Kalank’s melodies need that magic touch

The most exciting thing about the soundtrack of Kalank is that it marks the end of Pritam’s almost two-year-long break from music composition. Then there is the fact that it is the first period film that he is making music for. Add a third layer to this—teaming up with lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya, with whom he has had one of his most successful creative collaborations. Who can forget the brilliant Jagga Jasoos? So do Kalank’s songs live up to these great expectations? Not quite.

I am not sure if it is some glitch from the music label, but the heavily orchestrated, ‘Ghar Mohe Pardesiya’ has the least number of live instruments credited against it. One of the classic instruments, that finds good usage in the song, is Niladri Kumar’s sitar. The sitar maestro has played for Pritam on multiple occasions in the past but with the electric variant of the instrument that he calls the zitar. Reuniting with the composer after a very long hiatus, Shreya Ghoshal is in top form, effortlessly negotiating the classical nuances of the melody. Despite these individual displays of brilliance, the song in its entirety fails to make as great an impact as expected; it also took me back to Pritam’s own ‘Mere Dholna Sunn’ (Bhool Bhulaiya, 2007) also sung by Ghoshal.

A shorter version, that’s labelled, ‘Radio Edit’, of the song has the talented Vaishali Mhade sharing vocalist credits with Shreya Ghoshal. Sadly, Mhade’s voice is just an additional vocal layer for the sargam that appears in the first interlude. Ghoshal’s second song in the soundtrack is a more interesting renditions. ‘Tabaah Ho Gaye’ is set to a standard classical dance template, but is quite effective, especially when it comes to the chorus, the minute-long coda comprising of the frenetic percussion, bols and humming.

None of the songs from Kalank sound like they belong to a period film set in the 1940s. The one number that’s brazenly out of place is, ‘First Class’. The folksy, South India-inspired dance format is something the composer has used successfully in the past, and here despite the “period” issues, it does engage. Arijit Singh and Neeti Mohan’s delivery is superb as well. There is an amazing array of musical instruments in the credits; however, a lot of them feel wasted in the loud, crowded arrangement.

Singh gets to lead the best song of the album, the title song. The singer also doubles up as the harmonium player here. The serene melody is built up by the composer in a stunning fashion, in sync with Bhattacharya’s wonderful lines. The orchestration, while mellow (an exception in the otherwise boisterous soundscape), sees spectacular use of plucked strings, especially the ones by Tapas Roy. And the song ends on a brilliant high, with nearly a minute and half long segment of the chorus singing many variations of the phrase “Main Tera” as Singh does some lovely improvisations accompanying that.

In the duet version of the song, Shilpa Rao joins Singh, a worthy addition to the proceedings. There is also a bonus track version featuring Singh and Rao in which the composer revamps the arrangement. It is nice, but not at par with the original. ‘Aira Gaira’ is set on traditional filmi qawwali lines and produces entertaining results. The rich backdrop is populated by all the usual suspects–the instruments customarily used in such a song—but there are also some surprise inclusions like Suresh Yadav’s clarinet. The combination of the melody and the genre evoke memories of Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s ‘Murshid Khele Holi’ from the 2013 film, D Day. There is splendid singing once again, led by Antara Mitra, Javed Ali and Tushar Joshi. Like the title song, this too closes with a segment of the chorus repeating a phrase, fading away gradually as Ali launches into a slow improvised portion. An aside: I found the use of the Hindi word, ‘sundari’ a tad strange in a predominantly Urdu-derived vocabulary.

The final song, ‘Rajvaadi Odhni’, has clear Rajasthani/Kutchi folk influence, which shows in its massive instrumental line-up as well, ranging from algoza to ravanahatha to morchang to khartal and many more. While the folk elements are all on point, it is the filmi build-up that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Nevertheless it has been sung beautifully by Jonita Gandhi and the folk singers from Team Babu Khan.

In keeping with the film’s scale, Kalank’s music is also grand and opulent. But that does not really reflect in the quality of the songs. More than its own aural magic, the film’s soundtrack may need the lush visuals seen in the promos to burnish its musical appeal.

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