Hindi action films rarely have good soundtracks. The song list for the March 6 release Baaghi 3, starring Tiger Shroff, comprises tunes taken from other sources. One of the songs is Dus Bahane, which was the title track of a 2005 action movie with a most forward-looking soundtrack. For Dus, directed by Anubhav Sinha, composers Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani infuse electronica, rock, and metal across an hour-long record that is a bit like a five-course thaali – there is something for everyone.

Apart from the timeless Dus Bahane, Saamne Aati Ho and Jaaniya Ve make for great cafe and lounge music. At least for this writer, who was a teenager in 2005, Adrenaline Nitrate was a gateway to hard-edged 1990s electronic artists such as The Prodigy, Bjork and The Chemical Brothers.

Dus Bahane was released at a time when electronic sampling and digital production were changing Bollywood music. Some of Vishal-Shekhar’s work in this period had an anything-goes vibe not matched by their peers, including Pritam and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, and is comparable only to Amit Trivedi’s clutter-breaking work in the first half of the 2010s. Door Se Paas from Musafir (2004) and Tinka Tinka from Karam (2005) still sound more fresh than a great deal of current Bollywood music.

Dus Bahane is no different. It’s not just a great tune – its rhythm track, comprising claps, drums, and dholaks, contains Vishal-Shekhar’s ingenuity. Dadlani once aptly described the song as a “dholak loop, under a dancehall pattern”.

Dus Bahane, Dus (2005).

The movie’s disposable plot has no bearing on its 13 songs. Dus follows a bunch of terrorist hunters trying to prevent an Islamist conspiracy to blow up the planet. Although nobody stops to sing or dance, a couple of tracks are shoehorned into the film, and the sequences are forgettable (though the Dus Bahane video for the opening credits stills looks rad).

What we are left with is a bunch of cool music. And how cool is it? The Dus theme is titled Adrenaline Nitrate, which doesn’t make sense but nevertheless signals attitude. Adrenaline Nitrate starts off sounding like the background score for Michael Bay’s Bad Boys before turning into a full-fledged electronic rock symphony. The fabulous electric guitar solos and riffs are by Randolph Correia, who also doubled up as the track’s producer. (Correia plays guitars for Dadlani’s band Pentagram).

Adrenaline Nitrate, Dus (2005).

Get Into My Car is an absolutely incredible khichdi. It’s part-sassy English pop by Caralisa Monteiro with some rap by Earl Edgar, part-crunchy guitar rock, and most surprisingly, part-Hindustani classical with vocals by Nandini Srikar, whom Vishal-Shekhar later got on board for superb songs such as Bhare Naina (Ra.One, 2011) and Duaa (Shanghai, 2012).

Get Into My Car, Dus (2005).

Caralisa Monteiro returns in Alternate Trance, an Enya-style song with operatic vocals over synths. The movie is hardly as pathos-filled as this composition or as stylish as Adrenaline Nitrate and Get Into My Car. Like another Sanjay Dutt-starrer Musafir, released the previous year, Dus seems cooler than it actually is because both soundtracks are by Vishal-Shekhar.

Alternate Trance, Dus (2005).

Two really good tracks stand out in the traditional section. Saamne Aati Ho is a laid-back, rhythm-and-bluesy love tune rendered by Sonu Nigam and Sunidhi Chauhan. The guitars, synths, and drums step back to put the voices in the spotlight. The song has a bit of a late-1990s/early-2000s urban Hindi-pop feel, and can get a listener from that era nostalgic.

Saamne Aati Ho, Dus (2005).

Jaaniya Ve, sung by Hariharan and Mahalakshmi Iyer, is an extremely underrated Vishal-Shekhar song. Musically, the brooding tune shares the same DNA as Bhare Naina. Lyrically, the song follows the meeting of two lovers who have stayed apart for quite some time. One can actually imagine it to be of a piece with Vishal-Shekhar’s soundtrack for Shabd (2005), rather than Dus.

Jaaniya Ve, Dus (2005).

The soundtrack also features versatile drummer-composer Ranjit Barot. His Zalzala, sung by Sukhwinder Singh, is like an alternate title track. It is hardly bad, but certainly not in the league of Dus Bahane. Its dholaks, electronic loops, and electric guitars are consistent with Vishal-Shekhar’s sound for the movie.

Barot has another track, Make Some Noise, and noise it does make. Like Adrenaline Nitrate or Get Into My Car, it’s a great track to play Need For Speed to.

The remaining songs are not inspired enough. Deedar De, the mandatory item number, is hardly among the best of the collaborations between Vishal-Shekhar and Sunidhi Chauhan. Chamm Se, which sounds more Nadeem-Shravan than Vishal-Shekhar, exists only because at some point the film’s numerous actors had to assemble at one spot and dance in a wedding situation.

There’s also a romantic tune, Unse Poonche, sung by Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik. It’s pleasant, but has no business being in this album.

Though Vishal-Shekhar went on to produce great music for far bigger productions after Dus, they haven’t quite been at their eccentric best as they were in the 2000s. Of course, what ends up in a soundtrack also depends on a filmmaker’s taste and vision. Not everyone is like Sujoy Ghosh, who, for his Kahaani (2012), let Vishal-Shekhar blend metal and jazz for the Kolkata tribute Ami Shotti Bolchi.

Also read:

Audio master: ‘Jhankaar Beats’ was a sign of what Vishal-Shekhar were to bring to Bollywood music