Not every Amit Trivedi soundtrack can be a Dev D or just about every thing he did in the early 2010s. But even when he seems to be phoning it in, such as in Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath, a couple of good songs slip through.
Unsurprisingly, the two standout numbers in Kedarnath are both love songs, for underneath the trappings of natural disasters and inter-religious tensions, the movie is essentially a romance.
In the December 7 release, cupid strikes when a wealthy Hindu woman, Mukku (Sara Ali Khan), meets Muslim porter Mansoor (Sushant Singh Rajput) while on a pilgrimage to the Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand. Besides their class and religious differences, their love is also set to be tested by the elements. The movie is set in the backdrop of the June 2013 Uttarakhand floods, which killed more than 5,700 people.
The album’s best composition, Jaan ‘Nisaar, is about a man asking his lover to look beyond their recent troubles and at the bigger picture of their life together. “Na maaregi deewangi meri / Na maaregi awaargi meri / Ki maaregi zyada mujhe maut se naraazgi teri,” go Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics. Arijit Singh, who sounds his best when going for broke while expressing love, is the right fit for the number. Trivedi’s low-key composition and always-classy arrangement and mixing make the song a treat to listen to.
The better version of this composition is sung by Asees Kaur, who gave a terrific rendition of Ikk Kudi in the Trivedi-composed Udta Punjab (2016). The brittle timbre of Kaur’s voice is the right fit for the young Mukku, played by 25-year-old Sara Ali Khan. The other female voice in the album is of the usually unrestrained Nikhita Gandhi, who channels a Jasleen Royal-like softness.
However, eager listeners might spot the similarity between Jaan ‘Nisaar’s opening guitar riff and the scatting in the beginning of The Cranberries’ Ode To My Family.
In Qaafirana, a song about falling in love, Singh and Gandhi, along with Trivedi and Bhattacharya, bring their A-game.
To describe what new love does to a person, Bhattacharya channels all five senses. For example, there’s smell (“Aise tum mile ho jaise mil rahi ho itr se hawa”), hearing (“Khamoshiyon mein boli tumhari kuch iss tarah goonjti hai / kaanon se mere hote hue woh dil ka pata dhoondhti hai”) and taste (“Beswadiyon mein, jaise mil raha ho koi zaayka”).
The spin on the word “qaafir” – usually used disparagingly for one who does not believe in Allah – to express astonishment at the blooming of love is a fine touch.
Namo Namo, a paean to the god Shiva, is a perfectly adequate song to establish the film’s setting. The wedding number Sweetheart, sung by Dev Negi, sounds bored just by virtue of its existence. Like this year’s Holi song Gali Gali from Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha or Trivedi’s Fu Bai Fu from Fanney Khan, these are formulaic tracks that lack imagination or edge. Nothing sticks, nothing stays, but with a composer like Trivedi, nothing hurts either.