Planet Bollywood
Producer: Tom Wilhite and Charles Salmon
Director: Willard Carroll
Starring: Salman Khan, Ali Larter, Nandana Sen, Helen, Suchitra Pillai, Ian Bohen, Shari Watson, Vikas Bhalia, Vijayendra Ghatge, Kiran Juneja
Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar (Hindi) and Willard Carroll (English)
Singers: Shaan, Alka Yagnik, Shari Watson (aka Truth Hurts), Nikita Nigam, Vikas Bhalla, Sneha Pant, and Nihira Joshi
Audio On: T-Series    Number of Songs: 8
Album Released on: July 2007
Reviewed by: Atta Khan  - Rating: 7.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 listeners)
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‘Yes! It’s an S-E-L production so the music must be a very innovative and enjoyable listen!’ was my enthusiastic reaction to Marigold soundtrack, well in advance of even acquiring it. How many of you music fans reacted in a similar way? We all build our expectations of music based on a number of factors; the hype surrounding the movie maybe one such factor, the director / production banner may be another factor but surely the most important factor should be the people behind the music do you not agree?

Anyway, having built such a solid reputation over the years with several noteworthy soundtracks that pushed the innovation barrier, is it any wonder why S-E-L have such high expectations from directors and fans alike? But on the flip side has anyone noticed how average their music has become of late? Sure soundtracks from 2006 such as the Don, KANK and SEI were hot sellers but was the music really as good as it could have been? Was it really as innovative, fresh and consistently up to the mark as in their heyday? And their sole effort this year JBJ is more hype than substance is it not?

So can S-E-L do themselves justice with their next project Marigold, a romantic comedy in English billed the ‘first Indo-US production ever’ with a Hollywood director Willard Carroll, and starring Salman Khan and Ali Carter. Arguably S-E-L have more scope to work with here i.e. to cater for both Hindi and Western music. It is also worth noting that although the movie is a 2007 release, the music is strongly rumoured to have been produced years ago when the trio were in their elements with trendsetting soundtracks such as Armaan and Phir Milenge. Let’s find out if they find their elements with Marigold!

(Note the review will focus on the Hindi tracks first and then move onto the English ones).

Hindi Tracks

The album gets off to a good footing with Yeh Pyar Kya Hai (Seven Stages of Love) which you sense is a background score, such is the soft and slow nature of this soothing love ballad. S-E-L concentrate mainly on the guitar in harmony with the violin and strings to create some extremely light background arrangements which give the music a western touch (required for the English version reviewed later) and at the same time puts the listener’s mood to ease. Shaan is the singer responsible for taking you through the ‘seven stages of love’, stage one is about love at first sight, stage two is about intensifying your feelings etc, you get the idea! The song is well written by Javed Saab but let there be no doubt about the highlight which is Shaan’s superb rendition- the manner in which he emits such powerful emotions with the use of slow and controlled vocals is a treat to behold and a testament to his talents! Overall if you give this a few listens for the sake of Shaan’s singing it may grow on you but be warned you may also get over it very quickly as the music itself is nothing special by S-E-L standards.

Things certainly pep up with the next track Yeh Pyar Hai (That’s love) which is instantly more catchy than the previous one! Although it starts in a slow fashion, the moment Shaan utters the opening lines; Zindagi se meine kaha…you anticipate something upbeat because his vocals are so full of zest and enthusiasm however S-E-L keep you in suspense for a bit longer as the music slowly builds up pace and then a minute later the song finally erupts with the introduction of the main chorus which is quite addictive! With Shaan in this kind of form, two or three listens of this pacy number and you will be hooked but alas it may only be short lived!

Firstly from a purely technical stand the musical orchestration here is a bit a of a mishmash for want of a better phrase and you find it hard to decipher the different instruments used let alone contemplate how they harmonise with each other. There is no innovation, no stand out arrangement or lasting melody. Also it was a surprise to hear Shaan switching to an English verse at the end but to his credit he switches languages with such panache and ease, you barely notice! Overall worth a listen for Shaan’s vocals alone but in reality it’s another track that could have been so much better!

Arguably the best Hindi track here is Sacha Pyar (The Meaning of Love). Taking the slow and soothing theme from ‘Yeh Pyar Kya Hai’ S-E-L create another love song with limited background music, relying more on the silent interludes and the soft tabla. The effect of this is eerie and haunting as you are left to focus on the slow paced singing until a soft crescendo (chorus) hits you and the song ignites into life leaving behind a beautiful impression in your ears! Incidentally the singer is little known Nikita Nigam (Pyare Mohan) and on repeated listen she impresses immensely with some of the sweetest vocals you will hear this year. Javed Saab’s lyrics are just the icing on the cake. The song will take time to grow on you but it’s worth the effort. The only downside to the track is that it’s on the short side but otherwise it’s a great listen with good replay value and whilst nothing groundbreaking, S-E-L still deserve a thumbs up here.

The last two Hindi tracks, Paagal Si Saari Lehren and Tan Man feel very out of place in this soundtrack to the point that you feel S-E-L have included them as space fillers! They also appear to be very situational and from a purely audio point of view hold a somewhat limited appeal. That’s not to say they are terrible but just nothing out of the ordinary and easily forgettable. The former is an amusing, almost comic like duet and the latter sounds straight out of a 90s soundtrack. Give them a go but don’t expect much!

English tracks

American RnB singer Shari Watson (aka Truth Hurts) is joined by Shaan in the English version of Yeh Pyar Kya Hai (Seven stages of love) and although it does not have the same impact as the Hindi version (let’s face it nothing was going to touch Shaan’s solo rendition!) the music is instantly recognizable and the change in language seamlessly gels in. Recommended especially if you liked the original!

Shari puts in a much better performance in her solo The Meaning of Love aka English version of Sacha Pyar Hai placing it virtually on par with the Hindi version! It was a pleasant surprise to note that the music, which is unchanged from the original, is equally fitting to a Western mood. The track is very likeable if you enjoyed the original and although the lyrics are not on par with that version, Shari’s efforts make this a worthwhile listen.

If there were any doubts creeping into your mind as to whether these composers can produce a good English number then cast them aside as here is arguably the best track of the entire album; Listen to the music. This is much more like the S-E-L we all know and love! They get the balance right between Hindi and Western music by creating a perfect fusion of synthesized beats which carry a varying assortment of interludes and decibels to create an eerie almost seductive mood. The use of the ‘twang’ effect is especially noteworthy as is the ‘gungroo’ rattling softly in the background. The ‘tabla’ and violin are also used to good effect. Shaan’s vocals compliment Shari’s extremely well and all in all this short but funky duet is a very pleasing listen indeed- what a fitting end to the album!

And that’s it folks… S-E-L’s objective to produce music that is sufficiently diverse to apply to both Hindi and Western taste has been achieved fairly successfully here without being anything special. Whilst the concept of using light background arrangements in slow paced songs may be off putting and not to everyone’s taste, if you give it a chance with Marigold and begin to appreciate some of its subtleties then it has the potential to keep you entertained for many hours.

However the one lasting memory of this soundtrack is the scintillating performance by Shantanu Mukherjee (aka Shaan) who proves further why he is one of the most versatile singers in the industry. When a singer performs so admirably it only enhances the standing of the album! Shaan’s singing (ably supported by Shari Watson) lifts Marigold above the realms of mediocrity and if you are a fan of his then this soundtrack will reach out to you with open arms. It is also recommended to those who are fond of romantic/love songs but please don’t expect anything loud like JBJ! Alas if none of this applies to you then it’s pretty safe to say this will not be your cup of tea!

So where does that leave S-E-L and their followers alike? Well let’s be absolutely clear on one thing Marigold is not going to pick up any awards for its music- but on the whole, it’s a reasonably good effort by S-E-L (considering the aforementioned points) and much better than their other new release Heyy Babyy. Nevertheless we should perhaps lower our expectations in the future as their current music is showing fewer and fewer signs from their heyday…

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