Fatema Kagalwala dives into the music of Bombay Velvet and comes out mighty impressed. In fact, it seems like she doesn’t want to come out of it. Read on.
Disclaimer – This is not a music review. Just rambles. Just my experience of it.
Back in 2009 when Dev D music hit the market it hit me (and many of us) like a thunderbolt. I drew everyone around mad by listening to it like my life (and theirs) depended on it. The things it did to me, the things it evoked, the things it made me want to do – it was these unexplainable things that make the album unforgettable to me even today. And now it’s Bombay Velvet songs that are doing unthinkable things to me. Maybe its just me, but I thought it warranted an un-review, its too good for anything else.
I’ve been listening to Bombay Velvet songs, on loop since it came out. At first, I couldn’t differentiate one song from another except maybe Sylvia and Darbaan and the remaining 12 merged into one another like milk and water. Give it all to my complete ignorance of the jazz music harmony but I’ve never been the one to listen to music with anything but my heart. I connected to hard rock the same way, till date I don’t know anything about yet I love it because it speaks to me in ways nothing else does and I respond like I never knew I could. Bombay Velvet’s retro-jazz does something similar to me.
Is it the haunting darkness of it? The style, the retro-style which is very modern at the same time. Or the upbeatness of the track covering up the darkness? Every song reminds me of a lot of things, songs, references but when I try to pick one I can’t. The song suddenly gains a credential, an identity of its own. Which is when I realise how homogenous is Trivedi’s mixing of a multitude of elements, moods, strains into something with its own uniqueness.
It’s an album that is a visceral experience of ethos of the 60’s Mumbai, steeped in its still predominant Anglo-Indian culture that continued to give shape to the idiom of modernity in society and our films of those times. We may also call it neo-colonialism. And there are three things that when combined have created magic in the past as well. The resident Kashyap quirk, dystopia and desperation. The typical Trivedi touch of using prevalent sounds in new ways and hence fucking up mainstream music once again. And the staple Bhattacharya habit of taking us to newer worlds within amidst the commonest of commonalities.
Darbaan – Papon’s honey-soaked voice over uncluttered, single or two instruments only music track. Love the way the words melt into each other.
‘Baadshah sadko ka tu, sadke hi teri taqdeer hain,
daakhila oonche makaanon mein kuchh thekedaaron ki jaageer hain.”
Somehow, this refuses to leave me. It touches a little more, just a little than how much it is meant to and I am wondering if it’s the Papon-effect or the words or the sweeping, swaying nature of the tune. It’s got the ‘Hain apna dil toh awara’ abandon, the gypsy-fakir tone but with a disheartened voice. Also, it seems like it’s a 3rd person pov, commenting on the protagonist or the Everyman as we may want to see it, and that gives it one of those singing fakir kinda moods, which is what I love.
In the seductive and tempting mode, a male version of this is super interesting, such moral kind of songs are generally sung by women in films – the upholder of all things virtuous.
The Bombay Velvet Theme – Rarely do I listen to themes, I enjoy them while watching the film but hardly ever take them back home. Except the BV theme. I’ve been imagining Amitabh type swashbuckling fights over it, Humphrey Bogart-Cary Grant type chase sequences, Baz Luhrman type grand bars and ballrooms with a sweep of darkness, intrigue and debauchery. It’s what film theme music used to be back in the 60’s thrillers. Grand, sweeping, moody, dark. It literally takes me back to the 60’s, without any help of visuals. And I am already loving what it is making me expect from the film which I shouldn’t be doing. Let’s stop here.
P.S.: Take a bike ride while listening to it, Especially ghats. You won’t regret it.
Aam Hindustani – I was tickled no end when I first heard this –
“Roothi hain mehbooba, roothi roothi sharab hain,
Aam Hindustani teri kismet kharaab hain!”
*insert rolling on the floor and laughing my ass off smiley here*
Oh but it doesn’t end there!
‘Pyaar mein thenga, bar mein thenga,
Inki botal bhi goronki gulaam hain’.
Whoa! And I love the slightly scathing tone Shefali Alvares has sung it in. Of course, what else would do justice to this! But I’m thinking about the very idea of having a scathing song at all to mock the guy. Back in the 50’s and 60’s our filmy women, even in bars, only sang encouraging songs (Tadbeer se bigdi hui) or teasing ones (Babuji Dheere Chalna) to the man. Interesting subversion I really wanna know more about from the film.
Circus music! I laughed when I read this description of the unconventionally long prelude. Coz by then I had already started tripping on the soundtrack ‘like crazy’. The waltzy-jive feel is too good to ignore, feet begin tapping on their own. And then follows a sweet la la la and bang! There is that Trivedi whiplash – it is followed with a curt, snide ‘Dhobi ka kutta kaisa ghaat na gharka!’ in Shefali Alvares’ boisterous and refreshingly uninhibited vocals and you’re like ‘whaaaaa…’? . This is Bhattacharya in ‘paan mein pudhina’ zone😛 full on quirk!
“Lalach ne tujhko aisi patti padhayi
Khwahish huyi hain degchi, khadai
Taqdeer teri abhi bhi chamach hain!”
In lesser hands this would have become ‘tujhko mirchi lagi toh main kya karoon’.
There are so many turns of the tune, dramatic ones that I wonder how the song has been used / picturised. Hide-n-seek, chase, robbery, in bits, in parts, in whole? Phew!
Behroopia – Of shadows, of doubts, of lies and half-hidden truths, mysteries and the subtle threat of it all…This is the wine of the album for me. Classy, seductive, romantic, moody, dark, a slow high. The fabulous trumpet giving way to almost minimalist vocals and that giving way to a full-blown orchestra is a transition I can’t get over right now. Between this, Darbaan and Sylvia what would I choose as the best? I’m still trying to figure out. And after Rockstar, in my imagination, Mohit Chauhan is to Ranbeer what Balasubraniam was to Salman at one point😛
Dhadaam Dhadaam – This one is ‘Duniya’ level good. The operatic touch gives it that grandness of lost passions, a passion critical and deadly at the same time. Throughout the album Bhattacharya uses words we used to use in cinema back in time, but don’t anymore like ‘malaal’, ‘sehra’, ‘gila’, ‘daga’, (the Urdu influence fast disappearing from our films and lives today but immersive back then). This infuses a refreshing old-world-ness to the song only to be taken down with a dhadaam, literally! Someone, once said, everything that had to be discovered has been discovered, now we just create newer meanings and expressions by playing around with those discoveries. And AB puts a very quirky and unpoetic ‘Dhadaam’ bang in the middle of light and beautiful Urdu. The effect.
Ka Kha Ga – The fabulous trumpet makes an appearance again, with a band taking over. And then a seductive, drunk ‘Ay’. Geeta Dutt would have been so happy! This one I love singing! And I do, chilla chillake. (The corridors at Girls Hostel echo, all the more joy :P)
Naak Pe Gussa – Here’s my ‘Tadbeerse Bigdi Hui’ but as modern as it could get! Bhattacharya’s choice of words is so mellifluous, it’s a delicious thing to keep listening to. Teasing, warm, naughty, and one of those rare happy songs in the album. And it sounds like it has been literally sung with a smile on! (Like one feels about Ashatai’s songs!)
Sylvia – This is the true-blue retro song of the album, lovingly and truthfully recreating the O.P Nayyar-verse.
“Bhavra tha sayana, mukar hi gaya na,
Rusvayi reh gayi, (Oh ‘rusvayi’!)
Ghosla suhana, ujad hi gaya na,
Tanhai reh gayi
Aankh ke surme ko daag banaya,
Kaanch ke aashiyan ko phook jalaya
Fitrat mein hi thi bewafai
Tu pyaar pe tohmat chhod gayi
Yeh kya kiya Sylvia !”
Rusvayi, aashiyaan, fitrat, tohmat haye!
Mohabbat Buri Beemaari – I’m not much of a fan of this, something is very laboured about it…something isn’t right and I can’t put my finger on it yet. I’ve simply stopped listening to it.
<detour> (Sylvia is playing right now. And yet again I am giving myself up to it. My first favourite of the album, its retro-ness calling out to those long-lost childhood memories. Growing up on O.P.Nayyar in a family that hailed him as a path-breaking musician when he was somewhat of an outcast in the mainstream more Indian-classical-is-music-alone world, the quality of his songs and sounds make me smile even today.(really wanna know if it’s a conscious hat-tip). There is something searing in the rendition and the use of march rhythmic chorus to underline that entire effect wanting to overpower…well, succeeded there!)
Shut Up – Drum rolls!!! Drum beats now, foot-tapping, jubilant trumpets and others follow. All upbeat and celebratory. And when things are about to settle down, Trivedi throws a spanner in the works. And then the song starts. Then you realise the effect this juxtaposition has on the expectation of the opening and the surprise in what follows.
Aisi kya, aisi kya, aisi kya bhookh hain…The first time I heard this I tripped on how the use of repetition fits in so beautifully! And lately I’ve been noticing how ‘harqatein’ almost sounds like ‘harqutein’ and suddenly it gains more quirk. Remember ‘sufed’?
And the merging of light, lilting, Urdu words with a crude ‘Shut Up!’ Why isn’t this today’s ‘Emotional Atyachaar’ of the youth yet?
Conspiracy – ‘Conspiracy’ is so well-named! And Trivedi plays with extremes once again, kabhi silent, kabhi ceiling-crashing, extremes – tempo mein, scale mein, aur emotion mein. Leaves me a little breathless every time I listen to it. And I love that feeling of anticipation as the music keeps picking up scale only to peter out, without any fulfilment, without any answers…letting a dullness set in that’s ‘safer’.
Out of 15 tracks, 12 are with vocals. Out of the 12, 11 are romantic songs. Only one is about the overarching ambitions of the protagonist, the central conceit of the film. Let’s see how the film treats the music and vice-versa.
For now, let the trumpets and trombones lull me to sleep, like they are used to by now. I wonder which one of these I will wake up singing tomorrow morning! Will let you know🙂