In the ‘90s Salim – Sulaiman composed and produced songs for many popular non-film albums. Their journey as background score composers started with the Saif Ali Khan – Kajol starrer ‘Hameshaa’ (1997). With their penchant for new-age production techniques and talent for elevating the most ordinary scene with memorable music pieces, Salim – Sulaiman became one of the sought-after BGM composers. In 2005, they started composing for films and made a grand entry in this space with chartbusting tracks for films as varied as ‘Iqbal’, ‘Kaal’ and ‘Neal N Nikki’.
Salim – Sulaiman’s collaboration with filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor has been rather special. Production houses like Dharma Productions and Yash Raj Films expected them to belt out chartbusters. While catering to their demands, the composer duo still managed to churn out several incredible songs. For Nagesh Kukunoor, however, they always created music that was organic and straight from the heart. Even the largely ignored and ill-fated ‘Aashayein’ had some wonderfully immersive songs like “Shukriya Zindagi” and “Pal Mein Mila Jahan”. Salim – Sulaiman’s most special collaboration with Nagesh Kukunoor has been ‘Dor’.
Set in Rajasthan, the film traces the journey of two young women, hailing from different backgrounds. Apart from making a social commentary on different issues, the film also explores the bond that develops between these two individuals. Originally released by Universal Music India, the ‘Dor’ soundtrack is now with Merchant Records. Launched just a few years ago, Merchant Records happens to be the brainchild of Salim – Sulaiman. Through this label, their aim, perhaps, has been to promote independent music and offer a platform to artists who are not getting the right opportunities to showcase their talent. Merchant Records, in collaboration with Black Groove Music recently released the soundtrack of ‘Dor’ on vinyl for the very first time.
“Yeh Honsla”, arguably, is one of the best compositions created by Salim – Sulaiman in their musical career so far. The massive popularity this song enjoys also serves as a testimony to the fact that a good song does not, necessarily, need to be in a ‘big’ film to reach out to a wide audience. Even if you know nothing about the film, you get an idea about its milieu when you listen to this track. The immersive tune is steeped in melancholy and the orchestral arrangements take you to thedunesof Rajasthan immediately. Salim – Sulaiman do an equally good job at composing and producing this song.
Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan was very popular in Pakistan but 2006 was the year when a large number of Hindi film music buffs got introduced to him through “Mitwa” (‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna’). “Yeh Honsla” released in the same year. Shafqat pours his heart into this song and it is almost impossible to imagine somebody else singing it as well as he does. Salim Merchant, too, leaves an impact with his chants as a background vocalist. “Raah pe kaante bikhre agar, unpe toh phir bhi chalna hi hai, shaam chhupale suraj magar, raat ko ek din dhalna hi hai….” – the lines written by Mir Ali Hussain offers one a glimpse of the challenging situations the two primary characters in the film are going through and how they are determined not to give up.
While “Yeh Honsla” remains the most popular song from the album, I always had a soft spot for “Imaan Ka Asar”. The song arrives at a juncture in the film where Zeenat (Gul Panag) and Meera (Ayesha Takia), who didn’t know each a while back, have forged a strong bond and are close enough to share their problems with each other. What’s truly beautiful about the value of friendship and good values in one’s life without being preachy. “Khwahish saans li zanjeerein pighal gayi, saba ummeed ko maathe pe yun mal gayi….” – the lyrics (Mir Ali Hussain) play an important role in making this song special.
“Imaan Ka Asar” is also one of those very few songs which Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal have sung together. There is also no male vocalist around and the two singers complement each other voices very well. The camaraderie shared by the two characters on the screen comes alive because of the incredible manner in which Shreya and Sunidhi have rendered this song. This song also serves as a showcase of Salim – Sulaiman’s abilities as music producers. They blend Indian instruments like tabla and sitar beautifully with drums, piano and guitar and create an incredible soundscape for this song.
“Kesariya Balam” is a traditional Rajasthani folk song that has been interpreted by Hindi film composers in different ways. In the recent past, Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy had reimagined it (“Padharo Maare Des”) for the digital show ‘Bandish Bandits’. While producing this track for ‘Dor’, Salim – Sulaiman ensured that the essence of the original folk song should remain intact. At the same time, it should have certain elements that earlier interpretations of this song didn’t feature. The use of traditional percussion instruments and sarangi stand out. The track also works wonderfully well
I distinctively remember listening to the ‘Dor Theme’ for the first time when it played out in the trailer of the film. It begins with a sombre flute section played by Rakesh Chaurasia and then, you hear the sound of violins and percussion instruments. Despite being a track of short duration, the 1:49 minute long track evokes a variety of emotions in your heart and mind. That’s how impactful it proves to be.
The original ‘Dor’ soundtrack had five tracks, each of which we have discussed above. However, Salim – Sulaiman and their company Merchant Records have included six bonus tracks on the vinyl that were not a part of the original soundtrack. While some of these tracks have a direct connection with the film, there are some that have been included because of having thematic similarities or being in sync with the milieu of the film. These tracks have earlier been released as singles.
“Yeh Honsla Live”, as the title suggests, is from a live performance put together by Salim – Sulaiman and other artists. Instead of Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, you get to hear Vipul Mehta’s voice on the track. Vipul does a very good job with the vocals and it is interesting to see him interpret the song in a slightly different way. Interestingly, this version is longer (6:26 minutes) than the original track. Being a live act, the arrangements, too, are different. The folksy rendition is delivered by Sattar Khan and Habib Khan. Raj Pandit, too, lends adequate support. Vipul is the only singer (apart from Salim – Sulaiman) credited on the vinyl cover. One hopes this mistake is rectified and the other singers, too, are credited when the second edition of the vinyl record comes out.
“Imaan Ka Asar Live” is from the digital series No. 1 Yaari Jam. It’s a delight to see/hear Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan performing a song, which deserves to get more recognition, live. Since they do not perform to this track very often, this piece of recording is quite special. Shreya and Sunidhi sing the track in a free-flowing manner and there are several distinguishing elements between the original track and this one. Along with Darshan Doshi, who plays the drums, there are a bunch of other musicians who create a nice sonic background for this track.
“Baalam Ji” is a track released by Merchant Records in 2018 which featured the voices of Sattar Khan, a young folk singer from Rajasthan and Salim Merchant. As the song starts playing, you get the impression of it being a traditional folk song but that’s not the case. It is an original composition by Salim – Sulaiman which blends traditional Rajasthani music with western elements. Sattar and Salim’s contrasting voices work very well for this fusion track. Since ‘Dor’ was set in Rajasthan, Salim – Sulaiman, perhaps, thought that it would be a good idea to include this particular track on the vinyl.
“Allah Hu”, the final track on the vinyl, is Salim – Sulaiman’s reimagined version of the iconic qawalli by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan based on traditional lyrics. This was a live set performed by Salim Merchant, Sattar Khan, Habib Khan, Vipul Mehta and Raj Pandit a couple of years back. It is an extremely powerful track, to say the least. For almost two and a half minutes, Sattar Khan and Habib Khan keep you hooked with their flawless rendition. The only instrument accompanying them during this section is harmonium. In the latter half of the song, Salim Merchant, Vipul Mehta and Raj Pandit join them. The sound of electric guitars and drums kick in and several interesting layers are added to the track.
‘Dor’ is one of the best soundtracks by Salim – Sulaiman and one, which we are sure, they would be tremendously proud of. Apart from listening to the songs from the original soundtrack of the film, you also get to hear a bunch of other incredible tracks, which were not a part of the film, when you buy this vinyl. ‘Dor’ had lyrics written by Mir Ali Hussain, a very talented writer whose filmography has remained restricted to a handful of films directed by Nagesh Kukunoor. Hussain had also written the dialogues for ‘Dor’. It would be wonderful to see him collaborate on songs released by Merchant Records in the near future.
From Arijit Singh to Vishal Bhardwaj, a large number of composers and singers today have their own music labels. While that is a wonderful thing, the truth remains that very few of them, like Salim – Sulaiman, are making an effort to run their music label like a ‘proper’ company that churns out new music at regular intervals and promotes other artists as well. Now, Merchant Records has done another incredible thing by releasing two of the albums from their catalogue (‘Bhoomi 2020’) on vinyl. If you own a vinyl player, you must get a copy of ‘Dor’ right away!