“Kisna cannot be confused with Ashutosh Gowariker´s Lagaan. Lagaan is Lagaan and Kisna is Kisna. Lagaan´s characters were basic, but Kisna is intellectually higher…Kisna is aware of Indian tradition, philosophy and ethos at a conscious level.” - Subhash Ghai
Many times there have been soundtracks with tremendous expectations. However, in the modern era, never have I seen an album with a greater potential to become something special…something magical. It’s no wonder why Mr. Subash Ghai is coined as India’s greatest “Showman,” for his films not only bring with them a sense of class and taste, they also offer some of the finest music; be it Pardes, Taal, or Yaadein.
Kisna is a fusion of Western Classical and Indian Folk. When one thinks of western fusion, Mr. Rahman quickly comes to mind. Yet, Indian folk isn’t quite his fancy although he has done quite well with the genre in the few times he’s attempted it (Kariye Na (Taal), Haji Ali (Fiza), Chinamma Chilakamma (Meenaxi)…). Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to dedicate enough time to the entire album, as he was busy preparing the tunes of the stage show performances of The Lord of The Rings.
“I think [Ismail] Darbar is the only person who has a command over both Western and Indian classical music. He was the only option.” - Subhash Ghai
Ismail Darbar, most noted for his exceptionally impressive work in Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas, composes for eleven of the sixteen songs; where he integrates folk and classical music to create a divine touch of creativity. In addition to the extraordinary duo of Darbar-Rahman, Ghai allows for the popular and skilled Javed Akhtar to write the pieces. In essence, this is yet another breakthrough year for Akhtar saab, and the pleasure for writing this album is all his! When you take three men who are ingenious veterans in their respective fields, and allow them to work together…sky’s the limit!
Note: The first portion of the review will focus on A.R. Rahman’s five contributions as the rest of the review will focus on Ismail Darbar’s eleven contributions.
Those who are accustomed to Rahman’s style of music can tell right away that Hum Hai Iss Pal Yahan is composed by Rahman and not Darbar. One can even tell by just looking at the credits of the track, which are vocally given to Udit Narayan and Madhushree, two of Rahman’s favorite. Appearing in the first CD, this piece is vintage Rahman! Setting the mood right away with the chirping of the birds that slowly allows for the flute and piano to infiltrate the piece, beautifully complimenting Udit Narayan and Madhushree. This piece serves as the inspiration of Rahman’s three theme scores. In addition to Rahman’s delicately strong composition, and Narayan and Madhushree’s tender renditions, Javad Akhtar write a tale of romance that is apart from the ordinary. Although this may not go down as Rahman’s best, it gives this album that explosive start.
Following are Rahman’s three theme scores that permeate throughout the album. The firs theme, which appears on the first CD, is the flute instrumental. Rahman impresses once again with this very sweet and touching instrumental of the previous track, rendered flawlessly by the flute. The beauty of music lies in the simplicity of composition. Supported ever so fragilely by the piano, this piece’s quality is reflected by its simplicity. Lasting just under a minute, this theme coupled with the Ashok Mehta’s cinematography should work wonders in the cinema halls.
The second theme instrumental is literally the reverse of the previous, as the piano does the rendering with the flute in a supporting role. With a quicker pace than the previous, all three instruments (flute, piano, and percussion beat) work together to create yet another awe-inspiring score. The final theme piece of Kisna comes as a chorus, rendering the lyrics of Hum Hain Iss Pal Yahan. As this piece gets underway, one can’t help but recall Rahman’s Keva Re Keva (1947 Earth). Featured at the end of the second CD, this is a nice way to put the finishing touches to this classy soundtrack.
Rahman’s final contribution to Kisna comes in the form of the English piece titled My Wish Comes True. The buzz is afloat that this may as well be India’s answer to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. With romantic lyrics by Blaze (last heard in Rahman’s Dol Dol (Yuva), this is a powerful composition that encompasses a woman’s wish to fall in love…only if it be just for a moment. Savita Sarathy, who was last heard in Rahman’s Khuda Hafiz (Yuva), does a spectacular job in showcasing her vocalization skills that have surpassed the boundaries of language. With a haunting chorus and a sharp flute melody, this track only adds to the class of the album and gives way for the very talented Ismail Darbar to continue the quality with which Rahman has composed.
"Both of them agreed to work together and the result is Kisna. You will not be able to distinguish who has composed which song. Both have taken notes from each other,” - Subhash Ghai
Darbar ji starts his portion of the soundtrack off on a very spiritual note with the very interestingly titled Aham Bramhasmi. Javed Akhtar writes on something that people tend to disregard; the fact that if God is within, then why go to the mandir? Darbar’s use of a chorus supports Sukhwinder Singh’s voice powerfully and Alka Yagnik does a nice job in the limited time that she has. All in all, it’s evident that Darbar has taken notes from Rahman in this piece, as it’s a fusion of spiritual, folk, and western classical music. However, with Darbar’s touch, it is able to appeal to not only the religiously inclined audience, but nearly everyone who gives it a listen.
Alphabetically, the next track in the queue is Sushmita Sen’s highly anticipated mujra; titled by Javed saab as Chillman Uthegi Nahin. Sush starts the track off with her diljalon/dilwalon dialogue and makes way for one of the best songs that Kisna has to offer. Unlike its predecessor, it’s quite easy to discern that this piece belongs to Ismail Darbar since it has an extremely strong classical base. One could say that it is all the songs of Devdas woven into one! Nonetheless, all the singers, ranging from Alka Yagnik, Hariharan, Ayesha Darbar, S. Shailja, Khailash Kher, and Rakesh Pandit, do a beautiful job. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics do the trick to make for an extremely ear pleasing number by the entire crew of Chillman Uthegi Nahin.
Ga…Tu Aisi Dhun Mein Ga is the next contribution from Ismail Darbar. Yet another outstanding effort put forth by the Western Classical King! Opened up by the playful laughter and talk of some village kids, this ched-chaad song showcases not only a very catchy and heart-warming melody, but it also displays some exquisite renditions by Ismail Darbar, Ayesha Darbar, S. Shailja, M. Salamat, and Khailash Kher. Although not as strong classically as the previous, this one has a more classical-folk fusion to it, which adds to the authentic beauty of the piece. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics need no comment as he is in form once again.
The next two items on Darbar’s agenda are pure classical ones. The first, titled Kahe Ujadi Mori Neend is rendered by Ustad Rashid Khan with utmost pain and sorrow, articulated by his pensive alaaps that infiltrate the composition. Although it’s musically and vocally sound, the piece will only appeal to a small environment of listeners. Tore Bina Mohe Chain Nahin is the second classically rendered piece. Similar to its predecessor, it’s filled with swaras and alaaps of the like; yet the song will fail for one reason…. there is no musical support. At times this may work in the benefit of the singer; however, this piece results in a drawn out rendition that only causes the listener to search for his “skip” button. Lyrics by Javed Akhtar for both tracks are ample to emote a mood of sorrow and despair.
Next up are the two Mantras. As offbeat as this album has been so far, it would be difficult not to add yet another unusual piece…make that two unusual pieces. Both, Mantra I and Mantra II, render some ancient Sanskrit prathnas, which are sung by a rather haunting male chorus. Although both have a purely eastern-classical base, the second one will most probably appeal to the majority of the masses as its musical arrangements carry a rapid pace that doesn’t bore and a melody that is quite catchy. Regardless, both pieces are nice religious contributions to Kisna by Ismail Darbar.
Tu Itni Pagli Kyon Hai is Darbar’s next offering. This one may take some time to grow on you, as it did for me; but the end result is yet another happy-go-lucky track by Ismail Darbar and one of the most successful pairs of Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik. With a pleasant female chorus in support, Alka and Udit are able to play off of each others’ voices beautifully. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics give this one yet another twist and are definitely worth more than just one listen. But don’t forget, as for some it may take a few listens to awaken your liking for this playful number.
Ismail Darbar takes note from Rahman, as he starts off Wohi Din Aa Gaya on a beautiful note…with the soft melodic play of the classical flute. Musically, Darbar carries the quality with which he has been composing into this track also. Alka Yagnik receives full marks for this score with a supporting cast of Sukhwinder Singh, Ayesha Darbar, and S. Shailja. Writing on a routine situation (especially in Hindi cinema) of a bride-to-be waiting for her man to come and take her, Javed Akhtar is able to put his own signature touch on this one and make it something out of the ordinary. This piece succeeds on all fronts and makes for another cordial experience.
Last but not least is the title track Woh Kisna Hai. Full marks go to Sukhwinder this time around as his energetic performance is what makes this track worth the listen. In support are Ismail Darbar, Ayesha Darbar, and S. Shailja who do an adequate job in their mostly chorus role. Musically, this isn’t the best that Darbar has to offer as there is much left to be discovered. Melodically, the beginning stanza is the highlight, however the other parts of the piece slightly tend to drag. Thanks to some nice vocals, this one does, however, succeed. Javed Akhtar eludes to the relationship between Radha-Kishan in a way that all can relate. A good ending to an otherwise excellent album by the two larger-than-life maestros.
If Aitraaz wasn’t up to Mukta Arts’ standards in terms of music, then Kisna more than makes up for the gap! A combination as versatile and as skilled as A.R. Rahman and Ismail Darbar has never been heard before and most probably won't be heard again for years to come. Excluding a couple of tracks, every song in Kisna carries with it a degree of authenticity that is sure to arouse even more curiosity towards the authenticity of the film itself. One thing must be said, Darbar’s favorite, Kavita Krishnamurty, is sincerely missed throughout this soundtrack as her expertise in the genre of western fusion with a classical harmony far exceeds that of those featured on the album.
As the year 2003 ended on a great note with Chameli and Rudraksh, 2004 comes to an even better close with two exceptional soundtracks…Shabd and Kisna. With Kisna, both maestros come together to deliver something ever so delicately strong; that it should be a pleasure to experience and a treasure to unearth on screen.