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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.