Deconstructing 2023’s Musicals—Part 1: Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani

Ranveer Singh enacts Heart Throb in the musical Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. photo: Music Video Grab

As a director, Karan Johar is always known for some great musicals. 25 years ago, his debut film, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, was easily the best musical of that year, and in 2001, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… followed suit. After the success of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, which Karan only produced, and before which he had directed three more movies with ho-hum music, I had tweeted that it would be his loss if he did not assign Pritam his next directorial.

It may have been me, or just a frank observation of his own, that made Karan sign Pritam for his next directorial, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, and also later for another production, Brahmastra—Part One: Shiva. And now, Karan and Pritam have delivered a superlative musical again—Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani.

The official soundtrack, which includes multiple versions of some of the songs, has 14 tracks. Of these, one, titled Saregama Carvaan Medley, has six older classics within it that have been re-created and used situation-based in the film. We will discuss this last. Pritam has billed himself differently for these tracks that have been composed by yesteryear stalwarts.

As in all recent Pritam soundtracks, Arijit Singh dominates, and his duet with Shreya Ghoshal, Tum kya mile, a sweet and gossamer love track, filmed amidst snows, is a lovely opener. The lyrics speak of the way the young lovers regard each other. However, this version is a “Radio Edit” (I thought this practice went out from the 1960s or earlier!) and there is a full version too, and a third one by Shreya alone.

This is followed by the What jhumka? song that has become a craze. Jonita Gandhi and Arijit Singh (with some contribution from Ranveer Singh) share the honors in this frisky composition that is partly credited to the late Madan Mohan, whose Jhumka gira re from Mera Saaya forms the base of this track—the tune of the mukhda is used as the interlude, and is excellently done, besides being brilliantly choreographed.

Darshan Raval and Bhoomi Trivedi (remember the title-song of Goliyon Ki RasLila—RamLila?) vocalize the rambunctious Dhindora baaje re, filmed during a Navaratri sequence. Dev Negi belts out the opening (within the film) track, Heart-throb, which has had record hits on YouTube and is marked by cameos from a clutter of young stars associated with Karan alongside Ranveer in this foot-tapping dance number. However, this is one of the many songs here that have the ubiquitous Punjabi terms, words and sentences creeping in.

The madness of love is thus also heard and talked about in Ve kamleya, sung by Arijit Singh, Shreya Ghoshal, Shadab Faridi and Altamash Faridi. This song too has a ‘Sufi’ version by Shadab Faridi, Altamash Faridi and Asees Kaur, which is much longer (5.21 as against 4.07) and even what is known as a Redux Version by Tushar Joshi and Shreya Ghoshal, which is even longer (5.27)!

Actually, unless they are of situational use, I fail to see why many songs are heard in film albums, especially since the millennium, in diverse versions. One reason could be that composers are not sure which voice(s) are right, but in this case, the different lengths do not corroborate this!

Sonu Nigam and Shilpa Rao come in for the melodramatic Ro lain de, which expresses pathos in the aftermath of a death sequence. The singers do what is needed in it. And then we have my favorite song, though again, the main word, Kudmayi, and some more are in Punjabi. The version we watch within the film is rendered by Shahid Mallya, the full-throated wizard best known for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag a decade back.

Lyrically the strongest track on the album, it has the kind of steep and moving melody that only Pritam can deliver among the post-1990s composers, and once again, the composer extracts the very best from his singer. There is another version, which I call a “lesser” one, by Sachet Tandon.

Finally, Rani’s Intro Theme is a kind of mix-n-match cut-n-paste track rather than an actual song, credited to Pritam and one Brianna Supriyo. It contains a small hint of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal-Lata classic, Aur mera naam hai Jameela (Night In London /1967) with only the first four words heard. It also has a sampling of the S.D, Burman beauty, Mere sapnon ki rani by Kishore Kumar from Aradhana (1969).

The Saregama Carvaan Medley surprisingly lists only six freshly-recorded classics: Hawa ke saath saath (Seeta Aur Geeta), Yeh shaam mastani (Kati Patang), Aao na (Mere Jeevan Saathi), all composed by R.D. Burman, Ek pyar ka naghma hai (Shor), Hum tum ek kamre mein band ho (Bobby) and Aaj mausam beimaan hai bada (Loafer) all composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Anand Bakshi has written all the older songs listed in the last two paragraphs except for Majrooh Sultanpuri’s Aao na and Santosh Anand’s Ek pyar ka naghma hai.

But there is mysteriously no trace at all of two songs that have been used with great effect in brilliant situations within the film—Jaidev’s Sahir-written Abhi na jaao chhodkar (from Hum Dono) and S.D. Burman’s Shailendra written gem, Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai (Guide). As per Pritam, all the re-created classics have been rendered by Shashwat Singh and Jonita Gandhi and they have done a brilliant job, especially Jonita who has made her voice fit Alia Bhatt, Shabana Azmi and Kshitee Jog all at once. But why has Saregama played favorites here?

Karan has loved medleys and older songs earlier in Student of the Year as well as Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, but in this wonderful album, they are not only of greater narrative import but exceedingly well done.

Rating: 4 star




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