Music Review: ‘Zero’

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King Khan really needs a big hit to turn his fortunes around. His big Christmas release ‘Zero’ (2018) could be it! The trailer has interesting extreme characters giving this film a clear differentiator compared to the typical Bollywood romantics. With superstar Shah Rukh Khan playing a dwarf and Anushka Sharma playing a scientist with cerebral palsy there is a little more depth to this story directed by Aanand L. Rai of ‘Raanjhanaa’ (2013), ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ (2013) and 2015 series fame. Hottie Katrina Kaif is also seen in this movie playing a celebrity with vice adding a 3rd dimension to this love story. Music is always a big pull for a King Khan film and also for a Rai direction and so the expectations for the soundtrack of this movie to deliver what could be the biggest winner of 2018. Duo Ajay-Atul have already had a great year with ‘Dhadak’ (2018) and ‘Thugs of Hindostan’ (2018) to their credit but the music of none of them have made it big in the true sense. So a lot rides for them too on this OST and we hope they get there with the help of Irshad Kamil’s amazing lyrical talent.

 

The album opens with a grand number called Mere Naam Tu that has the typical makings of a big SRK romantic love song. The harmonies and orchestration are massive and beautifully conducted by Ajay-Atul. They truly know how to deliver a detailed musical score with a great balance of instruments. The rise and fall in the arrangement has a huge scale to it with some great melodies on the piano, percussions, violins, flutes and more giving it a soft sound with tons of depth thanks to its range. There are strong influences of traditional English theatrical sound to it that one can imagine listening to at a Royal Albert Hall. Abhay Jodhpurkar makes his Hindi singing debut on this song and it couldn’t get bigger than this for him. He sure delivers it well on this one to add some extra flair to this instrumental heavy composition. It’s not easy to sing with such a huge and precisely conducted orchestra but he does brilliantly well. There delivers softness and power together effortlessly across the full range with great control. Kamil’s words have some beautiful poetry to supplement the grandeur of the song. The chorus especially is very powerful that will take this song places on radio and TV plays. The amount of material and emotions he packs in the 5 off mins of this song is something exceptional. Overall this is a massive song to open the album that is very well done and is musically very strong. It tends more towards artistic than commercial sound so that could be the only aspect that slows down the success of this song.

 

The next song takes the album to the location of the film for its musical influence. Issaqbaazi takes the album to the heart of Uttar Pradesh (UP) for its strong folk flavours. UP is perhaps got the most number of Hindustani classical gharans and Ajay-Atul try to bring them alive instrumentally with some great work on the dholkis and table leading the percussions. This song reminds one of a Khaike Paan Banaraswala in many ways with its Allahabad & Banaras dance music flavours and pace of the arrangement. The localisation comes through nicely in Kamil’s lyrics and vocal delivery of Sukhwinder Singh & Divya Kumar as well. The vocal jugalbandi is just brilliant between both these terrific singers. They both hold their own and bring the on-screen competitive streak of Shahrukh Khan & Salman Khan alive vocally through their performance. The attention to accents and vocal range required for a classical folk performance is to the point trying to find the balance between extreme folk and commercial Bollywood music. The lyrics are really the crux of the song that recite the story and deliver the situation in the film for this face-off between the tycoon Khans of Bollywood but they tip the scale a lot to the folk and regional side perhaps reducing the national and international appeal of the song on its commercial aspects. But keeping it authentic is what this song delivers in a powerful & entertaining way.

 

Husn Parcham is Ajay-Atul’s attempt of an item song in the voice of Bhoomi Trivedi & rapper Raja Kumari (Indian Princess). The music has hints of Arabic music vibes to it with a strong melody to it. The musical hook is very catchy and its execution is designed to get one to get anyone dancing along to this sexy item number. Katrina Kaif leads with some terrific dance moves in the video that sets the mood nicely for this song. There is tons of charisma on screen and to match that Trivedi delivers the same with her vocals. The sass comes through in her voice that matches well for Kaif on screen. The vocal personality is very strong & totally superstar worthy. The musical energy level drives the song maintain a mid-dance section bpm making it a good song for DJ sets to kick things off into high gear. The strong female lead will surely bring women to the dancefloor following the dance moves from the video. Kamil’s lyrics are short and sweet with just two stanzas but with a very strong chorus that leads this song on a repeat. The stanzas use strong Urdu words and are complicated no doubt but the flow and melody make it really easy to get to grips with the lyrics which is real power feature of this song.

 

It’s a pleasure to hear the voice of Kunal Ganjawala after a long break on Ann Bann next. The song is a situational song to the story of the film with what seems to be mediocre lyrics quite unlike of Kamil. The poetic flow and the deliverance of the story is very average. What is even further disappointing in this song is the composition. Ajay-Atul blend orchestration with electronic synths and rock parts that seem to work but doesn’t really create an impact. There is good instrumentation with a good flute solo and violin ensemble but it falls flat with a boring arrangement. Vocals are good and well controlled although a little cold on emotions and feel. Easy song to skip and forget about.

 

Tanishk Bagchi takes over the music of the album here on collaborating with Kamil on Tanha Hua. Featuring the voices of Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Jyoti Nooran this is a good one with a modern Qawalli treatment set to a funky beat. Bagchi throws in some interesting mix of instruments where traditional meets western quite effortlessly. Listen to the bridge solo of a Harmonium with a mix of guitars to it. There are small musical nuances that stand out with an easy to listen to beat. The lyrics are sad and one of where there are multiple heartbreaks. There is remorse and contemplation all well laid out by Kamil in an interesting poetic flow. Even with such lyrics the music is quite upbeat which gives the song a good feel overall keeping it bright rather than grey. Vocally Khan is as strong and emotive as always and that is just brilliant to listen. His folk and traditional delivery gives the song realness and believable expression. Although not a lead song this is a good one to listen to.

 

Romy gets on the mic for Heer Badnaam that is high dose of contemporary urban Punjabi song. Written by Kumaar and composed by Tanishk Bagchi the song is a modern blend with a strong deep vibe that gives it an edge. Although the song sounds like it has influence from a number of songs, it has really strong melody and lyrics to go with it. The Punjabi delivers a good effect in the song amplifying the feel and oomph of the song. Musically the composition lacks breakthrough and innovation on the arrangement but the vocals are quite well delivered by Romy. The song is too short though and even the lyrics go only a little far in making this song stand out at all.

 

Bagchi comes together with the amazing Altamash Faridi to deliver the classic most well known qawalli Duma Dum Mast Kalandar. Faridi’s vocal delivery of the traditional lyrics has a modern contemporary touch to it. His vocal texture works perfectly for the song with good variation and range delivered well with good amount of control and power. Bagchi keeps the music very upbeat and high energy with strong electronic percussions that give it that 2018 touch. The progression of the song is the real crux of it as it leads to a strong climax end to this soundtrack.

FINAL WORD
The soundtrack of ‘Zero’ is an interesting one that features the music by Ajay-Atul and Tanishk Bagchi – the hottest music directors in Bollywood in 2018. They have both had a great year and ‘Zero’ gives them both a great opportunity to end the year on a high under the massive leadership of Red Chillies Entertainment and Shahrukh Khan. The marketing would be next level as it always is for a big SRK home production and music is always a powerful tool to market his films. This OST thus of course has some great talent and a deep full soundtrack with tons of genres. Musically both directors deliver a strong performance with bold and impactful compositions. Ajay-Atul stay true to their style using big orchestrations in their songs while keeping their music well-thought and impactful. Mere Naam Tu truly has the potential to be the biggest low ballad of the year while Husn Parcham is a strong item number. Issaqbaazi is a decent song too although a little too strongly regional in its appeal. Bagchi gets to deliver only the support filler songs on the album but still does manage to create an impact with Heer Badnam & Tanha Hua. Kamil impresses on most songs consistently and vocally there is some great talent on the album with Abhay Jodhpurkar, Bhoomi Trivedi, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sukhwinder Singh, Divya Kumar, Altamash Faridi, Romy.. all doing well on their respective songs. Overall this album is a wholesome one as expected from a King Khan film but none of the songs are capable of becoming huge like some of his previous superhits. The album is good but not great.

BizAsiaLive.com Rating – 4/5

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