hindi film music

‘Karwaan’ music review: Prateek Kuhad shines in a mostly enjoyable soundtrack

The multi-composer soundtrack for Akarsh Khurana’s film has an even sensibility and doesn’t conform to commercial sounds.

The soundtrack of Akarsh Khurana’s slice-of-life road movie Karwaan makes a great case for Prateek Kuhad as a film composer. Kuhad has two contributions to the seven-song soundtrack, and they are both gold.

Karwaan stars Dulquer Salmaan, Irrfan and Mithila Palkar as three unlikely companions on a road trip that begins when dead bodies get exchanged. The story is by Bejoy Nambiar, whose films are known for their intelligently assembled multi-composer soundtracks. Karwaan has one as well.

Karwaan’s soundtrack has a consistent sensibility despite being the product of many creators, and there is a marked resistance to conforming to predictable commercial sounds. This comes in the way of the soundtrack producing that one quick hit, but that shouldn’t be held against it. Karwaan will be released on August 3.

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Karwaan.

Let’s start with the best: Saansein and Kadam, written, composed and sung by Kuhad. Saansein begins with a beautiful piano introduction that continues as Kuhad’s trademark featherweight voice does its magic.

The musical passage that kicks in after the end of the first verse, when the drums and the ghostly synths kick in, is beautiful. Coldplay-like, this is the soul of the song. It also supports the chorus section: “Main apne hi mann ka hausla hoon / Hai soya jahan par main jaga hoon” (I am my own determination / The world is asleep, but I am awake).

The song also has an unusual structure: the chorus section/hookline comes midway into the song, at the end of two verses.

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Saansein, Karwaan.

If the piano holds Saansein together, it’s the acoustic guitar for Kadam. The short guitar riff with which Kadam begins, and is repeated throughout the song, is charming. Every little decision taken for the final mix works like magic – the introduction of the brooding bassline and the subdued percussion during the second verse or the use of synths at the end of the tune.

Lyrically, there is not much to write home about Saansein and Kadam. Kuhad’s pensive lyrics could be replaced by anything he has written in the past. They work best for songs that are played in the background while wistfully staring out the window, and there is an awful lot of staring out the window in a road movie.

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Kadam, Karwaan.

Chota Sa Fasana, sung by Arijit Singh and composed by Anurag Saikia, is a mid-tempo number comprising of electronic flourishes. The production is top-notch. It’s not a great composition, but it is short. The best bit is a keyboard riff that serves as the introduction and comes back at the end of each verse-chorus.

However, Akarsh Khurana’s lyrics are as dull as they can get. The lyrical idea behind Chota Sa Fasana is the overused concept of soaking in the beauty of the journey with no destination in sight (“Chota sa fasana, kisi ko pata na, isey kya sunana / Chal pade hain jo hum, ab kaisa bahaana, isey hai nibhaana” – Who knows what this small tale has to tell / We are on our way, who knows what to expect).

Khurana uses all the stock words you could think of: safar (journey), bekhabar (oblivious), befikar (without a worry), banjaara (nomad), manzar (spectacle), manzil (destination). The result is forgettable.

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Chota Sa Fasana, Karwaan.

Heartquake, composed by Saikia and sung by Papon, is another song ruined by Khurana’s lyrics. The composition has a gem of a mukhda, one that deserved quality lyrics. Khurana includes random English words that pierce through the mood, including lines like “Main aashiq hoon koi creep nahi / ae husn pari oh don’t worry” (I am a romantic, not a lech / Don’t worry, beautiful angel) or “You know na sang hai rehana / kyuki tum meri rooh ka ho gehana” (You know we got to stay together / Because you are the ornament of my soul).

That said, Papon singing “Main aashiq hoon koi creep nahi” is the stuff memes are made of.

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Heartquake, Karwaan.

Heartquake has a remixed version, Heartquake (Aftershocks), which is an upbeat dance number. The faster tempo makes it easier to not mind the lyrics. The mood is reminiscent of a fun nonsensical track like Manma Emotion Jaage (Dilwale, 2015) or Aashiq Surrender Hua (Badrinath Ki Dulhania, 2017), so Khurana’s choice of words fits right into this version. Rapper SlowCheeta contributes a few verses, raising the party quotient.

SlowCheeta and Shwetang Shankar’s Dhaai Kilo Bakwaas is a crazy track that goes in multiple directions. The sudden changes in rhythm and instrumentation don’t work. Though the song is neither enduring nor endearing, its unpredictable funkiness is a welcome break in a soundtrack where no tune stands out for its energy.

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Dhaai Kilo Bakwaas, Karwaan.

The third good track is Bhar De Hamara Glass. Madboy/Mink members Imaad Shah (music and lyrics) and Saba Azad (vocals) deliver a foxy 1980s dreamy pop number.

Azad’s singing, in the style made famous through her collaborations with Mikey McCleary on his Bartender series, evokes the spirit of disco queen Nazia Hassan. Beneath the clinical sheen of a production trying to emulate a bygone mood, the composition itself is beautiful.

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Karwaan jukebox.
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.