After a three-year gap since Rockstar۪ (2011), Imtiaz Ali is back with his next directorial venture called Highway۪ starring Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda. His last romantic hit Jab We Met۪ (2007) had love blossoming on the road trip while Love Aaj Kal۪ (2009) had some characteristics of journeys as well. With Highway۪ he has taken his passion for the road to the next level with an unlikely love story between the kidnapper and his pretty victim Bhatt. The trailers depict the characteristics of a typical Imtiaz Ali film and sure seem to have personality. His last venture Rockstar۪ bombed on the box office thanks to a loose story but sailed through thanks to the music and Ranbir Kapoor۪s performance. A R Rahman is back to the rescue of the director since Raanjhanaa۪ (2013) that did well with a string of nominations at the award ceremonies for the music building a high anticipation for the music of Highway۪. With the genius of Irshad Kamil by his side who brings charisma to the poetry, the music of this OST should work magic on the listeners.
Patakha Guddi (Female Version) in the voices of the Nooran sisters Jyoti and Sultana is a piece of urban meets rural work of Rahman. The composition is exactly what one would expect from Rahman with a range of instruments with some unique new sounds and brilliant flute and percussion bits. The music landscape is so wide that if one listens to the song carefully you would hear some intricate instruments and frequencies of music. He preserves the rural touch of the voice really elegantly even with a modern beat arrangement. But what would make one listen to the song again and again are the lyrics by Kamil who combines poetry with Hindustani, Urdu and Punjabi languages effortlessly to create a strong prayer of love and trust. Nooran sisters are just brilliant with their vocals and yet another amazing talent discovery by Rahman. The song overall is brilliant but the religious nature of the song could limit its commercial success.
A R Rahman voices Mahi Ve next to a similar beat structure to the former but a little softer to the ears for a romantic touch to it with a stronger clap. The bass, violin ensembles and subtle piano and programming bits fit in well in the background of the beat to complement Rahman۪s voice. The music is very wholesome in its overall sound and full in its appeal. Rahman does a great job on the vocals so much so one cannot imagine the song in anyone else۪s voice. The lyrics talk very strongly about companionship in a relationship and its related string of emotions that Kamil arranges really well around Rahman۪s composition. The lyrics have good highs and lows to it in sync with the music.
Perhaps one of the favourites on the album is the soft, easy going and deeply soulful number Kahaan Hoon Main in the voice of Jonita Gandhi last heard on the title track of Chennai Express۪ (2013). Her vocals are pure, effortless and have depth. The vocals are breathe and so strong that Rahman has left them with almost no processing to keep it authentic. The music is non-existent in the beginning and end that is very classy followed by a simple drum beat with a beautiful piano solo. The lyrics by Kamil are perhaps the best for the year to come and already have my vote for the lyricist award him for next year. Awestruck when you listen to this!
Maine bhi toh aana tha isi taraf
Meri bhi toh raahein hain yahin kahin
Uljhano ke do raahe
Raaston ki ye baahein
Wanna Mash Up? comes from a different era and drags you to 2014 with a very urban underground composition by Rahman with lyrics and vocals by Lady Kash & Krissy with Suvi Suresh on the backing vocals. The full English lyrics rap throughout the song gives a different edge to the album but whenever Rahman tries something like this it doesn۪t work. Although nothing wrong with this song and is a character song for the film it sounds disruptive to the flow of the album and I doubt its appeal to listeners across India and worldwide. Before the song finishes one would want to skip it.
Easy listening reaches its peak with Sooha Saaha which is a folk song and very arty. The entire song with all its aspects from vocals to lyrics to instrumentation is simply gorgeous! Lyrics by Kamil are not for a layman to understand but one would want to listen to it on a repeat as the song would ease one into paradise with its lullaby feel. Adding to the lullaby feel of the song are the amazing vocals by Zeb and Alia Bhatt herself. Pakistani folk singer Zeb makes a landmark entry into Bollywood but most outstanding and shocking are the vocals of Alia Bhatt herself! If the girl can sing like that then we stand up and salute the multi-talented girl! Rahman keeps the music very simple to let the vocals and lyrics do the magic. Charango guitar and deep Ghattam (earthen pot) lead the instruments with duff percussions that form a perfect soft tone ensemble. Brilliant piece of music!
Rahman takes the opening song Patakha Guddi (Male Version) for his own rendition next giving it a different rock guitar notes added on to the break beat drum pattern. His unique voice does something totally different for the song with a range of softer bits and going to high peaks. Compare the version to the Nooran sisters version and many would prefer this as this is stronger and has powerful music arrangement to back it. A crazy rock solo also breaks in in the middle dropping back to Rahman۪s mesmerising vocals bridging the gaps between sufi vocals and alternative rock melody.
Implosive Silence is what sounds like an instrumental second version of Kahaan Hoon Main. With simple humming by Jonita Gandhi on some amazing musical programming and arrangement by Rahman. The song goes from low to a high and drops back into the soft baritones with ease and precision that only a master like Rahman can deliver. The nuances of music are so strong in this piece and so hard hitting that it touches the heart even with no vocals there. Silence truly implodes with this piece of musical work!
Sunidhi Chauhan makes a powerful appearance on the soundtrack with Tu Kuja that is a prayer song. The Hindustani composition meets western bits of music very well in Rahman۪s blend. The song is quite average and nothing unique about it. The lyrics, vocals and composition are all average with not much standing out from the rest except the powerful highs by Chauhan.
Shweta Pandit makes an appearance next on the vocal domain of the album with Heera which is another classical sufi song with a philosophical edge. Sant Kabir۪s poem has been very well translated into a song by Rahman with a stunning orchestra with Santoor, violins, double bass, flutes and no percussion throughout. The instrumentation is just epic true to Rahman۪s style. Pandit۪s vocals do justice to the poetry by a legend and are very sombre. This song fits beautifully for easy listening as well along with others on the OST.
The master of music Rahman proves once again why he comes in a different league of composers in Bollywood. Try beating him on creating unique melodies, music arrangement and instrumentation with a big bang orchestra and one would easily fail. He captures the different parts of India with tiny distinctions and hints hidden in the instruments and style of composition which showcase his brilliance. His choice of singers is once again top class with a lot of new talent including Nooran sisters, Zeb and Alia Bhatt herself. The soundtrack is very female driven with just a couple male songs in Rahman۪s voice. There are sufi religious songs to romantic, urban and even lullaby۪s in the range of songs on the OST with depth and diversity in the lyrics by Kamil. Kahaan Hoon Main, Sooha Saaha and Patakha Guddi are the standout songs of the album with Mahi Ve being a good listen too. These songs would easily make it to the radio airways and TV screens but commercial success of the album will be a question and will largely depend on the success of the film itself. Musically, the album is brilliant but limited in its appeal.
BizAsia Showbiz Rating 7.5/10