This is a review of the soundtrack. Click here to read a review of the movie.
There are certain composer-lyricist combinations in Hindi cinema that are a force to reckon with. An A.R.Rahman and Javed Akhtar collaboration adds grandeur to many soundtracks, while Amit Trivedi and Amitabh Bhattacharya have proven they share a crackling vibe through the consistently punchy songs they create. Another such combination is that of Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar. They have been working together for years, back when Gulzar was the one making films and Bhardwaj was the regular composer for him. Now, as Bhardwaj has established himself as a formidable filmmaker, Gulzar has remained a loyal presence as a lyricist/poet like none other. Their latest musical collaboration for Bhardwaj’s directorial venture, the highly anticipated 7 Khoon Maaf (or Saat Khoon Maaf), has a darker and more intense feel than their previous albums. It is overall a powerful album with some true gems but unfortunately fails to rise to the level of Omkara Ishqiya where you could listen to the entire album on loop.
All Bhardwaj films have their one foot-thumping chartbuster and this time it’s a Darling of a song. The film’s promotions were kicked off with this track and it caught on like wildfire. It is designed along the lines of Beedi Jalaile (Omkara) and Dhan Tan Nan (Kaminey) to be a supremely fun and catchy tune. Inspired by a Russian folk song, Kalinka, Darling is sung by the surprisingly infectious pairing of Rekha Bhardwaj and Usha Uthup. Besides the clever and thrilling use of Urdu words with the Russian folk tune, the song becomes even more fun because of the incredible articulation of every single word by both singers. I had to listen to this one a few hundred times before I could move on.
Bekaraan is one of those songs that exemplify poetry put to music. It’s a soulful number sung by Bhardwaj himself and relies heavily on the lyrics. It reminds of the title track from Kaminey in its sound and mood, but its words are soaked in old-world charm and romance, similar to ‘Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji’ from Ishqiya. Listen to the way Bhardwaj sighs ‘Lillaah’ every now and then - remarkable.
Here’s a genre we didn’t expect Bhardwaj to explore – rock. Hindi film music seems to be going through a rock revolution these days, with all notable composers from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Pritam to Vishal-Shekhar and Amit Trivedi giving their own filmy touches to the genre. With O’ Mama, Bhardwaj joins the rock brigade with singers K.K. and Clinton Cerejo and proves why he’s one of the most versatile composers around. It’s a tauntingly playful song, describing the character played by Priyanka Chopra. The electric guitar riffs make it worthy of head-banging and Gulzar makes seemingly childish lines like ‘meow jaisi ladki’ (literally ‘a girl like meow’) seem devilish.
The next track Awaara carries a strong Arab influence. Sung by Master Saleem, it’s an intense track but the music comes off as slightly formulaic in this one. Barring the string interludes, it doesn’t leave much of an impact.
Suresh Wadkar croons Tere Liye, a romantic ballad that is one of the best tracks on the album. The song has a soft classical tune to it and is accompanied by soothing vocals and poetic lyrics by Gulzar. This song has uniquely precious lines such as ‘Tere liye kishmish chune, piste chune tere liye’ (‘For you I picked out the raisins and pistachios’), which when used for someone who is so madly in love, sounds like the most romantic thing one could say. Magical!
Bhardwaj attempts a rock number again with Dil Dil Hai, sung by Suraj Jagan. It’s a much heavier rock tune than O’ Mama and doesn’t quite appeal at first listen. It’s one of those tracks that need an engaging visual to make it work but is otherwise a bit grating on the ears. Perhaps those into heavy rock will connect with this more so than others.
Rekha Bhardwaj returns after the incredibly peppy Darling to Yeshu, a somber and foreboding devotional track. The lyrics and music provide a sense of brooding anger while the incredible range of Rekha Bhardwaj’s vocals carries a tone of surrender and weakening. This track won’t be to everyone’s liking and the intensity will take some getting used to.
A redux of the first track comes in the form of Doosri Darling, which starts with the original Russian words and then transitions to Gulzar’s version. Both Uthup and Rekha Bhardwaj return in this track, accompanied by Clinton Cerejo and Francois Castellino. The pacing of this version differs somewhat but is essentially just a bonus for those of us who became obsessed with the first track.
The final track on the album is the acoustic version of O’Mama, helmed solely by K.K. This version carries more power than the original, primarily because its tone becomes much more haunting with a hint of fear. Its placement in the film is sure to evoke an emotional reaction.
A creative combination such as that of Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar is rare, their synergy is inspiring and infectious. The album of 7 Khoon Maaf is certainly worth a listen, but some tracks dominate others, leaving it short of being a universally appealing album.