There are some stock standard things one comes to expect from a Vishal Bhardwaj album. Theatrical, off-beat and driven by the demands of the script. Haider ticks all these boxes and adds more. It boasts of a variety of genres attempted by the composer and presents singers we’ve yet to hear in the Bhardwaj light. Though doing all the above doesn’t automatically render an album a success so read on to find out if Haider is one or not.
It kicks off with the track which is no doubt the face or rather the ‘sound’ of the album, Aao Na, by Vishal Dadlani. Last time the two Vishal’s got together we got something as epic as ‘Dhan Te Nan’ so the duo have a reputation to live up to. And they do so in every way. ‘Aao Na’ is an incredible grunge rock number featuring Dadlani in his element. There’s no two ways about the fact that he was the best man for the job. Though more impressive than that is the fact that the song captures the essence of Prince Hamlet/Haider’s aggression and mood perfectly courtesy of the lyrics by Gulzar. If you thought that wasn’t powerful enough to suck you into the world that Shakespeare created and that Bhardwaj is trying to recreate, wait till you get to the alternative version of the track or as I call it the grave digger’s version. So Jao is every bit as powerful as ‘Aao Na’ and features a host of folk singers namely, Alaap Majgavkar, Sourabh Joshi, Mayukh Sarkar, Muzamil Bhawani, Bashir Bhawani and Bashir Lone. The shovelling sound effects come as a surprise as the track opens but they are very effective in creating the scene in your mind and will no doubt contribute to how powerful the ultimate scene in the film will be.
The next track Bismil, ties with ‘Aao Na’ as the highlight of the album. Where does one start when praising the brilliance that is ‘Bismil’. There’s Sukwinder Singh doing what he does best, blowing our minds by exploring depths of his voice that we thought we knew but clearly did not. Then there is Gulzar’s lyrics which recreate the scene from the play in which Hamlet recreates his father’s death in a live play in hopes of securing a confession from his uncle. Given the intensions behind this scene the lyrics had to be confronting. And they are exactly that. It is a track that gives you goosebumps because it succeeds in creating the visual in your mind of the level of betrayal that has been endured, the painful repercussions of the betrayal and finally the strong emotions of revenge that it ignited. The composition is folk in nature with a hint of European flavours but essentially what it is is a drama filled theatrical number highlight of which are the percussions and powerful chorus. The album also features Ek Aur Bismil which has alternative lyrics and a whole different feel to it. This time it’s a strong Middle Eastern flavour that Bhardwaj employs. Had you heard the track before the original number you may have been impressed by it, however by the time you get to this you’ve already fallen in love with ‘Bismil’ and therefore find this one trivialising the sole of, what seems to be, the original track.
We knew this album would be incomplete without some signature Bhardwaj numbers that have that classic easy listening feel. Khul Kabhi Toh is that number in Haider. There is one unpredictable portion of this track and that is that it is not sung by the composer himself ,but instead he brings in the current raging sensation Arijit Singh to do the job. It is however amazing how conveniently he moulds Arijit into his element and style of rendition. This may be a number that takes a while to grow on you, but you can’t deny the charm of the soft jazz beats and Arijit’s hypnotic rendition.
Arijit returns again with Gulon Mein Rang Bhare which features lyrical work by the revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmad Falz. You fall in love with this one instantly solely because of how Arijit delivers the track. It is in the expected Vishal Bhardwaj style, heavy on the low notes, but with a distinct velvety touch that only Arijit can bring. The song makes you realise that though we’ve heard loads of Arijit this year, we’ve yet to explore so much of Arijit’s capabilities.
Empowered by perhaps the experiences he’s witnessed in a very bloody part of Indian history, Gulzar-saab pens what is the darkest track of the album, Jhelum. The tracks illustrates vividly what Jhelum River has witnessed over the years. The composition again is theatrical and dramatic, however like with all tracks that feature Vishal Bhardwaj’s voice, the composition is minimal and it is in fact the vocals that carry the track forward.
We then have a much less confronting piece. Do Jaahaan is a soft melodious number featuring a Vishal Bhardwaj favourite, Suresh Wadkar. Shraddha Kapoor also features in the track and renders Kashmiri lines. You appreciate the melody and Suresh’s vocal but beyond that the song does not strike you as strongly as the rest of the tracks in the album do.
What would Bhardwaj album be without a solo Rekha Bhardwaj piece that makes you realise how mediocre the vocals we listen to generally are in the face of such brilliance? This is a heart wrenching ghazal that does not conform to the usual ghazal norms. It features a strong string support which usually is not as prominent in ghazals and the tabla beats are ever so delicately given ensuring that it’s Rekha and the powerful words she sings that is the highlight of the track.
So going back to the checks in the boxes, yes Haider completes them all but impresses you beyond that. There’s been a distinct effort to deliver a variety of genres, which is extremely commendable. Above and beyond that you appreciate the makers brilliance of ensuring the theatrical essence of the script at hand is the sole driving force of the entire album. From the lyrics to the composition to the vocals, it all is delivered with a purpose to bring to life a story rather than to deliver a chartbuster, follow a norm or garner specific audience appreciation. The album leaves you extremely excited for the film and you almost wish this was a live musical where you can experience it all first hand in its rawest form. Alas we all will just rush to cinema halls on October 2nd to catch this soundtrack in its full glory.