Apart from being a prominent politician, Kapil Sibal also happened to be a closet poet. He finally came out in the open by writing a song for the 2013 release Bandook. The film came and went without making any noise. Sibal takes a giant leap by collaborating with none other than A.R Rahman for a full fledged album. What’s interesting is the fact that Sibal presented Rahman with some of his poems and the composer, in turn, set the poems to tune. It is always a challenge for a composer to weave a composition around around pre-written lines. Rahman decides to rise to the occasion and along with Kapil Sibal, presents the listeners with an album filled with seven original tracks.

The album opens on a divine note as one hears sitar strains accompanying Lata Mangeshkar’s ageless voice in the beginning of ‘Laadli’, a track that purportedly carries a message on women empowerment. The song describes a girl child as the ‘Raunaq’ (splendor) and ‘Laadli’ (loved one) of the household. The song successfully achieves its objective of portraying women as a symbol of love, strength and valour. The composition tugs at your heartstrings and the lyrics, though simple, bring out the message effectively. The song can be best described as a semi-classical number, with the chorus portions leaning towards Carnatic music. The chorus portions are heard for the most part of the song and yet, the backing vocalists (Shasha Tirupathi, Aditi Paul, Varsha, Pooja and Sharanya) find mention on the insides of the inlay card and not on the main cover. The song rests heavily on the shoulders of Sai Shravanam and Chinna Prasad who play the tabla and the musicians do a brilliant job as the tabla beats reverberate in one’s consciousness long after the track comes to an end.

It may seem to be an unusual comparison to make but the first couple of seconds of ‘Sach Kahoon’ reminds one of the kind of songs Chitra has sung for Sandesh Shandilya in Piya Basanti Re and Piya Basanti…Again. Maybe, it’s because of the atmospheric ambience of the piece. However, the unmistakable Rahman sound kicks in no time and what one gets to hear is a breezy, smooth flowing number that is bound to have a calming influence on your senses. The minimal arrangements, with influences of jazz, are wonderfully in sync with the mood of the song. Rahman and Chitra complement each others voices very well.

‘Geet Gaaon’ begins with Jonita Gandhi humming a tune that sets the tone for this melancholic number. One finds stronger influences of jazz in this song that what one got to hear in ‘Sach Kahoon’. Jonita excels in this layered composition as she highlights the somber texture of the song with her expressive singing. Strings, piano, flute and drums are played minimally, resulting in great effect. Watch out for the mesmerizing sitar piece, by Asad and Kishore, in the first interlude (exactly at 1:50). The song will have the same amount of calming effect, if not more, as ‘Sach Kahoon’. Pure bliss!

Finally arrives ‘Kismat’, the first song that was released from the album. It takes a while to get used to the soft techno sounds that accompany the song and you can’t help but wonder whether a more organic sound would have worked in favour for the song. Although the simplicity of the song is fairly pleasant, the composition does not make much of an impact. Shreya Ghoshal sings with delicacy and elegance, just what this innocuous number required. The portion (2:55 to 3:28) where the strings and tabla are heard together is very good.

Next in the offering is the much publicized song ‘Aa Bhi Jaa’. This was the second song to be released from the album. The song received a lot of attention because of its video, that is, undoubtedly, one of the best music videos one has seen in recent times. The one instrument that stands out in this song is the dafli, which Rahman, in recent times, used in ‘Saans’ from Jab Tak Hai Jaan. This one is the best track on the album and is bound to grow on the listeners with a couple of listening. The song, with its dramatic undertones, seems tailor made for a historical/ period Hindi film. This Jonita Gandhi sung number is very different from ‘Geet Gaaon’, the other song sung by her in the album. Jonita proves her versatility by doing complete justice to a jazz based number and a semi classical song in a single album. The only thing that lets this song down, to a certain extent, are the lyrics. Kabil Sibal writes some abysmally predictable verses like ‘Kismat Ke Rukh Ko Badlega Kab, Khushi Ki Khabar Se Behlayega Kab/ Mann Ko Dilasa Dilayega Kab, Jaane Se Pehle Kya Aayega Abb’ which don’t live up to the high standards of Rahman’s composition.

In ‘Kho Jayein Hum’, Shweta Pandit and Jyoti recite a poem by Kabil Sibal, with Rahman embellishing it with some interesting sounds heard in the background. Shweta recites the lines with just the right intonations and expressions. Jyoti, on the other hand, sounds indifferent at times. The poem speaks about finding an idealistic world where there shall be peace all around; a world devoid of war, hatred and any unpleasantness. Kapil Sibal’s poetry is fairly good and the message comes across effectively.

‘Khatta Meetha’, with its playful tune, deviates from the serious tenor of the album. The chorus vocals, which overlap the lead vocals, will remind you of Rahman’s sound from the 90s. The chorus vocals come across as unnecessary and unwarranted. Having said that, the tune is very catchy and is ably supported by Sibal’s smart word play. The song, unlike the rest of the songs, has a loud and cheerful vibe to it, which one does not mind.

Sony Music released the song ‘Kismat’ sung by Shreya Ghoshal, earlier this year and followed it up with ‘Aa Bhi Jaa’. There was a huge gap after that during which one did not hear anything about the album and wondered whether it will ever see the light of day. The album has released but surprisingly, the promotions have been anything but impressive. Sadly, that seems to be the case with most of the non-film albums released these days. The record labels just don’t promote these albums, owing to the negligible revenue generated from them.

Raunaq was an album that was supposed to bring to the fore Kapil Sibal’s talent as a poet/lyricist. Though his poetry is reasonably good in some of the songs, it comes across as ordinary in the rest (and most) of the songs. A.R Rahman had released a couple of songs as singles in the past couple of years but ‘Raunaq’ is his first full fledged album in a long time. He has scored music around Kabil Sibal’s poetry effortlessly. Though ‘Kismat’ turns out to be an ordinary composition, the rest of the songs give us enough reasons to be happy about.

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