Highway – Music Review (Bollywood Soundtrack)

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Full audio jukebox at the end of the review.

The highlight of Patakha Guddi is without doubt the two vocal powerhouses Jyoti and Sultana Nooran, debuting for Rahman with their effortlessly nuanced delivery of the folk track. The tune takes some curious twists and turns – sinister for most part, with the occasional lighter digressions around the title hook heralded by the lovely flute from Naveen (don’t know whether Kumar or Iyer, both have played in the movie apparently). The arrangement is otherwise a fairly standard techno Punjabi mix, nothing particularly exceptional. But that is no matter because it gets more than evened out by the awesomeness that happens in the Male Version! An interesting combo of guitars and harmonium accompanies A R Rahman in this one, before the dholaks kick in taking the song to qawwali mode for a brief while, again around the title hook. But just after the middle of the song happens the real twist – Prasanna Ramaswamy with a minute-long solo (probably the first time the man is playing a non-carnatic piece for ARR) while ARR takes the backseat, chipping in with the occasional chants. And just like that it is done, the song continuing on as if nothing happened, ending pretty much the way it started. It could be the theme of the song, it could be the percussion, Maahi Ve took me back to Imtiaz’s own Aao Milo Chale. But the song is Rahman’s own, and beautifully so with that breezy mix of strings and keys that complements Irshad Kamil’s lines very well. The composer is on the vocals here too, backed by Maria Roe Vincent, Rhea Raphael, Neeti (Mohan?) and Dorairaju. Kahaan Hoon Main belongs to the JTYJN/Jhootha Hi Sahi league, both the tune and the arrangement bearing a strong flavour thereof. What you want to watch out for though is the top notch singing by Rahman-debutant (of which there are lots in this soundtrack, by the way) Jonita Gandhi.

Jonita has a second song in the soundtrack, Implosive Silence, a song that on first hear gave me the impression of a corrupted version – it sounds quite like a track in reverse! Then I read Rahman’s note on the track – “a musical piece that tries to capture the sounds in Alia’s character’s head” – and it started making sense, the muted humming and everything. Very esoteric-sounding this, one that should make for a very interesting watching in the movie. The overdose of techno elements in Wanna Mash Up? turned me off the song for most part. Liked the singing by Kash, Krissy & Suvi Suresh though. The remaining three songs of the soundtrack are all based on 7 beats cycle, a structure that more often than not produced some beautiful pieces. And these three only further cement that fact. First there is the sufi song Tu Kuja, a song that in classic ARR style I found unimpressive on the initial couple of listens but am totally addicted to now. Sure, the synth elements do dilute the devout feel a bit, but the tune and Sunidhi Chauhan’s delivery of it have enough sincerity in them to make you fall in love with this. The other two songs look at capitalizing on the lullaby aspect of the beats cycle. Heera has Shweta Pandit soulfully crooning Sant Kabir’s dohe to a soothing arrangement. An arrangement that sees some fabulous violin solos and tin whistles and santoor sounds layered over a glorious expanse of strings. Finally there is Sooha Saaha. The piece that, despite all the brilliance in offer so far, counts for me (at this point) as THE song of the soundtrack. This one is a lullaby, a genre that ARR hasn’t visited in a long time – and the man makes up for that, big time! Once again the underlying layer of strings goes a long way in making this song the beauty that it is. And the soft flute strains, the ukulele-strumming by Haniya Aslam of Zeb and Haniya. It gets even better in the last one minute when the violins go into a frenetic overdrive, all the while staying strictly in the background. The vocals are led by the other half of Zeb and Haniya, Zebunnisa Bangash, singing her second Bollywood song after Ajnabi (Madras Café) last year. And she carries it off superbly, with a cameo from Alia Bhatt who though not flawless, does an endearing rendition that goes perfectly with the mood of this one.

Highway. The A R Rahman-Imtiaz Ali-Irshad Kamil team delivers yet another musical treat! Totally worth the wait (ok may be not this long a wait next time).

Music Aloud Rating: 9/10

Top Recos: Sooha Saaha, Heera, Patakha Guddi(Male), Tu Kuja, Maahi Ve

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Anusha says:

Your review is good. But I guess you missed adding ARR’s excellent rendition of the Punjabi lyrics in the male version. A good try from him. My personal favorite is Implosive silence and Sooha Saaha. Tu Kaja’s start reminded me of a song from one of ARR’s older movies in Tamil [Kaadhalar dhinam]. Overall a GOOD not BEST album from ARR.

totalliemeh says:

Sooha is my favourite too!!

Vipin says:

Thank you Navratan. :)

Navratan says:

Vipin, you are really good in what you are doing.

Loved this album.

Vipin says:

Thank you Shambhavi.

Shambhavi says:

you have reviewed the album very nicely..esp the references to the instrumentalists.

khan kapoor says:

it’s best best hindi movie soundtrack after rockstar. or may be barfi!

Raj says:

Patakha Guddi(Male) is my favorite as of now, yes I guess lot of experimental and thus makes the songs fresh…

Ahsan says:

Tu kuja is one of the best songs of sunidhi chauhan, the powerful rendition brings goosebumps, what a song…hats off to both a.r rahman and sunidhi chauhan..hopeful rahman sir uses her vocals in the future.

Sujay says:

I totally agree on Sooha Saaha as the best track of this album. There’s so much that is revealed on every listen.

Vipin says:

yeah implosive silence was one extreme of that experimental mode. waiting for I and Kochadaiyaan.

Kishore says:

Agree with you completely!!..The lullaby (Sooha Saha) and the flute interludes in between are a treat to the ear..#ARR is on experiment mode to some extent in this album…they seep into the listener slowly…Superbly reviewed!…looking forward for more #ARR albums this year…