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Why did they let down Anu Malik?
Oct 11, 2006 03:03 PM 4668 Views
(Updated Oct 11, 2006 05:15 PM)


I had no expectations from Anu Malik's Umrao Jaan. At the best, I was ready to give it a patient hearing. I have heard the album five times over a period of five days to ensure against any bias. My verdict: Average. Maybe it has to do with the fact that my ears have been pampered silly by melodies that have never found their match: Mughal e Azam, Paakezah, and the original Umrao Jaan.

Anu's attempt to put Alka on the same pedestal as the Mangeshkar sisters falls flat. Except for Salaam, she crumbles under the strain of carrying an entire album on her frail voice. Lyrics are the heart and soul of mujras and Anu is doubly let down by Javed Akhtar's lukewarm lyrics. There are snatches of brilliance in Alka's "Salaam" and Richa Sharma's, "Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya".

Ditty by ditty, you can map every song in this one against the original. And J P Dutta wants us believe that this entire exercise is his own take. Sigh!

Except for a couple, all the songs are mujras and so, heavily laced with the strains of Sarangi, Sitar and tabla beats. Alas, if that was all it took to make mujras, Anu malik would have had a classic on his hands.


Ek Toote Hue Dil Ki (Alka Yagnik)

Self-pity goes up several notches here. Call this the poorer cousin of "Yeh Kya Jagah hai doston" - make that very poor.

Main kaun hoon kya hun

Kiske liye zinda hun

Main khud bhi nahin samjhi

Aaawaz mujhe kahiye...

Javed Akhtar's introduction to Umrao Jaan follows next. His delivery is as listless as a second grade student reading the morning's newspaper to his classmates. Fast Forward.

Salaam (Alka Yagnik)

Salaam karne ki aarzoo hai

Idhar jo dekho salaam kar le

The piece-de-resistance of this album. If you want to buy this album for a song, it has to be this one. The others are worthless anyways. Alka Yagnik puts in a spirited show. Do I smell a Filmfare and a National award?

Pehle Pehel (Alka Yagnik)

Tum jo paas aa gaye

Hum jo sharma gaye

Raaz e dil paa gaye

Tum bhi pehle pehel

The tune is okey-dokey but I simply could not relate to the mediocre lyrics. Hear the lyrics without the music and they give you the feel of a B-Grade hindi movie. I would not have believed this was Javed Akhtar if the album did not say so.

Dekha hamein kuchh (Alka, Sonu)

Anu's answer to "Zindagi jab bhi tere bazm mein". Unfortunately, Anu is no Khayyam and the lead singers are no patch on Asha-Talat. Alka is shrill and Sonu makes a sincere effort to redeem the unredeemable.

Dekha hamein kuchh aise ki

Behka diya hamein

Tum ne to khwaab dekhna

Sikhla diya hamein

Jhoote ilzaam (Alka Yagnik)

If it was not enough that Alka sounds shriller in the opening lines, the way she says "samjha" sounds like a tractor running on a bad Chennai road on a rainy day. Not totally unlistenable but immensely forgettable.

Kaun kisko yahan bhala samjha

Hum ne kya samjha

Tum ne kya samjha (Sic)

Main Na Mil Sakun Jo Tumse (Alka Yagnik)

If you really want to hear a song on betrayal, I would suggest Lata's "Jaane Kyon Log Mohabbat kiya karte hai" anyday. Anu malik's composition is in fine fettle here and Alka gets less shrill. The effort in trying to create a classic shows and in trying to catch up, the musician and his muse lose sight of the soul of the album.

Waada karke nibhaanewale

Kam hote hai

Ishk na karna Ishk mein gam hi

Gam hote hai

Pooch Rahe hai (Alka Yagnik)

Lyric-wise, there is a definite relief here. Shades of "Main tulasi tere aangan ki" creep in and I will not repeat that Alka cannot handle the higher notes without sounding like blade on a metal plate.

Pooch rahe hai poochnewale

Lekin hum batlaaye kya

Daag yeh dil mein paaye hai kaise

Unko hum samjhaaye kya

Agle Janam mohe bitiya (Richa Sharma, Anmol Malik)

They are two separate pieces altogether but I am too strained to review them that way. This maand number is rendered exquisitely by both the singers. I would have gladly traded Alka in most of the numbers for these two. Their renditions are sincere and straight from the heart. Anu Malik deserves all the wah wahs he gets for this one. The only problem is that listeners will be way too wary before they reach to these gems.


My verdict: Anu Malik exceeds expectations to deliver music that is not his domain at all. Unfortunately, he is heavily let down by his singer and his lyricist.

Mujras are like alcohol. They take time to sink in but when they do, the 'nasha' is forever. The new Umrao Jaan tries to hard to get us to drink everything bottoms-up. The result: Hangover without the kick.

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