By far, AKS is not a melodious score. The rhythm in its music is far from apparent. The tunes donīt resonate with typical musical preferences and you canīt dance to them nor enjoy their flow. Gulzarīs lyrics are a far cry from his conventional poetry. Yet, I would rate AKS as the best or most aptly composed music for a dark psychological thriller that the movie is. So what if the songs do not entertain, get you on your feet, nor have you humming catchy tunes. They are just not meant to do that and the goodness of this score rather not be counted on those measures.
The success of AKS lies in what would be some of the darkest, grimmest, and most creepy reptilian songs we have heard in Hindi movies. The best example of this is the album opener - Yeh Raat. Cabaret numbers are meant to titillate, or get you dancing - but Gulzar comes up with lines like "saanp si sarakti raat" in a brilliantly worded and composed song that defines creepiness in music. Anu Malikīs tune and Gulzarīs lyrics are enhanced by Ranjit Barotīs arrangements and Anupamaīs most impressive singing in this likely chartbuster.
The creepiness is also felt in Raat Aati Hai. Here, Shubha Mudgal sings another grim, thought-provokingly worded number. The tune and lyrics use her voice and range well and Ranjit Barot impresses with his arrangements once more. The lyrics are more typical Gulzar, and we have heard more than a few songs from him about lonely or betraying nights. In a different way, Aaja Gufaon Mein, continues in the same dark and reptilian vein with Vasundhara Das using her voice to define what singing from a cave can be like, along with K K as the male voice.
From reptilian creepiness to roaring badness - Bhala Bura has two things going for it. Amitabhīs baritone vocals and Gulzarīs way with words. Amazing use of antonyms lend character to the two-faced theme of the movie and Amitabh sounds wicked with an evil laughter used most effectively. No credits to Anu Malik here, the music is composed by Indrajit Sharma - but simply put, the composition plays second fiddle to Amitabhīs narration and Gulzarīs words. If you like to hear Amitabh, - listen to Ramleela where he sings as Ravan. A very situational song, this modern family Ramleela has Amitabh, Nandita Das, and Kavita Mundra play Ravan, Hanuman, and Sita. Arranged by Rajat Dholakia, the song relies heavily on Gulzarīs innovative lyrics and an easy conversational tune.
Rabba Rabba is a typical fast-paced Punjabi song by Sukhwinder Singh with Vasundhara Das as the female voice. While the lyrics donīt get insipid, they are significantly absent in this number with most of the song having either Rabba Rabba or Piya. However, Anu Malikīs pacy tune and Ranjit Barotīs arrangements get this number to grow on your ears too. Though, I just wish we had Rabba banned from Hindi movies vocabulary for a while with almost every Punjabi flavored song these days having an overdose of it.
Ras peene ki pyaas hai, banda ye bindaas hai. That is K K singing very different lyrics to catchy caribbean instrumentals in Banda Bindas - another winner for the album.
Apart from these unconventional songs, Anu Malik demonstrates his melodious creativity in Hum Bhool Gaye. In two versions by Hariharan and Chitra respectively, both singers do full justice to lyrical remembrances - a typical favorite for Gulzar songs to reminisce about the past. Ranjit Barot impresses with distinctly different arrangements - with a heavy and grim sound for the female version, and a dark but seductive sound for the male version. Easily the most melodious and soothing numbers in an otherwise heavy album, they catch your fancy first but perhaps pale with the creative complexity and innovation in the other numbers.
For a first hearing, AKS is a compilation of very situational songs that donīt seem to make an album worth buying and several hearings. However, if creative lyrics that get you thinking what the song means, AKS has many reasons to listen to its songs over and over. If complex tunes and arrangements get you interested, you will be most interested in AKS. AKS comes across as a score that merits many listenings and it claims that merit by gnawing its way into your mind. The creative genius of Anu Malik, Gulzar, and Ranjit Barot indeed bring life to a very different album that builds expectations for an equally different movie.
In essence, AKS is not for you if you want simple melodious love songs, pacy or youthful dance numbers, and the oh-so-familiar marriage songs. But it is a must buy if you like to explore newness and experiments in music, enjoy thinking about Gulzarīs lyrics, and relish a new highlight in Anu Malikīs creativity amidst his many mediocre scores. Lastly, if you will like it, AKS is not an album to compromise on the media, for Ranjit Barot has ensured that what you hear on the Internet is half as good as what you can hear on a cassette or an ordinary system, which is also going to pale when you have a CD playing from a rich music system. I must say I am happy not to have reviewed this score in a hurry or from the net, for I would not have been so positive about it.