The Shakuntala Devi album has four songs and yet manages to stay under 12 minutes. That is possible because each of the songs is in a race to reach the hook as quickly as possible, without a build-up. There are barely any interludes between verses. In Jhilmil Piya, the same snappy interlude is repeated thrice like it’s a chore to be done away with.
Lazy? Functional, more likely. With songs being increasingly used in the background in Hindi movies, montage sequences will understandably be just as snappy. When the primary purpose of songs is to keep the film moving along, composers won’t approach them as audio-first experiences.
The extremely prolific Sachin-Jigar are experts at churning out workmanlike albums for movies that don’t need songs, such as Stree, Made in China and Angrezi Medium. Shakuntala Devi is no exception. It has four solid tunes, but the rush to take the tracks to the finishing point ensures that you register the hook and nothing else.
Anu Menon’s biopic is the story of the Indian mathematics whiz of the same name, played by Vidya Balan. Shakuntala Devi’s computing skills made her world-famous, which is what Rani Hindustani is about. The anthemic Pass Nahi To Fail Nahi says, don’t be afraid of arithmetic. The lyrics are by Vayu.
Both are performed by Sunidhi Chauhan, whose full-throated style, brimming with easy sexual confidence, made her an expert with siren songs in the 2000s. She is a great pick for Vidya Balan, whose image of being on the top of circumstances across movies coincides with the strengths of Chauhan’s voice. Future filmmakers should reserve Chauhan for all of Balan’s you-go-girl movies.
Shreya Ghoshal sings Paheli, a song of affection about a mother. The lyrics are by Priya Saraiya. Ghoshal’s delicate voice is an asset to a tune like this, which would have sounded perfect with just the acoustic guitar. But Sachin-Jigar throw in some piano and synths to make the sound fuller, as is de rigueur in contemporary Hindi film music production.