Manto – Music Review (Bollywood Soundtrack)

Songs and musician credits at the end.

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

Bann Titli was apparently composed by Sneha Khanwalkar for a scrapped Dibakar Bannerjee (who is credited to have written this song alongside Khanwalkar) project, which is probably why the song’s title carries a cheeky gratis (meaning free) suffix to it. I am very curious as to what this Bannerjee project was going to be, as the song is a fab replication of the 30s-40s musical era of Bollywood. Composer seems to keep the orchestration authentic, even as Rekha Bhardwaj nails the classical-flavoured rendition evoking the singing style of the time. In Nagri Nagri, based on a poem by Meeraji, it is yet another veteran singer pulling the retro rendition off in style, Shankar Mahadevan. The arrangement here doesn’t sound true to the period always, but is no less captivating, particularly for the percussion which veers towards Arabic as the song progresses (that initial combination of folk percussion and bulbul tarang took my mind back to Ha Rehem/Mehfuz from Amit Trivedi’s debut movie Aamir).

Over her career, Sneha Khanwalkar has shone the spotlight on multiple fine musicians (most significant of them probably the Nooran sisters). With Ab Kya Bataun (beautiful poem by Seemaab Akbarabadi), she goes to another lesser known (in Bollywood, at least), but brilliant singer named Shubha Joshi. The lady she voices for the movie is apparently Ila Arun, playing Jaddanbai. Fitting that a song honouring the first female music director of the industry is composed by another in that league. And while Joshi goes about her singing the traditional way, Khanwalkar’s backdrop moves from classical to jazz terrain, the contrast accentuating the song’s charm. The highlight of the jazz side of things is Joseph Vessoaker whose trumpet solos take on as prominent a role as Joshi’s singing in the song’s latter half. Khanwalkar’s final offering for the album where she takes on a Faiz poem is my favourite. Composer gets a lovely yaman-flavoured (I think) melody in place for Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain that Rashid Khan and Vidya Shah deliver to perfection. The arrangement is a rich tapestry of strings (Anubrato Ghatak) to which gets added the occasional splash of harmonium (Zoheb Khan), tabla (Satyajit Talwalkar), and clarinet (Raj Sodha), all to delightful effect!

The movie has also had a promotional song out (not part of the official soundtrack), from Raftaar. As expected, the song is totally different from the rest of the soundtrack in terms of sound; the rapper building a tirade (an explicit one, at that) with contemporary significance around relevant snippets of Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s quotes from the movie. Very effective verse too, that the man renders himself, with a groovy arrangement to boot. Not something you might want to listen to alongside the other songs, if you want to stay with the retro mood, but a track worth looping for sure.

Manto. Sneha Khanwalkar ends her break with another whopper that is totally in character with her largely offbeat repertoire. Wish the soundtrack was longer though. And curious why the makers did not choose a work by Manto himself towards the album.

Music Aloud Rating: 4/5

Top Recos: All of them!

PS: Thanks to these wonderfully done interviews of Sneha Khanwalkar (1 and 2) for supplying some of the soundtrack-related trivia.

Musician Credits

Song – Ban Titli (Gratis)
Singer – Rekha Bhardwaj
Music – Sneha Khanwalkar
Lyricist – Dibakar Banerjee & Sneha Khanwalkar

Song – Ab Kya Bataun
Singer – Shubha Joshi
Music – Sneha Khanwalkar
Lyricist – Simaab Akbarabadi
Produced By Jeremy Fonseca, Zubin Balaporia
Harmonium: Bhavdeep Jaipurwale
Trumpet: Joseph Vessoaker
Recorded By Nigel Rajaratnam
Backing Vocals: Daniel B.George

Song – Nagri Nagri
Singer – Shankar Mahadevan
Music – Sneha Khanwalkar
Lyricist – Meeraji
Produced By Anjo John
Rhythm And Percussion: Anand Bhagat
Violins: Kamal Kamble
Recorded By Abhishek Gautam, Mumbai
Recorded By Pawan Bhatia At Aalaap Studios, Indore
Mixed by Pritesh Panchal at Barbet Studio, Mumbai

Song – Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain
Singers – Rashid Khan & Vidya Shah
Music – Sneha Khanwalkar
Lyricist – Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Produced By Anjo John & Zubin Balaporia
Viola/Violin/Cello: Anubrato Ghatak
Clarinet: Raj Sodha
Harmonium: Zoheb Khan
Tabla: Satyajit Talwalkar
Percussion & Mouth Percussion: Taufiq Qureshi
Bass: Randolph Correia

Song – Mantoiyat
Music – Raftaar
Vocals – Raftaar and Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Lyrics – Raftaar and Saadat Hasan Manto
Rhythm And Percussion – Raftaar
Guitars – Tenzing Lama
Recorded At Raftaar’s Home Studio (Delhi)
Mixed and Mastered by Abhishek Ghatak

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,