Planet Bollywood
Once Upon A Time in Mumbai
Producer: Balaji Telefilms
Director: Milan Luthria
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Prachi Desai, Kangana Ranaut, Randeep Hooda
Music: Pritam
Lyrics: Irshad Kamil, Nilesh Mishra, Amitabh Bhattacharya
Singers: Mohit Chauhan, Tulsi Kumar, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Karthik, Krishna Kumar Kunnath, Dominique Cerejo, Sunidhi Chauhan, Rana Mazumder, Mika Singh
Audio On: T-Series    Number of Songs: 9
Album Released on: 29 June 2010
Reviewed by: Ankit Ojha  - Rating: 7.5 / 10
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Movie Review
Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 listeners)
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Gangster flicks usually receive dollops of skepticism from potential listeners, as the track record of these soundtracks in the past decade hasn’t been that strong. Movies like D, Company, and even Shootout At Lokhandwala have been below average musical packages. Milan Luthria’s (of Taxi No. 9211 fame) movies are known for having popular appeal and Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai continues the tradition of his films having good music. Pritam delivers three chartbusters in the form of Pee Loon, Tum Jo Aaye, and I am in Love and then goes experimental with songs like the retro-sounding Parda and the immensely enjoyable Baburao. Go for the album, as it’s not like one of your average joe soundtracks, and it counts as one of the better gangster flick soundtracks in Bollywood after Musafir.

It’s a known fact that gangster movies do not have good soundtracks, which end up featuring a barrage of situational tracks with only a couple of them (Musafir being a standing example) standing out to have popular appeal. Soundtracks like the ones of Ram Gopal Varma’s Company and Apoorva Lakhia’s Shootout At Lokhandwala just don’t click unless one has seen the movies and has absorbed the situations enough to like them. Unfortunately, today’s audience doesn’t seem to care about the music; they only look at the story, and especially in cases like gangster films, they focus more on the script than the average situational ‘fillers’ that the songs end up becoming.

In enters Milan Luthria, a director who rose to fame with the sleeper hit Taxi No. 9211 . He’s known for striving to give a different storyline to the public each time he strikes back on screen (Hattrick, Kachche Dhaage), and ropes in Pritam Chakraborty along with top lyricists Irshad Kamil and Amitabh Bhattacharya (we also see Nilesh Mishra in the credits but we’ll get back to him later). Yet the skepticism still remains as to how situational the overall soundtrack will get, as we all know that despite Pritam giving some of his best music in recent times (Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, Love Aaj Kal, Tum Mile, All The Best, New York), he has also delivered a lot of damp squibs (Toh Baat Pakki!, Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge?, Life Partner, Ek – The Power of One, De Dana Dan, and Khatta Meetha). On the top of the mixed bag of compositions lies the mindset of “a situational album in the making” in the minds of the various potential listeners looking out for this album.

Considering the expectation levels that rose after the smash-hit response to the television promos of the opener Pee Loon, and the second single Tum Jo Aaye, one wonders if the soundtrack is going to be different than the others from the gangster genre. With the same wonder in my mind, I insert the CD into the DVD writer of my computer and wait for the media player to pop up.

All the wonder vanishes once the prelude of Pee Loon begins, which will surely drive the music lover insane and make him/her hungry for more. The opening guitar picks with the distant pad and the aalap drives you into the song. When Mohit Chauhan sings, you know it’s magic. Irshad Kamil’s imaginative lyrics are bound to capture the hearts of millions of listeners all over the world (Tere Sang Ishq Taari Hai / Tere Sang Ek Khumaari Hai / Tere Sang Chain Bhi Mujhko / Tere Sang Beqaraari Hai). The Sufi-esque feel blends in really well with the rest of the song. All one must do to absorb in the song is to close his/her eyes and feel the exhilaration of romance. Pritam has nailed it with his composition and music production, which has certainly been upped to dizzying heights by the team of programmers Sandeep Shirodkar, Bunty Rajput, Prasad Sashte ,Kiran, and Eric Pillai who have given the song the right feel by adding in the correct amount of wet effects to support the song (a lot of reverb intelligently used to give the song the exhilarating feel; with a certain amount of delay which has blended in really well with the reverb). The song surprised one and all with its beautiful promos; it’s now time for it to rise in the music charts and remain on the top for a long time to come.

The remix of Pee Loon is fun and doesn’t lose pace. Also, the good thing about it is that the soul of the song isn’t stripped off, considering some remixes are nothing more than just gimmicky fillers. Though it’s a very good hear, I wouldn’t come back to listen to the remix, but would prefer the original any day.

Post Pee Loon comes yet another romantic song which sweeps you right into the romance that resides in it’s heart. Tum Jo Aaye, crooned by Tulsi Kumar and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, who makes his on-off appearance in this reprise version, during the chorus and the first stanza. Tulsi Kumar surprisingly holds her own despite a stalwart like Rahat Fateh Ali who literally takes the song to new heights. Pritam fuses the classy and the rustic and give us yet another romantic track which is on par with Pee Loon as far as chartbuster material is concerned. Considering the choice of songs Tulsi Kumar has chosen, she is to be praised for choosing a song that suits her own flexibility and comfort levels. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics once again bring the raw simplicity in their complex undertones, which is why we all know why Irshad Kamil is always the first choice for director Imtiaz Ali (Kamil has given the lyrics of all of Ali’s film soundtracks, ranging from Socha Na Tha composed by Sandesh Shandilya right up till Love Aaj Kal, incidentally composed by Pritam himself after the success of Ali’s Jab We Met). Testimony lies in the fact that the lyrics blow your mind and give you a whole new meaning of romance. It is noticed that Kamil does very well in the romance genre, giving a whole new meaning to the interpretation of love in words, with simplistic elements (Din Hai Sona / Aur Chaandi Raat Ban Gai). The arrangements and mixing yet again give this song the required feel. Along with Pee Loon, this song makes for an imminently timeless appeal and will be listened to even years after the movie’s release.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan returns to croon a reprise of Tum Jo Aaye, which ends up having a decent individualistic appeal, but in turn takes a certain amount of time to grow on you. It is interesting to note that nowadays composers strive to make a completely different version of the same track, thereby trying to experiment with the feel of the two songs. Though the two songs cannot be compared (I daresay both of them are excellent compositions), the first one has something this version doesn’t – it has the immediate appeal, compared to this version, which is much more classy, with tabla beats that reminds us of the soundtracks of the mid nineties. The instrumental fillers in between the vocals have the potential of uncannily reminding the listener of A. R. Rahman and his classier, more underrated compositions. Give this one some time, and you’ll get hooked on to it like a bee is to honey. Though the prelude gives a faint sense of déjà vu to the listener, it vanishes, as we somehow know that this song tries to revisit some of the feel of the past two decades. This one is another winner on the soundtrack.

Remember Tere Liye from the movie Prince? Remember what a rage it became? No, I’m not comparing Tere Liye to the track reviewed in the following lines of this paragraph, but only stating that the makers of Prince were so enthusiastically confident of the song that they released three more versions of it in the soundtrack. In a similar fashion, the song I am in Love (yes, the title sounds cheesy, but there’s always more to any song or movie than just a cheesy title) releases in two more versions apart from the original by Karthik, heard more often in songs by A. R. Rahman and Harris Jayaraj (Behka from the soundtrack of Ghajini) – it has a second version featuring Krishna Kumar Kunnath (K. K.) and a subsequent remix of the second version, the last two of which have additional vocals by Dominique Cerejo. Though the version by K. K. would count as the most listenable, the one by Karthik is not bad at all, in fact it impresses so much that you’d rather put this one on repeat mode as much as the tracks reviewed above. Strangely enough, the song reminds us of Pritam’s compositions for films produced by Vishesh Films (commonly known as the Bhatt camp), more so the films by Anurag Basu, Mohit Suri and Kunal Deshmukh. This song particularly reminds me of the feel of Baatein Kuch Ankahee Si from Life In A… METRO, and there will be quite a few who might make this connection, but mistaking it for a déjà vu wouldn’t be fair on part of the song. This one is addictive, and Karthik puts in all his energy to sound as exhilarated and exhilarating as possible. Lyrics by Nilesh Mishra are simple and sweet, but the song is moulded by Pritam in such a way that there is a possibility that one might think it is a Bhatt film, the layman would credit Sayeed Quadri as lyricist. Anyhow, the version by Karthik captures your heart and soul completely and turns out to be another must listen!

If you thought the Karthik version was that impressive, wait until you hear the version by K. K. featuring Dominique Cerejo – you will surely love it. Fans of K. K. will grab the album for this song hands down. Dominique’s addition into the vocals turns out to be a great idea, because it supports the dreaminess and youthfulness of the song. Once K. K. comes behind the mike you know there’s no stopping. Dominique’s accompaniment to the piano (Na-Na-Na), at the risk of repeating myself, is a really strong point of the song, as it is at that point that the listener will be taken to dizzying. This song will get immense radio airplay in days to come; and it just needs a bit of aggressive promotion that Pee Loon and Tum Jo Aaye got – and once this happens, this song will get the deserved audience even before the release of the movie.

I usually do not like unnecessary remixes added in just for the sake of mass appeal, but the Dance Mix of I am in Love, just like the remix of Pee Loon, keeps the soul intact, while only changing the body, to make a very classily packaged remix. This one will be the next in thing in the clubs with DJs putting it in their mixtapes, in days to come.

Well, when there is a gangster movie that’s also a period movie and a movie involving the film industry in some way, tribute needs to be paid in some way or the other, and Parda is Pritam and Irshad Kamil’s combined take on – and tribute to – the popular songs Monica, Oh My Darling! (Piya Tu Ab Toh Aaja) from 1971 release Caravan; and Duniya Mein Logon Ko from the 1972 release Apna Desh. This song carries with it the distinct 70’s feel, which restricts its audience for the first few seconds to a niche, but the second Sunidhi Chauhan starts singing you do start grooving to the tune of the song. The additional vocals by Rana Mazumder add to the retro feel, and Irshad Kamil tactfully plays with the lyrics of the originals, whilst also adding something of his own to recreate and merge the two to create a completely new song that aims to revisit the 70’s style of music with retro in it – in the times where Rahul Dev Burman (the composer of the two original inspirations) was king of music and of retro , which is a genre quite a few people still love listening to for sheer revisiting of the era where everybody wanted to have some style and glamour to themselves and everyone wanted to look like Elvis Presley. Though a very well composed song, considering there are a few people who might not like retro and might want something new, this might lose a few chunks of audience. Fans of R. D. Burman will give a mixed response, with some who would end up being enthusiastic about the song, while some wouldn’t really like the ‘tampering’ of two ‘classics’. It is only to be seen after the release of this film whether the song will last the test of time. Otherwise too, one must give the song a try – it’s a fun song!

Every gangster film has a situational gangster song. For Company, it was Khallas. For Musafir, it was Tez Dhaar. For Shootout At Lokhandwala, it was Ganpat. And now comes Baburao that reminds us distinctly of Ganpat – and we wonder why. Maybe it’s because of Mika (who sang both the songs). Maybe it’s just because it’s a gangster song. Anyway, moving on, the good part about this recollection is that there is not a trace of déjà vu in this mental revisit, and the credit of difference should go directly to the lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya, who is known for coming up with relatively new and wacky ideas for lyrics in films – and it thus comes as no wonder why Amit Trivedi usually teams up with the lyricist to make compositions. The main reason I’m crediting the lyrics is that it focuses more on the humane side of the gangster; more so his story and his escapades – something not covered in the songs mentioned above, which are more negative in their feel and talk more about the negative use of their power and how ‘cool’ they are. Here the whole song is mostly in rough Hindi, but the previous songs in this genre were too tapori for their own good. Not that I didn’t enjoy them, but I guess this one turns out to be better as you can connect with the kind of people gangsters are. A nice hear that ultimately grows on you as a foot-tapping number with individuality. Unfortunately, the whole album is so strong on romantic songs (save for Parda) that it certainly sounds out of place and the layman would complain. On a more retrospective note, such a song needs to be fused into the narrative at times, and one need not complain. At least the youth won’t, and considering the success of Ganpat, we could expect this song to reach the charts, but in its own sweet time; probably even after the movie’s theatrical release. Ultimately, the song is worth a try.

Overall, the album deserves mention, and through the songs it seems Luthria will show more than just shady dealings of dark people, which would be an interesting thing to watch considering the humane side of gangsters and smugglers have either been shown through clichéd resorts, or haven’t been exploited at all. This soundtrack makes one expect something out of the movie, which is a good sign. Ultimately, though Musafir continues to be the baap of all gangster-flick soundtracks, but this one is a very good soundtrack and deserves your purchase, as it contains some beautiful romantic songs that have an immense timeless appeal.

Try karke dekho and you surely won’t be disappointed with the outcome!

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