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The music of the first three feature films directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali – ‘Khamoshi’, ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ and ‘Devdas’ – boasted of very high standards. Even ‘Black’ had one great song (“Haan Maine Chhukar Dekha Hai”) along with a sweeping background score by Monty Sharma. Since then, the music of most of his films left one underwhelmed. Bhansali made his debut as a music composer with the song “Thode Badmaash Ho Tum” from ‘Saawariya’ and then, since ‘Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela’, he has been composing the music of his films himself. The one film where he showed some promise as a composer was Bajirao Mastani’.

For his new film ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, too, he assumes the responsibility of putting together the soundtrack. Half of the songs have been written by his frequent collaborator AM Turaz and the remaining three tracks have been penned by Kumaar whom he has collaborated with for the first time.

The album opens with “Meri Jaan”, a cabaret-sque number that has a distinctive old-world charm to it that one could associate with the time the film is set in. The tune composed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s is fairly engaging but the real heroes of the song are Shail Hada and Neeti Mohan. While Shail has arranged the song very well, Neeti’s rendition is pitch-perfect. Even the yodelling portions have been performed very well by her. The lyrics, written by Kumaar, are quite average and the usage of the word ‘nasheeli’ multiple times gets on one’s nerves.

Songs like “Dholi Taro Dhol Baje” (‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’) and “Mor Bani Thangat Kare” (‘Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela’) serve as a testimony to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s affinity for Gujarati folk music. He also gets to use Gujarati folk music or original songs based on it quite frequently because of the fact that some of his films have been set in Gujarat or have had Gujarati characters. “Dholida”, the song that kick-started the audio promotions of the film, too, has traces of Gujarati folk music in it. There is nothing extraordinary about the tune but it manages to keep you engaged. It has been sung very well by Jahnvi Shrimankar who makes a comeback to the movies thirteen years after she lent her voice to “Leja Leja”, her debut song, for ‘Teree Sang’ (2009). Towards the end, Shail makes an entry as a vocalist and impresses with his rendition as well.

Shreya Ghoshal, whom Bhansali launched as a singer with ‘Devdas’ two decades ago, gets to sing the best track on the album. “Jab Saiyaan” boasts of a gorgeous tune by Sanjay Leela Bhansali that is embellished very well by the orchestral arrangements put together by Shail Hada. Steeped in Indian melody, the song is the kind that you wouldn’t mind listening to on a loop for hours. A M Turaz vies for top honours with the kind of verses he has written for the song. Listening to this song makes you wonder why the talented lyricist doesn’t get more opportunities in the Hindi film industry.

Archana Gore, who has worked primarily as a background vocalist, gets a solo number in the form of “Shikayat”. With her excellent rendition, she proves why deserves to be taken seriously as a lead vocalist. Even the choral vocalists deserve a special mention for the way they have rendered the parts given to them. “Shikayat” is a qawalli that is in a similar mould as some of the qawallis one heard in films made in the ‘50s and the ‘60s. Despite the heard-before feel, the song manages to leave an impact and should work better with visuals.  

“Muskurahat ko bhi aane pe mazaa aane lage….” – as soon as you hear Arijit Singh render these lines from “Muskurahat”, you realize Bhansali was heavily inspired from the Madan Mohan composed “Rasm-E-Ulfat” (‘Dil Ki Rahen’) while composing this ghazal. In fact, when you think of it, you realize this song has many similarities to “Poore Chand” from ‘Guzaarish’. Keeping comparisons aside, it is a fairly immersive song that benefits hugely from Arijit’s dexterous rendition and the poetic verses written by A M Turaz. As a music arranger, Shail Hada creates just the right aural ambiance for this track.

Last to arrive is “Jhume Re Gori”, the initial portions of which make you feel that it has been designed as an alternative version of “Dholida”. As you hear the remaining portions of the song, you realize that’s not the case. It is the weakest track on the album that does not offer any innovation as far as the compositional structure is concerned. The vocalists (Archana Gore, Tarannum M Jain, Dipti Rege and Aditi Pradhudesai) lend a certain exuberant energy to the track which works in favour of it.

With ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, Sanjay Leela Bhansali shows some growth as a composer. Unlike the albums he has put together in the past, it consistently engaging and does not really offer a dull moment.