Planet Bollywood
Special 26
Producer: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Kajal Aggarwal, Jimmy Shergill, Manoj Bajpai, Anupam Kher Divya Dutta
Music: M.M. Kreem
Lyrics: Irshad Kamil
Singers: K.K. Chitra, Keerthi Sagathia, Papon, Sunidhi Chauhan, M.M. Kreem, Aman Trikha, Shabab Sabri and Shreya Ghoshal
Number of Songs: 8
Album Released on: January 2013
Reviewed by: Atta Khan  - Rating: 7.5 / 10
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Opinion Poll: Who is the most impressive actor in Special 26?

After the music release of Inkaar given to us by a great modern composer in Shantanu Moitra (and one guest composition by Shamir Tandon), the mantle is now handed over to another master of his art, M.M.Kreem. Whilst he mainly concentrates on South Indian music, it is still such a privilege to see this old school maestro return to Bollywood after giving us some classics in the previous decades including soundtracks like Sur, Saaya, Jism, Rog, Kasak etc, all fantastic in their own right. Unfortunately of late he has failed to keep up with the latest shifts in Bollywood music and so has seen a decline of opportunities which is a huge shame given his talents. But with a new year beckons new hope and M.M. Kreem returns for the forthcoming “Special 26” directed by Neeraj Pandey. Can he make an impact?

The opening lines of “Tujh Sang Lagee” are evoked by M.M. Kreem himself marking his return to Bollywood in a very touching way. The song itself is a soulful breezy romantic with music based on the classic dholak / harmonium melody that gives the song a catchy feel. M.M. Kreem adds further traditional instruments in the interludes but doesn’t experiment too much so it feels quite old school but somehow it doesn’t grate which is a good sign. What helps of course is M.M. Kreem’s choice of singer - put simply K.K.’s rendition is fantastic in every way! The old motto ‘Class is Permanent’ rings true here with an on form K.K. singing the chorus loop of “Tujh Sang Lagee” to great effect. Are you taking note music directors? Lyrics by Irshad Kamil are also strong. Beware the song can get very addictive with repeated listening - simply irresistible stuff from the maestro!

I’m only guessing that a Punjabi tune was required for the film because suddenly we have an unexpected guest composition from Himesh Reshammiya called “Gore Mukhda Pe Zulf Di Chaava” . Without riling his fans too much the song rings a bell from somewhere although maybe that’s because all these Punjabi songs sound alike. Anyway, it’s not a bad effort when you give it a try particularly with the host of talented singers on show including Aman Trikha, Shabab Sabri and Shreya Ghoshal. Can we get back to M.M. Kreem now? Thanks.

A wonderful piano commences the slow but superbly composed “Kaun Mera” which has a nostalgic feel of yesteryear. What follows are various orchestral instruments dovetailing (with the piano) beautifully one after the other including a flute, viola and others. Chitra’s voice is so powerful it will give you goose bumps and she’s only singing at low octaves…amazing! Unfortunately M.M. Kreem cuts the song short at under three minutes which is a shame. But thankfully there are two alternative versions of the song later in the album, one is sung by Papon where M.M. Kreem gives it a modern feel by adding strings and beats at the core. Judging by this performance Papon is certainly a master of the low octaves. Last but certainly not least we have a ‘strings only’ version sung by Sunidhi Chauhan who just melts your heart with her sublime voice. The music is serene, mesmerising and eerie so you are left wanting more. A lot more. How about full extended versions Mr M.M. Kreem sir?

The maestro continues to impress with “Mujh Mein Tu” which follows on nicely from the previous song and while it’s definitely livelier the composer breaks away from traditional music for this one and adds a modern vibe including electric guitars. Keerthi Sagathia is a superb choice here because he makes you feel every emotion from Irshad Kamil’s heart-breaking lines. This is a singer so talented he deserves more opportunities in the future. M.M. Kreem sings a reprise version of this song later utilizing just strings and of course it sounds absolutely stunning. It’s all about expressing pathos again so feel it...

The final song, “Dharpakad” is definitely unusual for a M.M. Kreem song and also for this soundtrack. Most likely to be used in the film this happy go Bappi Lahiri song all the way. Let’s wait for it to feature in the film.

The soundtrack marks a fine return of M.M. Kreem to Bollywood but sadly it's unlikely to be a permanent one. But we should all rejoice in its beauty. Fans will agree that a particular strength of M.M. Kreem is his ability to express pathos effectively through his music, it simply ran through many if not most of his songs and that’s exactly the impression you get after listening to Special 26. The music is powerful, soulful yet old school and while the composer has tried to modernize elements of it, the whole album just feels like it belongs to a previous era. That can be a good thing but regretfully it can also imply other negative things as well. Fans will certainly lap it up but deep down it will also hurt to know that we might rarely see this great musician compose for Bollywood again which is a huge shame because he delivers some mesmerising tunes here. That's the hallmark of Mr M.M. Kreem. And it will live with us forever.

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