‘Bombay Velvet’, director Anurag Kashyap’s dream project, is based in the Mumbai (then Bombay) of the 1960s. The crime drama features Ranbir Kapoor as a boxer and Anushka Sharma as a jazz singer. Both the director and music composer Amit Trivedi have mentioned in several interviews that the soundtrack of the film bears the stamp of the kind of jazz music that was prevalent in the bygone era. Apart from Anushka Sharma, Raveena Tandon too will be seen essaying the role of a jazz singer. Although Amit has scored the music for various films produced by Kashyap, he has been served as the music director for just one film directed by him. Yes, he did compose a couple of decent numbers for ‘Bombay Talkies’ (2013) which had one of the short films directed by Anurag. Their last and only major collaboration resulted in ‘Dev D’ (2009), the music of which is regarded as a modern-day classic and one waits with bated breath to figure out whether Amit manages to match the standards of that album.
Record label Saregama refused to part with the rights of the songs owned by them and ended up releasing “Hungama Ho Gaya“ (‘Queen’) and “Whistle Baja“ (‘Heropanti’) as singles while the albums were released by T-Series (without those songs). The same is the case with ‘Bombay Velvet’, in which all the songs except for “Fifi“ make it to the main album released by Zee Music Company.
Mikey McCleary remixes and recreates O.P Nayyar’s iconic song “Jaata Kahaan Hai Deewane“ from ‘C.I.D’ (1956) as “Fifi”. Suman Sridhar replaces Geeta Dutt as the female vocalist. Those who are familiar with Mikey’s earlier work will agree that the song has similarities with some of his other remixed numbers. One does not mind the resemblance though as the song is very appealing. He spices up Nayyar’s timeless composition with some jazz elements and the result is very good. Suman sings in her inimitable style.
The jazz-based prelude, in which an orchestra plays trumpets, drums, piano, organ, is heard for more than three minutes after which Shefali Alvares makes an unexpected but stylish entry and owns “Aam Hindustani” with her jazz styled rendition. She sings in her characteristic style which works terrifically for the setting and her Hindi diction seems to have improved as well. Amitabh Bhattacharya writes some lines dipping in sarcasm and smartly incorporates the phrase ‘Aam Hindustani‘ into the song.
“Mohabbat Buri Bimaari” is a cabaret-style romantic number that has as many as three versions. The one that is on air these days has been sung by Shalmali Kholgade and has been remixed by Mikey McCleary. One runs out of adjectives describing Shalmali’s performance. She shows what it takes to sing a jazz number. Her style, attitude, and intonations are just perfect. The Neeti Mohan sung version, which is very subtle and subdued, is good but the twist that Mikey gives to Amit’s composition in Shalmali’s version should be heard to be believed. The third version, sung by Shefali Alvares, has the same structure as Neeti’s but Shefali slightly edges out Neeti with her rendition.
Neeti Mohan lends the right amount of oomph to “Ka Kha Gha”, a song in which Rosie (Anushka Sharma) professes her love for Johnny (Ranbir Kapoor). Amitabh Bhattacharya provides a good mix of fun-filled wordplay and philosophical verses. The song starts off well but fails to engage the listener after a while. The music, after a point, sounds monotonous and laboured making one lose interest in it.
Apart from giving Neeti Mohan a good platform to showcase her vocal prowess, Amit let the musicians take the center stage with their instruments and create a terrific jazz background for “Dhadaam Dhadaam”. The track has a free-flowing tune accompanied by some prolonged instrumental interludes that unfold as the song progresses.
“Naak Pe Gussa” stays faithful to the jazz sound but follows a more conventional approach than the other songs. Amit does not experiment too much and composes a simple, hummable tune that can be easily lapped up by the listeners. The musical notes are not very complex and the track sounds soothing to the ears.
“Sylvia” sounds like a track from the 60s that has aged gracefully. The arrangements, the choral vocals, and some fantastic voice modulation by Neeti Mohan give the song an authentic retro touch. Amit does not let any modern sound creep into this number and makes sure it sounds like a jazz number from the 60s.
One finally gets to hear a male voice with the arrival of “Darbaan” sung by Papon. Amitabh Bhattacharya uses many metaphors to describe the journey of Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) and the circumstances he is surrounded with. The unhurried, laidback track is rendered well by Papon. His vocal expressions are fantastic adding a touch of drama to the song.
An uplifting piece of drum roll marks the prelude of “Shut Up”. Shefali Alvares conveys Amitabh Bhattacharya’s playful lyrics with the requisite amount of naughtiness in her voice. The tune and the lyrics are very catchy and make an instant impression with their fun quotient.
The jazz elements are minimal in “Behroopia”. This song, unlike the other tracks on the album, has a modern sound to it. For a second, you feel Vishal-Shekhar was roped in to compose this mushy, romantic track as it is reminiscent of the sound that the duo is associated with. “Behroopia“ is a breezy, mass-friendly number that could become popular with adequate promotions.
“The Bombay Velvet Theme” which is almost five minutes long, has no influence of jazz whatsoever. In fact, the theme reminds one of the background scores of some action flicks of the ’80s and early ’90s. The track has multiple layers befitting the different situations in the film. It does not make a lasting impression but is good nevertheless.
“Conspiracy” starts off slowly and then gradually builds up a tense and mysterious atmosphere. The strings and synthesizer have been used very well in creating some sweeping sounds.
Jazz makes a comeback with “Tommy Gun”. The instrumental piece rests heavily on drums with some support from trumpets and piano. One gets to hear a variety of well-played drum beats. The track does not throw any surprises but is engaging.
The soundtrack of ‘Bombay Velvet’ is dominated by female vocalists. Anushka does lip-sync to Suman Sridhar in “Fifi“ and Shalmali in the promotional video of “Mohabbat Buri Bimaari“ but Neeti can comfortably take the credit of being Anushka’s voice in the film as she sings all the other songs picturized on the actress. Shefali Alvares, presumably, serves as the voice of Raveena Tandon. Amit Trivedi does a stupendous job at putting together a (predominantly) jazz album for a Hindi film. The soundtrack may not be liked by someone who prefers a hardcore Bollywood soundtrack but will be loved by fans of jazz music.
Anish Mohanty tweets @anishmohanty