‘If you are not living on the edge you are taking up too much space’… according to the upcoming film Shaitan that is the mantra that defines the youth of today. But what happens when the edge gives away? That is what makes up the story of Shaitan. From this and the promos we have seen so far Shaitan looks like a cutting edge thriller. Directed by Bejoy Nambiar and produced by Indie darling Anurag Kashyap, the film, which releases on June 10th, stars Rajeev Khandelwal, Kalki Koechlin, Shiv Pandit, Rajit Kapoor, and Kirti Kulhari. Set in the urbanscape of Mumbai, the story follows 5 youngsters Amy, Dash, KC, Zubin and Tanya. They are young, intelligent, good looking and ‘uber cool’. With no hang ups and no boundaries, excitement is what they seek till a ‘moment’ changes everything. An accident and their actions to cover up lead them through a series of incidents across the roads, streets and bylanes of Mumbai and into the dark side the lurks within all of us – The Shaitan. To live up to this what is being called real and raw film, four music directors contributed to the score led by newcomer Prashant Pillai along with Ranjit Barot, Amar Mohile, and Anupam Roy. Like its funky psychedelic poster, the music of Shaitan truly puts one’s music reviewing experience to the test, refusing to be pigeonholed, this soundtrack is worth the discovery.
We enter Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk territory with the opening instrumental track Enter. It is a perfect way to begin the album and to display Prashant Pillai’s excellent arrangement with electronic beats mixed with a Japanese taiko drum. It sounds like a situational track but it definitely can stand-alone. The soundtrack truly starts with a bombastic bang with Bali – The Sound of Shaitan, with Farhad channelling the king of funk James Brown that brings some hopes up. The sound is so out of this world! There is so much experimentation for this track and it totally works with Prashant Pillai messing and discovering a completely new sound. So many styles of Carnatic singing, mixed together with electronica and a Tamil rap verse throw in some dhinchak and dhol and it truly works effortlessly together. Preeti’s soft vocals are also a welcome addition to track and she does not get overwhelmed by the music to make her mark. The song reveals multiple layers and influences which is wholly innovative and the most addictive jam of the summer!
Next up is the best summer jam, Nasha, a trance song with added dollops of rave and house music that is gorgeous. Usually the vocoder ends up making the singers sound like an awful T-Pain song, but it is placed perfectly in this song. Prashant Pillai and Bindu Nambiar’s vocals give this song a breezy and otherworldly quality. The overall composition work seamlessly together with the vocals and it is a truly hypnotic track. The song is a lovely electronic track that does not lapse into typicality, as we can clearly hear that Pillai has the finesse to try something original. There is also a Nasha – Rock and Soul Version, as Ranjit Barot replaces Pillai as a singer and his gruff voice is an interesting change for the song, it does work to an extent. Farhad adds some more rhythm to the song and his authentic vocals work well in contrast to Barot’s. The dhol that enters the song near the end alongside the guitar hook is lovely, and livens up the song.
Amar Mohile is the guest composer on Josh, an absolutely wicked song. The song definitely has international standards in its composition, as it would definitely be at home on an Usher album. Mixing hip-hop beats with jazz and Punjabi dhol beats is awesome and these different styles complement each other on this tune. Colin Terence’s rap verse, Abhishek, and Shraddha equally work in harmony. With brilliant production values, Amar Mohile strikes the right balance of super music and great vocals.
Suraj Jagan’s fabulously grungy voice is haunting on Fareeda, where Pillai attempts an indie rock number. Jagan voice is usually utilized by other music directors on loud and rollicking tracks, but Pillai shows us another facet of Jagan’s versatility voice. His voice is very affecting and has a certain sadness that is perfect with the lyrics and rock sound.
The revisionist take on the Mr India’s hit song, Hawa Hawaii, catches you by surprise but guranteed you’ll be dancing by the end of the song. The steel drums that open song give it a very chilled out reggae vibe but tossing in some Ennio Morricone spaghetti western guitar is an interesting addition that completely works. Suman Shridhar gives the song a playful edge as she croons in a very mocking way.
Seriously, one of the best Sufi songs around, O Yaara begins with a potent shehnaii and Kirti Sagathia opens the song beautifully. Prashant Pillai again impresses with the composition of this song, with its inviting acoustic guitar and switching to a grungy electric guitar hook. Preeti Pillai’s vocals are integrated throughout the song and her voice is so haunting after the song has ended. Sagathia also is becoming the new go to Sufi singer and his voice can convey so many emotions, from the fun tracks of Delhi Belly to this album, he is going from strength to strength.
Maharashtrian folk music meets psychedelic on Ranjit Barot’s fantastic track Pintya. This song definitely rises above its situational sound with its boundless energy and dynamic crooning by Chandan Shive. This track needs to be played super loud to enjoy the 180 degree twist that just makes the song come alive. The arrangement by Barot is fabulous, to combine to wildly different styles and make them work in harmony is no ordinary feat.
Ranjit Barot takes the mic on Zindagi, and this is the only letdown of the whole album as it just veers into soft rock that is ubiquitous these days. The lyrics are average at best, but Barot lets his voice takeover instead of creating a tighter composition.
One of the most haunting tracks on the album is the quieter Amy’s Theme, with its lovely lilting piano, which truly moves you. Usually character motif songs run for under a minute, but this song by Ranjit Barot clocks in at over 4 minutes, allowing the listener to savour the melody. Suzanne D’Mello’s wonderful and affecting humming throughout makes this track a sure winner.
Another brilliant track is Retro Pop Shit, by Amar Mohile who deserves a standing ovation for the experimentation on this track! The collage of easy Spanish guitar and aggressive electronic beats complement each other so well.
Unleashed is the most apt name when death metal group Bhayanak Maut are let loose on this track. If you like your metal loud, primal, and strangely catchy then this is your tune. This tune won’t win everyone over, but from the unintelligible cursing and growling Bhayanak Maut know their stuff!
The album finishes off with Outro, and what a perfect way to end the experimental album!
When the vogue of the day is item songs and revising classic songs to bad results, an album like Shaitan comes along and breaks the mould. Four music directors contributed to the album and each have lovingly crafted unique and experimental that is simply a delight for the ears. Easily one of the best albums of 2011, the music is strikingly different and refuses to be defined and that is such a good thing. The album is such a welcome change from the conventionalism and overproduced music we are offered regularly. The fact that each of these songs does not slowly dissolve into one generic sound and have a refreshing versatility is a testament to Prashant Pillai’s vision. Definitely, take this acid trip!