Music Review: ‘Super 30’

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Hrithik Roshan has become even more selective than Aamir Khan with his choice of movies. So when he is ready to get back on the big screen after a gap of two years one can expect it to be worth it. Releasing this weekend, ‘Super 30’ looks nothing short of exceptional cinema in its look, story-telling, direction, acting and cinematography. This is a true story based in Bihar of a school teacher Anand Kumar played by Roshan in the movie who has truly gone deep into the character with his Bihari vocabulary, look and persona. A film about starting an educational revolution for the underprivileged in India, this film should be nothing short of inspiring! Directed by Vikas Bahl of ‘Queen’ (2014) fame, one can expect a moving and impactful execution of the film. The music is delivered by Ajay – Atul who have had a super 2018 with films like ‘Zero’ (2018), ‘Dhadak’ (2018) and ‘Thugs of Hindostan’ (2018) along with Amitabh Bhattacharya delivering the lyrics.

Jugraafiya, the opening song of the album is almost a retro romantic song that takes you back in time. With Udit Narayan and Shreya Ghoshal leading the vocals one already feels like they are taken back to the late 90s or early 2000s era. To top that the composition boasts of simplistic percussion’s but elaborate strings ensemble typical to Ajay-Atul style of compositions. The use of bongos and electronic drum pads is sooo retro disco style that well establishes the period of the film and its setting. Narayan sounds evergreen and takes one back in time in a beautiful way although nothing extraordinary about his or Ghoshal’s vocals. They are just there to set the tone and time of the film and they do it well. The arrangement and lyrics are the best part of the song. The musical twists and turns are arranged very well around the lyrics which are quite cute for a first love song. The references in the song are extremely innocent and basic to the references of a humble beginnings making this a song for the masses in the simplest of the ways. The classic setting of the song works for the film but as a 2019 song that is the only big setback for this song that makes it sound quite dated. But it does have the potential to succeed if it catches on.

Paisa is yet another musically dated number as it has the musicality of the disco era. Yet again the instrumental setting is quite elaborate with a big trumpets, strings and bass sections that make Ajay – Atul the master of conducting large orchestras but this composition is quite weak. Even with Vishal Dadlani leading the vocals there is not much material in this song. Clearly a background situational song the focus is entirely to deliver the songs role in the film but not as a standalone song. The audio experience is rather boring listening to the song. Dadlani’s vocals are perhaps one of the most average vocals by him. The lyrics are rather dull and boring and quite unlike what one would hear from Bhattacharya. This is an easy song to skip and miss.

Things get really interesting with the next song called Basanti No Dance as you get to hear an absolutely unique version of ‘Sholay’ (1975) dialogues translated into English that too as a Holi song! The brilliance is in the idea and the mixing of English and Hindi words and further giving them Bihari pronunciations. This long is a lyrical genius as words are broken and combined in different languages to get them to rhyme. The arrangement helps a lot too as musically there are layers of progression to the song with a grand finale. The way the lyrics are layered it is almost like a story being told like a performance which is the setting of the song. Divya Kumar leads the vocals with Prem Areni, Janardan Dhatrak & Chaitally Parmar on the supporting vocals. The expressions are attention to detail in delivering each unique word in the lyrics is quite exciting to listen to. Hats off to Kumar for his vocal styling in this song. Overall this song has tons of fun but with a deep meaning to it as the underprivileged struggle with English but have the ambition to surpass this language barrier. And this song is a great way of expressing this and thus should connect well with listeners even though it is quite different than what anyone would normally hear.

Roshan gets on the mic himself for Question Mark which is yet another situational song to the film although not in background. Roshan has proved his singing abilities a few times before and he sure has a talent for it but this song is just too good on the vocal front. Firstly Roshan is barely recognizable with his smooth husky voice as he delivers it true to his character in the accent but some brilliant low and high ends to it. He has been recorded and conducted really well by Ajay – Atul as he stays in key throughout and brings a lot of over the top expression to the lyrics as he teaches his class in a sing song fashion. For a short two and half minutes song it musically packs a good amount of jazz music optimized for the early 2000s Bollywood setting. There is a good amount of instrumentation that is well conducted and has a good amount of intricate notes and variance. Bhattacharya captures what a question mark represents very well by building the whole song around it. A mix of English and Hindi words makes this quite an easy number to sing along too as it focuses on how boring the world would be if there were no questions and mysteries to solve. This is a very unique song and not many in the education genre so an interesting one to listen to.

Niyam Ho is a pure chorus song with a large number of singers participating making this is grand vocal composition. There has not been a full chorus song in Bollywood like forever so this is an interesting one and well executed by Ajay – Atul. This is almost a theme song and as an idea it fits in perfectly as it is about mass awakening. The group is very nicely conducted and there is huge amount of precision in the harmonies by the singers. Musically they are supported by simplistic but grand orchestration leaving the focus on the vocals and lyrics. The message is quite strong in the choice of words as it preaches equality of education and opportunity for all classes of the society. Perhaps this is a final casting song but quite an effective one. It is not a leading song for airplay but fits in nicely bringing the album to a close.

FINAL WORD
The soundtrack of ‘Super 30’ is quite different from Vikas Bahl’s previous work. The album is completely non-commercial and every song is situational to the script and executed in accordance. Clearly the task at hand to Ajay – Atul was to deliver an OST rather than a music album and it’s fair to say that they have done the job well. But that’s not a common feature for Bollywood films and a touch of hit music obviously helps drive attention to the film and help box-office success to that end. They do get close to delivering that with songs like Basanti No Dance and Jugraafiya that will enjoy a decent airplay but they are still going to need some getting used to and won’t be instant or big hits. Nonetheless the talent in making these songs deserves some appreciation as the thought and execution is nicely done. The use of Udit Narayan, Shreya Ghoshal, Divya Kumar and Hrithik Roshan as lead singers clearly sets this album apart as they all do a good job. The amount of fun that Amitabh Bhattacharya delivers in Basanti No Dance and romance in Jugraafiya or inquisitiveness in Question Mark through his lyrics is exciting to hear. But at the same time Paisa and Niyam Ho are weak musically and lyrically. This album is a mixed bag for a short album and not one for commercial music lovers. Some songs have the caliber to become song of the masses but are rather musically too niche which might hold them back. Overall a decent musical effort to stand out from the rest.

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

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