“Sultan” music poster.

Film: Sultan

Label: YRF Music

Music: Vishal-Shekhar

Lyrics: Irshad Kamil

Salman Khan has done it: recharged Vishal-Shekhar by his very stardom and existence. The royal score of “Sultan,” as of now, has no competition in the songs and soundtracks of this year. A fitting blow as great single-composer scores always are to multi-music director music, the soundtrack is simply the best V-S score since “Om Shanti Om.” Of course, interestingly Khan had a cameo therein too, but that’s just coincidence, you know!

The first track is enough to get you hooked and gravitating to the dance floor: “Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai,” as sung by Vishal Dadlani, Shalmali Kholgade, Ishita and Badshah, is that potent combination of words and music that comes all too rarely nowadays in the ‘happy song’ space. So far as director Abbas Ali Zafar goes, this is his “Toone Maari Entriyaan” from his last film “Gunday,’ which interestingly again, had Dadlani as one of the singers. Dadlani belts out this song with his customary breezy flair, and the folk element is prominent both in the composition (and arrangements) and words. What I liked about the song is that it sounds wholesome despite a very contemporary hook.

In fact, Irshad Kamil is the real Sultan of the music score, writing some of his best and most variegated lyrics here, with simple yet meaningful verse (the most difficult to conceive and pen, that is). In this song itself, he writes lines like “Usski ankhiyaan English bole / Meri anpadh ankhiyaan re (Her eyes speak in English, whereas mine are illiterate!)” and “Phir woh DJ se jaake boli / Bhaiya tu decide kariyo /Ab beat chale ya goli (She told the DJ to decide whether he would prefer to play great beats or take a bullet).”

The Salman Khan version (with him in Dadlani’s place) is amusingly done, though Khan does vary in timbre from screechy to a shade dull. It is a promotional track and is not used in the album.

“Jag Ghoomeya” (Rahat Fateh Ali Khan) is the much-touted track that was recorded by Arijit Singh, with his voice said to be axed by Salman Khan. However, leaving aside the tenor of the song that is more up Rahat’s street than Singh’s, we can only comment that the current singer’s impeccable diction is an improvement even if Singh just may have had a deeper classical base.

But to our pleasant shock, it is the Neha Bhasin version of “Jag Ghoomeya” that lingers more. Much slower in tempo, it is a revelation from a singer whose general image is of an under-clad nymphet singing “chaalu’ numbers! Nevertheless, she has always and deservingly found a place for herself in Zafar’s directorials. And Neha is outstanding in her expressions, especially in the way she enunciates the word “ghoomeya.” The orchestration is gentle, genteel and immensely soulful.

In Mika’s “440 Volt,” Mika sings like — well, Mika, though he does get a fresh twist in the final repetition of the phrase “Chhoone Se Tere.” Using Sultan (the character)’s penchant for speaking English in the film, Kamil shows what an intrepid writer he is as writes, “Haaye dil mera jaise koi dish antenna tha / Free kabhi koi channel chalta hi na tha” while adding romantic ardor with the lines, “Jaagu main TV dekhoon raaton ko / Gaane seekhoon tere liye (I watch TV till late to learn songs to sing to you).”

The title track “Sultan” by Sukhwinder Singh and Shadab Faridi is in the retro style of rousing numbers with lyrics to match — “Oopar Allah niche dharti / Beech mein tera junoon.” These words remind us of Anand Bakshi with their substance (as in the lines “Neeche ishq hai / Oopar rab hai / Inn dono ke beech mein sab hai” from the “Taal” song “Ishq Bina”). Shekhar Ravjiani’s “Rise of Sultan” is a tepid and shorter version of this song. However, the orchestration does get a shade cacophonous.

The Nooran sisters join Dadlani in “Tuk Tuk,” an ebullient track which has the composer-singer joining in for some English passages. Their distinctive voices add zing to the earthy composition that has a nice mix of the modern and the Sufi. Kamil once again flourishes a swinging penmanship with passages like “Din din ghat-ti jaati hai / Phasal ye kat-ti jaati hai / Nazar se hat-ti jaati hai / Zindagi yaara ra ra (Life keeps reducing by the day, like a crop being harvested and slowly going out of sight).”

Mohit Chauhan-Harshdeep Kaur’s “Sachi Muchi” is a playful number that is the only song that is generic in terms of singing, and the influences seem to be more global. The singing is competent, but the lyrics are again above average. This is probably the weaker track on the otherwise superb score.

In the overall skilled writing, Kamil’s couplet “Kuch rishton ka namak hi doori hota hai / Na milna bhi bahut zaroori hota hai (In some relationships, being apart adds the much-needed salt to the bond)” takes the crown in the song “Bulleya” sung by Papon. Ali Zafar’s songs have a pronounced Sufiana influence and V-S bring in a definitive L-P flavor in the compositional phrasing with some ingenious tweaks in the arrangements and sound. One loved the relentless beat and Papon puts in a great effort, though we do think that the song would have been superbly elevated by KK despite being in the Rahat Fateh Ali Khan mold.

This is an album with repeat value and shelf-value, and the efforts show.

Rating: 4/5

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