Planet Bollywood
Kabul Express
Producer: Aditya Chopra/Yash Raj Films
Director: Kabir Khan
Starring: John Abraham, Arshad Warsi, and Salman Shahid
Music: Raghav Sachar and Julius Packiam (Guest)
Lyrics: Aditya Dhar, Swaratmika Mishra, and Vijay Kumar
Singers: Raghav Sachar, Shubha Mudgal, Sunidhi Chauhan, and K.K.
Audio On: Yash Raj Music    Number of Songs: 9
Album Released on: November 2006
Reviewed by: Gianysh Toolsee  - Rating: 6.5 / 10
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The name of this music director may not be ringing any bells for many but Raghav Sachar is one talented artist. Picture this: He plays 24 instruments, graduated from a top university (Melbourne, Australia) with a music degree, has two pop albums in his kitty, is a hot favorite among fashion designers, has done the background score for some Bollywood movies and is only 24! And now he is in the Yash Raj Camp at this age when long established music directors have been waiting for ages to work (some have even lost hope!) with Yash Raj Films.

However, composing for movies is serious business. It requires another skill which all aspiring music directors either need to learn or polish. In the past, very talented musicians have tried their hand at composing for movies but not all of them have been successful. No need to give names here.

Raghav Sachar has been given the right project at the right time – a time when offbeat movies are finding a place in Bollywood. Formulaic music has been tested and tried for decades. Experimental and world music are slowly making an entry. Kabul Express is a documentary where unusual music is demanded and also needs to be in sync with the theme of the movie.

Without delving into any form of explanation or description, Banjar is a hit straight from the first note. This song reflects the music of this new generation of composers – something fresh, unheard and captivating. The music company packaged it into three different versions and they all rock!

A combination of one of the best voices in India and a reprise by the master of the flute gives birth to the first electrifying version of ‘Banjar’. After delivering extraordinary performances in the soundtrack of Raincoat and in her own album; The Awakening, Shubha Mudgal is heard in this fast paced number plagued by the soft rock-techno sounds. Let’s not forget that behind this composer hides an artist who has the ability to play a wide range of instruments. Without modesty, he displays his talent by using a plethora of lesser heard instruments to create an amazing and healthy track reasoning of music. One can feel his talent when hearing the excellent arrangements with the saxophone, the various wind instruments and the keyboards.

Vocal effects have been extended to a trance mode and this further enhances the beautiful and yet adventurous voice of Shubha Mudgal. Raghav scores high marks because both the music and the voice greatly complements each other very well. The choice of Shuba Mudgal is sublime. Who would have thought that she can sound like a Jaspinder Narula, an Ila Arun or even a Hema Sadesai?

Raghav Sachar commands the flute with tremendous precision and goes further by playing a small piece of music in the last interlude. On a side note, although the flute piece is nice in the context of the song but honestly there is nothing ‘musically special’ about it. Flute interludes experts like Anu Malik and Anand Milind have tried all sorts of melodies in interludes in the 90’s (where the flute was a popular instrument). Anand-Milind have used the flute in most of their interludes non-stop till they vanished from the music scene. Raghav’s flute interlude is too simple and has coincidentally already been heard before in the prelude of ‘Humko Tumse Pyaar Hai’ in Ishq which had music by Anu Malik. No dragging of story but musical notes do sound similar sometimes and there is no one to be blamed here.

K.K. makes a rocking entry in the soundtrack with his energetic voice in Banjar Revisited. The talented singer injects a new life in the song and the track shapes up into a very likable K.K. number. Awesome! His explosive performance is too good and consequently it overshadows the whole tune – something not expected but the voice takes all the credit here. The music develops at a faster pace with catchy rhythms and sounds – mostly techno-pop ones. A must listen!!!

Raghav Sachar attempts a Lounge Mix of ‘Banjar’ with Sunidhi Chauhan in the lead. She has worked with Raghav in his earlier albums and he knows her range well, which has been exploited to give the track a somber mood and it works well! The ambient feel is at the core of the piece and with heavy touches on the synthesizers, the track gradually transforms into a very zippy and trendy number. Vocal effects have been electronically well mastered. Wonderful high pitch singing further elevates the track to an international standard, while the music complements till the end. Notice that Raghav provides very fluid flute music instead of the one he uses in the previous versions. Another engaging version of Banjar not to be missed!!!

Innovation is still on the menu and Raghav comes with three different versions of Kabul Fiza. Kabul Fiza is the answer to what Raghav Sachar does best – fusions! Indeed, they are plenty of musical instruments starting with his favorite wind instruments, tablas, guitars and synthesizers. The first version is rendered by Raghav himself. The singing is not bad but it sounds more like a pop number. He dares to experiment in the genres – trying to fuse pop, techno and classical! The backdrop of Afghanistan seems to be the reason behind the fusion and it turns out quite right – but not as expected as the scope is too limited. The Remix Version is fast paced but isn’t catchy enough. The Kabul Fiza Theme is too short and seems repetitive.

Alone in the desert, the sun burning the skin and water is looking scarce: there is something very deep in the Kabul Express Theme which takes care of the situations anyone has to endure in Afghanistan. The music and arrangements have an international touch and feel to it – it goes into the three dimensional space of the deserts with emphasis on loneliness and fear. Music is composed by Julius Packiam while the unknown female vocal gels well with the theme of the track. The flute has been used as the main instrument and the synthesizers form the background music. A good effort to translate situations into music – something others have tried but have missed the essence of themes.

However on the issue of originality and creativity, it has to be mentioned that these themes have been done to death by renowned groups like Oliver Shanti and Friends and Deep Forest in the last decade. It may be something new to Bollywood but on the international music scene, ‘Kabul Express Theme’ has nothing new to offer to listeners.

Keh Raha Mera Dil has shades of the remixed version of ‘Bahon Mein Chali Aao’ of Mahalakshmi Iyer. Guitar scratches and the flute are heard in the forefront and centre in this track while the ensemble of the arrangements are mainly designed for a pop album. Though it is a good attempt by Raghav because of the catchy tune, the mukhda is set at a pitch that is too high towards the end and doesn’t translate into a pleasant experience. Overall, this is a cool number to be enjoyed.

Yeh Main Aaya Kahan sounds like another improved version of the ‘Keh Raha Mera Dil’ because the two tunes clearly lack identity. The same arrangements are used and the song ends up as a light pop number with loads of pop sounds. Raghav provides generous doses of music throughout the track and also uses a lifting female chorus. The rhythm has been crafted once again to cater for a pop audience. It still works because of the fresh voice and neat arrangements but doesn’t excite much.

Kabul Express’ soundtrack is fairly clean sounding, very fresh and original. For the first time as a music director, Raghav Sachar has dared to use voices like Shubha Mudgal, K.K. and Sunidhi Chauhan – all in one soundtrack for a documentary. Though his voice has a very Shaan vocal range, he manages to deliver in his compositions. Innovation is throughout the soundtrack – be it in the interludes, the arrangements and the sounds. The ‘Kabul Fiza Theme’ is experimental for Bollywood and ‘Banjar’ is sure to vibe well with the masses. However, music for movies is one tough job and the two other songs – which are meant to be more commercial; ‘Yeh Main Aaya Kahan’ and ‘Keh Raha Mera Dil’, sound more like pop songs for a Valentine’s special album. No doubt Raghav Sachar has more to offer but he also needs to work on his compositions and each one of them should have their own individuality. Keeping ‘Banjar’ in mind, he will not disappoint in his next ventures – and that’s for sure, given there is scope for music. Keep rocking mate!

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