Laila Majnu – Music Review (Bollywood Soundtrack)

Songs at the end.

This review first appeared in the Mumbai edition of The Hindu.

Multiple songs from Laila Majnu feature Kashmiri verses, but it is Alif’s Katyu Chukh that is entirely Kashmiri. The Urdu/Kashmiri band presents their version of 18th/19th century poet Mahmud Gami’s poem. A rendition that stays close to the band’s past renditions of the same track (they appear to have performed it at multiple music festivals), and quite wonderfully so – lead singer Mohammad Muneem’s soaring vibrato echoing across a minimal, ambient soundscape that is bound to take your mind to Kashmiri valleys. Joi Barua, the movie’s second composer, offers three original tunes, all of them of the peppy kind, and all penned by Irshad Kamil (who pens the whole of the remaining soundtrack). The catchiest of the three is the folksy O Meri Laila, sung by Atif Aslam and Jyotica Tangri. The song’s clear highlight is the infectious title hook that cements itself in your head with its repeated appearances in vocal and instrumental forms, the latter via rabab and accordion/harmonium, both excellent choices of instruments for the kind of song it is. The shorter Radio Version of the song features a different, but equally effective arrangement – it is only Barua’s singing that isn’t quite top drawer. Dev Negi, Amit Sharma lead Gayee Kaam Se that follows a qawwali styled format until the surprise dreamy twist towards the end, sung by Meenal Jain. The melody of the qawwali part of things has something of a familiar ring to it, but the creative arrangement will still make it worth your while. Barua explores a third genre for his final song, going yesteryear disco with Lala Zula Zalio. While Frankie’s Kashmiri rendition that opens the song sits awkwardly atop the techno backdrop, rest of the song led by Sunidhi Chauhan works really well.

In comes lead composer, sitarist Niladri Kumar, with four more distinct tunes. And the man starts with a bang, producing an incredibly immersive romantic melody in the wonderfully written Aahista that is handled exceptionally well by Jonita Gandhi and Arijit Singh. The lush backdrop features some really imaginative layers from Kumar and the arrangers Agnelo Fernandes and Arjun Nair, and one of those layers is Kumar’s own electric sitar aka Zitar, something you might recognise from such songs as Alvida and In Dino from Life In a Metro (if you are not familiar with his non film works, that is). Tum is Atif Aslam’s solo act, and a brilliant one at that. The opening verse of the song bears something of a mild resemblance to Aahista, but the song proceeds along a totally different route, one as splendid as the earlier song. The resonant soundscape is once again half the song’s charm, and the phased use of percussion accentuates the effect. An alternate version (weirdly titled Male version!) has Javed Ali treating the melody to his trademark nuances, while the composer keeps everything else the same. Shreya Ghoshal sounds her most exquisite leading Sarphiri, yet another sprawling melodic piece from Kumar, but for a frenetic percussion-led digression in the second half that is delivered by Babul Supriyo. While the sarod adds a lovely touch in the song’s interlude, I wish it were a tad longer. Hafiz Hafiz starts on a misleading note, sounding a bit like an extension of Tum, before steadily picking up pace and energy. It is the children’s chorus that kicks off the vocal section with the opening verse of the oft covered Kashmiri folk Hukus Bukus, before Mohit Chauhan takes over and sings the rest of the inspirational piece in style, with the chorus in tow. The composer leverages his fusion sensibilities to make some nifty additions to the invigorating percussion-dominated orchestration, like konnakol (Carnatic percussion syllables). Kamil’s words are once again splendidly realised.

Laila Majnu. One of Bollywood’s best soundtracks yet this year, and it comes from three names rarely seen in the industry!

Music Aloud Rating: 4/5

Top Recos: Aahista, Tum, Katyu Chukh, O Meri Laila, Hafiz Hafiz

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