Music Review: ‘Kalank’

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Abhishek Varman created waves in Bollywood with his directorial debut ‘2 States’ (2014). He is ready to create bigger waves with his forthcoming period drama ‘Kalank’ starring a super line-up of actors including Sanjay Dutt, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Aditya Roy Kapur and Sonakshi Sinha. The first look trailers have been driving the web and TV worlds into overdrive with it’s gorgeous sets and costumes. The look of each character has been the topic of conversation for every Bollywood buff as they are truly marvelous! Under the production mettle of Karan Johar and Sajid Nadiadwala, no budget has been spared in the production of this film making it one hell of a film to look out for this April. Pritam has been missing in action all of 2018 but he makes his return with this massive magnum opus multi-starrer. He is one of a very few who would have the musical depth to deliver a commercially strong song list for such a high-budget visual marvel that has deep mix of emotions sprouting from its story. Amitabh Bhattacharya has written the songs and their pairing has always delivered some massive tracks so we expect nothing less from the soundtrack of ‘Kalank’.

When Shreya Ghoshal opens an album composed by Pritam and written by Bhattacharya one can expect something wonderful. The opening song Ghar More Pardesiya is a Hindustani classical marvel! When one can make a pure classical song into a mainstream commercial success in 2019 than one really appreciate the talent of Pritam. There is almost no compromise or cheats on the melody or instrumentation of this song keeping it pure and authentic. The Tabla performance by Akshay Jadhav and Tabla Tarang by the specialist Sanjeev Kanitkar on this song are perhaps the finest I have heard on a Bollywood song in forever! The brilliance of their control, pace and note-perfect melodic recitation is spell-bounding. The use of Sitar, Sarod, mandolin and a number of classic Indian string instruments can be heard so clearly in accompaniment to deliver a detailed musical ensemble. The composition is just perfect and engages listeners till the very end. The vocals are meticulous and exceptional on this song… including the supporting vocals of Vaishali Mhade. Ghoshal deserves all the awards for this song for sure as her control on every note is a treat to listen to as she delivers some amazing classical renditions. The lyrics are a very strong aspect of this song as they set the period of song. The choice of words is reminisce of the time but they don’t compromise on the emotions & effect of the song. Madhuri & Alia deliver this song really well on screen as well with some very classy & elegant Kathak dancing. Overall this is great song to mark the return to Pritam & open this album.

Bring on Arijit Singh together with Pritam and there is a something great to look forward to. First Class is just that.. a great song! A well-balanced street party song that is not cheap and exudes class of a Pritam production. It is contemporary going with the era of the film but is fun and works perfectly across airwaves & clubs in 2019 thanks to Pritam’s expertise of making commercially viable music that fits perfectly within the film’s setting. Singh’s vocals are the aspect that bring in some class to the song. His vocal styling is spot on and he doesn’t overdo to show off his vocal capabilities at all. Neeti Mohan has a small part to play and is not very memorable delivering an average performance. Lyrics are nicely designed with a good flow making it an easy one to sing along to. Although it has the simplicity of a street party song, it has some class in the context of the song of what the lyrical content is in emotions & experiences it talks about. The melody of the song is quite strong making it addictive so it easily sticks in the mind. The instrumentation is a bit disappointing being quite common but effective. Although there are a good few sounds including bagpipes, sax, cello but the Indian percussions ensemble are super strong and overpower the sound. A fine entertaining song nonetheless.

Kalank – Title Track is yet another song with Singh’s vocals but this one is a deep soulful one where his vocal depth can be truly enjoyed. One can easily rate the lyrics as some of the best work of Bhattacharya till date! The emotions are deep and moving with every line and touch the romantic nerves making this a difficult song to forget. The romantic vibes are very strong with a beautiful message that is further personified by the amazing soulful vocals with a fabulous range to them. Singh really vows one with his expression on every line of the song making it one of the best romantic songs of the year. Apart from the composition being unique with its contemporary soulful classic, the use of beautiful string instruments like Qanun, Mandolin, Rabab, a gorgeous but simple Violin ensemble gives this song an amazing vibe that is easy to engage with as a listener. This is perhaps one of the most gorgeous melodies to hear for easy listening that will stay around for a long time beyond 2019.

The vocals are note perfect in every aspect but limited in mass appeal thanks to the setting of the song. Lyrics seem rather mediocre compared to Bhattacharya’s standards although there is lot of material in there. It’s just the flow of how the lyrics are put together it takes a part of the soul of the song away from it.

Ghoshal returns as the voice of Dixit on Tabaah Ho Gaye next. A classical heartbreak romantic song designed for a Kathak performance, this is a very demanding song be on arrangement, orchestration, choreography and even vocally because of its strong dance vibes. Like any other classical Kathak song this one relies heavily on rhythmic progression with the use of percussions like Tabla, Dholak, Pakhawaj and classical sitar. The composition and layout of instruments is very good with Pritam showcasing his classical knowledge but it does not sound unique. Being a sad song the overall vibe of the song sounds rather dull and underwhelming. The vocals are note perfect in every aspect but limited in mass appeal thanks to the setting of the song. Lyrics seem rather mediocre compared to Bhattacharya’s standards although there is lot of material in there. It’s just the flow of how the lyrics are put together it takes a part of the soul of the song away from it.

Think about a classic but modern mujra and Aira Gaira (extended) is just that. Antara Mitra, Javed Ali, Tushar Joshi take the listeners to a fun street mujra that is sexy and has the fun vibes of Fevicol Se crossed with a lot more class like Kajra Re. This is a genre not heard of in Bollywood in a while so this number is a really refreshing one to listen to and super enjoyable going from a starting point of somber strings of Tarang but adding layers of exceptional Indian percussions and vocal qawaals that give this song the energy and pump. Mitra delivers a sultry vocal while Ali and Joshi are energetic and expressive throughout. The lyrics are very well written for a song type that is period but still delivers amazing amount of fun and tease. The mix of Hindustani and Middle Eastern Qawalli influences are strongly evident and give the song an edge. It’s not got the addictive flow of a Fevicol Se or Kajra Re but it sure is capable of getting there with the right amount of marketing making it a popular song at weddings and parties.

Rajvaadi Odhni is a traditional female solo fun song in the voice of Jonita Gandhi with very strong Rajasthani influence on the diction and lyrics of the song. The pace of the song is the main highlight of the song that will make it a super success at the next Navratri celebrations around the world. The instrumentation is very strong at this tempo with flutes and sarangi adding extra layers on top of the traditional Rajasthani percussions and rhythms merged with bass and electric guitars. The arrangement of the song is quite common though and the lyrics are noting special with just using basic traditional celebratory dance and festive lyrics. Gandhi’s vocals seem rather disappointing as they just don’t seem to work in parts. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with her performance but her vocal texture doesn’t sound like a natural fit for this song which is very repetitive and almost gets annoying after a point.

Kalank – Title Track (Duet Version) feature the additional vocals of Shilpa Rao joining with Singh to deliver a duet version of the title track. The overall song is exactly the same except for the additional stanza with her additional vocals that are a good contrast to Singh’s vocals. Rao’s vocals are rather more modern than Singh’s more contemporary, tending to traditional vocals. She lacks depth in her vocal and that sounds a little out of place in the song on repeat listens. The lyrics of the additional para are very nicely put and fitting with the overall appeal of the movie and its storyline. The original solo version of the title track is somehow the preferred version by far.

Ghar More Pardesiya (Radio Edit) feature the additional vocals of Vaishali Mhade with a more classical and subtle start with a stronger focus on sitar and tabla instruments and classical vocals. The delivery of the Kathat tode and alaaps are a lot more enjoyable to listen on this version.

The music is more stripped back and simpler as a climax song now, perhaps used on the final credit roll.

Aira Gaira is a shorter version of the extended original without the final male solo and seems like a forced song without a purpose as the song is mostly the same otherwise. Perhaps a shorter version is more fitting for radio and TV plays.

Repetition of songs continue to the final track with Kalank – Title Track (Bonus Track) coming back again but with new instrumentation and lyrics this time. The music is more stripped back and simpler as a climax song now, perhaps used on the final credit roll. The more bare bones music gives the song a lot more ambience giving a chance for the new lyrics to shine brighter that focus more strongly on the message of love being bigger than anything else in the world. Rao’s vocals are a lot better on this version and Singh is perfect as always. A good ending to the album!

FINAL WORD
The soundtrack of ‘Kalank’ is well worth the wait and disappearance of Pritam in 2018 as he makes a strong comeback with what could be the biggest soundtrack of 2019. This is true to what one expects from a multi-cast top A-league Bollywood production that features the work of Amitabh Bhattacharya with Pritam. They are both fire every time they come along as the deliver some unique melodies and composition that are difficult to fathom when one listens to their songs and wonder “how did they ever come up with this!” Kalank – Title Track is one of those romantic songs that exudes talent in every aspect and is a genius arrangement. Ghar More Pardesiya is a top opening song that is classically perfect with a great melody and has a very strong star value and thus a strong personality. Tabaah Ho Gaye is good too but limited in its appeal and rather dull after a few listens. First Class and Aira Gaira are top party songs in their respective genre styles and give further depth and variety to the album. Musically one can’t fault how Pritam conducts and composes his songs while carefully balancing the classical and modern relevance of each song. Except for a couple mediocre songs and some forcer filler songs the rest are almost spotless! Lyrics consistently range from good to brilliant while vocally one has Shreya Ghoshal and Arijit Singh leading the way for a great soundtrack! Overall this is a collector’s album with a sound as grand as the film’s sets, costumes and cast.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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