
Ishq Di Baajiyaan has a beautiful melody with a catchy hookline. Dosanjh’s vocal talent, so far used in Bollywood for forgettable party songs and overlooked in Udta Punjab in favour of Shahid Mallya’s version of Ikk Kudi, gets his due here. Dosanjh’s pronunciation of “Baaziyan” (games) as “Baajiyan” adds to the track’s folksy flavour. Shankar Mahadevan’s backing vocals, which seem to come from far beyond the mustard fields, and the tabla tukdas over the hookline, make the song particularly memorable.
If there is one soorma (champion) of the title track, Soorma Anthem, then that is Gulzar.
The song, one of those motivational Bollywood sports-biopic rockers like Zinda (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag), opens with these fiery lines “Peechhe mere andhera, aage andhi aandhi hai , maine aisi aandhi mein, diya jalaya hai” (Behind me is darkness, ahead of me is a storm, I lit a lamp in a storm such as this), and then, “Dil pathar ho jaayega, ya pathar ka dil dhadkega, aisi ek chattan se, maine sar takraya hai” (The heart will become stone or the heart of a stone may beat, against a rock like this, I hit my head).
Shankar Mahadevan, who has never hit a false note in umpteen anthemic songs, sings these lines over a martial beat resembling the collective boot stomps of marching soldiers. The intensity keeps increasing each minute as dhols and sundry percussion enter the song during the hookline. This one should be remembered long after the film is over.
The last good song of the album is Pardesiya. It is a song of self-pity (“Tere bin jina, dhokha lagda hai” – Living without you feels like a betrayal) and utter hopelessness (“Jaandiyaan nai, zindagi nu kivein manava” – I don’t know how do I go on to live happily again) that, in the film, is likely to underline the period where Sandeep Singh’s career and life were halted because of a freak accident.
The song is led by the fresh voices of Hemant Brijwasi, Shehnaz Akhtar and Sahil Akhtar, who have all come from competitive reality shows. Ehsaan Noorani makes his debut in playback singing by humming a section right in the beginning. Mahadevan’s singing, from time to time, and the sarangi, whose strains scream angst and sadness, add to the tragedy of the song. Pardesiya is a slow burner meant for playlists with sad songs or for die-hard connoisseurs of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music.
Goodman Di Laltain, meant to function as a celebratory Punjabi dance/wedding song, is a forgettable composition. It does have a small section featuring the collaboration of veterans Sukhwinder Singh and Sunidhi Chauhan that sounds fresh even after multiple superhit collaborations between them since the 2000s.
With the last song, Flicker Singh, the law of averages has caught up with the album. Flicker Singh is that song in the sports biopic that is played over the montage where everything is going right for the hero inside the field, possibly, after a lull in fortune.
Sung by the same team as Pardesiya, Flicker Singh has not much going for it in terms of melody, singing, or lyrics whose function is to praise the hero (“Flicker Singh, Flicker Singh, sadda hockey da woh king” – Flicker Singh is the king of hockey). When all the love and hurt is gone from the film in the final reel, the need for music becomes perfunctory.