Singer Arijit Singh’s first project as a soundtrack composer is 93 minutes long. The Pagglait album could have been wrapped up in 25 minutes if Singh hadn’t included alternate versions of nearly every tune and thrown in the background score as well. One song gets a “Reprise” and is then “Revisited”. The good news: there is no “Recreation”.

In Umesh Bist’s Netflix original movie, Sanya Malhotra plays a young widow on a journey of self-discovery. Barring the title track, melancholy runs through the album to various degrees. Neelesh Misra’s lyrics dwell on loss when not offering hope. His choice of words is simplistic, but never Sameer-level trite.

Arijit Singh’s musicality has clearly been influenced by frequent collaborators Pritam, Amit Trivedi, and AR Rahman. And he loves synths. Ambient synths cling to the vocals in just about each track. It works the best in Dil Udd Ja Re, whose opening verse has the album’s best melody.

Dil Udd Ja Re, Pagglait (2021).

The motif keeps returning in tunes like Lamha as well as in the background score. Neeti Mohan sounds like a fragile bird in Dil Udd Ja Re, which concerns heartbreaking sadness. By contrast, Lamha is a quietly joyful song about a new romance.

While the tar and flute accompany most of the pensive ballads, the buoyant combo of the Spanish guitar and accordion enliven Lamha. Playback singer Antara excels on this tune.

Of what use are slow songs if Singh isn’t behind the mic? He shows up in the retakes of every ballad. They work best for Lamha.

Lamha (Revisited), Pagglait (2021).

Thode Kam Ajnabi is an otherwise decent tune that sounds like a B-side to the stunning Dil Udd Ja Re. That’s because they share almost the same production style. Thode Kam Ajnabi is positioned in the tracklist right after Dil Udd Ja Re, which is also a better composition.

This melody gets its due in the version Meera’s Poem. The rabab and harp gives the tune a distinct personality. Jhumpa Mondal, who sounds just like a child, is a great pick.

Meera’s Poem, Pagglait (2021).

The one and only great track of Pagglait is Phire Faqeera. A confluence of hip-hop, rock, and electronica, it cannot be slotted in any genre and is yet accessible.

Rapper Raja Kumari takes charge of the track. Arijit Singh channels Rahman both as singer and composer with the unpredictable mood shifts, moving from melancholy to anger to hope. Multiple harmonies are held together by intricate production.

The backing vocals by Amrita Singh, Arijit Singh’s sister, are a highlight. When the chorus hits, the “pagal hai” refrain brings home the angst at the heart of the album. The Ila Arun-like laughs are a bonus. This would be a stunner if performed live.

Phire Faqeera, Pagglait (2021).

The madness suggested by the film’s title doesn’t reach the track named after it. The Pagglait song is an unsuccessful attempt to be like Amit Trivedi, who has pulled off this sort of frenetic electropop track with ease several times, the best example being O Gujariya (Queen). The production of Pagglait suggests crazy, but the tune and vocals don’t reach the level of frenzy.

Singh’s background score has Benedict Taylor and Naren Chandavarkar’s trademark drone crossed with snatches of folksy tunes played on the flute and tar. Although strictly serviceable, it contributes to a solid start for Arijit Singh’s career as a composer.

Pagglait (2021) jukebox.

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