Bajirao Mastani”

“Bajirao Mastani” movie poster.

The Maharashtrian ambiance, complete with riffs, choruses and traditional Marathi verse and excerpts, dominates "Bajirao Mastani"'s fascinating score, easily Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s finest musical outing since the 1999 “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.”

This is also Bhansali’s third musical score as a composer and quite easily his best, doubly creditable, because it supersedes his last “Goliyon Ki Ras Leela-Ram Lila” despite the fact that this time he has entered a domain outside his Gujarati home ground — by composing for the Maharashtrian ethos.

The orchestration and sound are the most significant standout portions of the score, despite the frequent hark-backs to “Goliyon...” in the orchestral flourishes and beats like in the beginning of “Malhari” and a sizable chunk of the lead track “Deewani Mastani.” The shehnai and traditional chowghada (an assembly of four instruments used in important Maharashtrian events) are plain magnificent in “Mohe Rang Do Laal,” demonstrating how superlative traditional Indian instruments can sound when recorded with state-of-the-art technology.

Bhansali’s obsession with authenticity for his subject combined with a contemporary feel while maintaining the essence of the story has been so exemplary since “Guzaarish” and getting so much better with each film that we wonder why today’s professional music makers, being paid generously to add to and augment a film with great music, cannot put in a quarter of the effort into either the compositions or their packaging! His inspirations (strictly in sound and compositional grammar) are as richly varied and hued as Naushad, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and other classical maestros who keep the standards consistently high.

The lyrics are best collectively gauged, because Siddharth-Garima keep them generally simple and meaningful, except for a probable concession to contemporary trends by using Urdu words frequently. But cinematic liberties apart, the Muslim culture did leave a decisive imprint on Marathi for centuries.

The heroine of the score is Shreya Ghoshal, Bhansali’s own magic find, who excels in “Mohe Rang Do Laal,” “Deewani Mastani” and “Pinga.” The first song has Pt. Birju Maharaj’s formidable contribution, and the tune in the first four words goes along the same track as Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s timeless “Bandhan Toote Na” (“Mom Ki Gudia”/1972) before veering off into an entirely fresh direction. The use of “komal” notes in both the orchestration and composition takes this stunner to another level altogether!

The first song, “Deewani Mastani,” has an ensemble of backing vocalists (Farhan Sabri, Altamash Faridi, Ganesh Chandanshive, Mujtaba Aziz Nazan and Shahdab Faridi) and is not only more conventional but staid. The choral pattern is complementary and brilliantly done. Here, Nasir Faraaz (“Koi...Mil Gaya,” “Krrish,” “Kites”) joins Siddharth-Garima in the lyrics.

“Pinga” is a delicious amalgam of two or three well-known Marathi folk-ish tracks and Shreya is well supported by Vaishali Made. The energy of the song and the way Bhansali has shot the song will no doubt add to the dimensions of this dynamic song.

The rousing “Albela Sajan” (there was a brilliant song with these same opening words in “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam”) is again a multi-singer song (Geetikka Manjrekar, Kanika Joshi, Kunal Pandit, Prithvi Gandharva, Rashi Raagga and Shashi Suman — who scored Bhansali’s “Mary Kom”). The traditional lyrics are integrated with a wonderful Maharashtrian flavor in its classical tune.

Arijit Singh is marvelously soulful in “Aayat” despite his inexplicable and persistent mispronunciation of the ‘tha’ phonetic sound in “Tujhe Yaad Kar Liya Hai.” The ‘mukhda’, very ghazal-like, is ethereal and the ‘murkiyaan’ (nuances) are astounding, given that this is a film score in 2015. What the singer can do with a true-blue beauty of a composition can be seen when we compare his routine work as of late with his brilliant delivery of this song, in which he leads Altamash Faridi, Farhan Sabri, Mujtaba Aziz Naza and Shahdab Faridi.

“Ab Tohe Jaane Na Doongi” (Payal Dev-Shreyas Puranik) is a haunting melody that stays with you, and is heightened by the sparse but superb orchestration. The intense romantic feel of the song is exquisite, and like all exquisite songs this one takes a short while to (actually) grow on you — so it packs a lasting wallop the second time on.

The next song, “Aaj Ibaadat Rubaru Ho Gayi” (Altamash Faridi, Javed Bashir, Shadaab Faridi) is a slow, languid and somewhat retro number, but the raag-daari pulls it through with enviable expertise, thanks to the committed work on the composition.

“Fitoori” (Ganesh Chandanshive-Vaishali Made) is a very different, fresh track with a mixed Marathi-Hindi feel in its structure and lyrics. The ambiance of the ‘laavani’ is created beautifully with some unusual Maharashtrian instruments. Vaishali Made is indeed a find for Hindi film music, which today, is sadly inundated by under-talented, underdressed nymphets masquerading under the holy aegis of playback singers! Her solid tenor and confident singing is simply wonderful.

Sukhwinder Singh belts out “Gajanana,” a tribute to Lord Ganesh, composed as a spin on the traditional Ganpati aartis by composer Shreyas Puranik and written by Prashant Ingole.

The only track that does not come to the level of the rest of the Bhansali score is “Malhari,” ranted... oops! Sorry! That should be ‘sung by’ Vishal Dadlani, whose rambunctious tenor is as much at odds here as the latest rapper would be in a score as sacrosanct as “Mughal-E-Azam.” The song is also gimmicky and refers to “Bhandaar” (the turmeric powder that is anointed on the Lord Malhar deity) as “Bhandaara.” In fact, had the rest of the score not been so brilliant, this one would have been a blot on the music-scape. As it turns out, it’s more of a single thorn on the stem of an exceptionally fragrant rose.

Rating: 4.5/5

Film: Bajirao Mastani

Label: Eros

Music: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Lyrics: Siddharth-Garima, Nasir Faraaz, Prashant Ingole and Traditional

Additional song composed by: Shreyas Puranik

Starring: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra

Direction: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

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