MUMBAI — My biggest grouse with this score is that the lyricists are not highlighted at all. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are among the top five composers today and as big names, they could have taken care about all this, even if the producers and music streaming platforms were indifferent.

I also daresay that this would never have happened if a top lyricist, especially one craving for publicity (there are a few of that tribe around!), had written the songs. Admittedly, the words in thumris and classical tracks are functional, but so what? Besides, I am unable to even credit individual songs with their lyrics writers here, for even the streaming platform Saavn does not mention the writers, and neither does the official Jukebox!

Moving on, by leaps and bounds, the finest, most haunting treasure in the album is “Virah” sung by Shankar himself, and the song, albeit short, is epic. Its beginning is to be experienced to be believed. Shankar navigates the classical flourishes while maintaining the emotional expression so vital to this pathos-laden beauty. The sparse orchestration is magnificent. A grouse here as well: this stunner is too short, and left me craving for more—much more! Among the lyrics, this is again the most superlatively-written song here.

The second place goes to Javed Ali’s “Labb Par Aaye.” This singer, who was introduced by Viju Shah in “Beti No. 1” two decades back, is almost forced to be like a clone of Sonu Nigam by almost all his composers. It was left to S-E-L to present his real avatar to us as a fantastic singer who is leagues ahead of the man he has been made to mimic all these years. As a bonus, the tune is fabulous and so are the (simple) words.

The third place goes to the two-version “Garaj Garaj” (one, a jugalbandi sung by Farid Hasan and Mohammed Aman and two, a placid version by Pt. Ajoy Chakrabarty). The latter dazzles with Pandit Ajoy’s skilled and nuanced rendition, while the jugalbandi is simply amazing. In the former, the musical intricacies of the raag-rich number are taken to an extraordinary dimension by Hasan and Aman. So steep is the melody that even the long musical expositions will not be disliked by the young generation, especially those who will watch it in the context of the story.

Next will rank the fusion beauty “Sajan Bin,” sung with gusto by Shivam Mahadevan and Jonita Gandhi. Though in the typical S-E-L groove, this song is lifted by the cool contemporariness in the vocals and words. Shivam is a chip off his father Shankar’s vocal block. And a word about the expressive Jonita Gandhi: She is the main female voice here and is just superb. Post-Shreya Ghoshal, she is one of the less than handful of active singers who are truly accomplished.

Shivam is also impressive in the playful “Chhedkhaniyaan” with Pratibha Singh Baghel, who is also quite good. Armaan Malik and Jonita Gandhi do the light and serviceable “Couple Goals.” Shankar’s “Padhaaro Mere Des” is a nice version of the traditional folk “maand” from Rajasthan.

The remaining two tracks, “Mastiyaapa” by Jonita Gandhi and “Dhaara Hogi” by Shankar are alright and situational.

This is one album you can listen to repeatedly, and even preserving—the first after “Bajirao Mastani” way back in late 2015 and “Jagga Jasoos” in mid-2017.

Rating: ****

Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

Lyrics: Sameer Samant, Tanishk S. Nabar, Divyanshu Malhotra & Traditional

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