Barfi! (Pritam)

by Srikanth Mantravadi

Unlike Pritam’s other creations that thrive on a certain muscular, brassy energy – even ones like Tumhi Ho Bandhu with their techno heavy backgrounds or the ones he conjures for the Bhatts with wailing electric guitars conveying the mood of a depressed heart – Barfi! (Lest I sound needlessly excited, the exclamation is something the makers added and not me. Although an album like this does warrant much excitement and attention) has a smooth, feminine grace. The sound is decidedly acoustic and soft on the ears; pleasant bars of music layered with guitars, pianos and harmonicas. Take the title song; Initially I couldn’t believe Pritam had composed it. It signifies a clean break from whatever he has composed so far (The composition duties for such a soundtrack usually go to Shankar Ehsaan Loy. But Pritam’s successful association with Basu must have done the made him a shoo in for this. Who can forget Life in a Metro where Pritam’s ballads burst forth like a Greek chorus?). That said, it is not my favourite from the album; it has a playful charm and the lyrics are a lark (Swanand Kirkire) but tune wise it fails to rise above its own limitations. The same can be said about Aashiyan; the sing along’ish quality enjoyable and amateurish at the same time. The lightness of the tune not helping the lightness of lyrics too well. Main Kya Karoon is breezy; the rhythms mildly reminiscent of SEL’s wonderful Khabon Ke Parindey. The talky structure works well and the Kya Karoon refrain is deliciously overwrought.

The apotheosis of Pritam’s innovation comes, early, in the form of Kyon. Set to a serene and trippy early Kishore Kumar’ish tune, this is a song doused in magical whimsy – at once evoking some dying, etiolated time and tradition in Papon’s timeless, wondrous vocals, a quaint poignancy in the verse – Hai Kya Khayal Bawre or Kya Tera Haal Bawre – and the way it turns. This is also that rare song where the exalted tune smiting standards are matched by a similar genius in song writing. Sayeed Quadri saab, that wonderful lyricist who has mostly been consigned to the fringes of the industry despite writing the saddest heartbreak song you have possibly listened to, writes so beautifully that it hurts. Every line is a gem. My fandom knows no bounds!

Arijit Singh’s ghazal’ish turn in Phir Le Aaya Dil, a song drunk on Vishal Bharadwaj’s musical flavour and fervour, right from the time his voice filters in as if it were wafting from an old gramophone player, is gorgeous. The inventiveness of the tune however means that it turns into an ode and not an imitation and how fitting that another version of the same is adorned with Rekha Bharadwaj’s vocals. Quadri saab shows his pristine touch here too.

Swanand Kirkire (“Khwabon Ki Razai Mein, Raat Ho Teri Meri”) is at his lyrical best in Saawali Si Raat; a quiet, sinuous ditty that is not so much as sung, by Arijit, but whispered.  

Barfi! is a delightful soundtrack; an album to be savoured and cherished; a saturation of warmth, charm and pathos. Halfway through a gorgeous song, I was wondering if this is what happens when all the musical gods are aligned; the synergy of a mad bunch of musicians performing at their peak. Pritam shows a clean break from his past sound and composes a thematic score that almost amounts to a revival and reinvention of a hoary, lost genre. As much as this transformation is astonishing it is doubtful he or anyone will persist with it given that very few films warrant such music which makes this more memorable. Further, Barfi! doesn’t seem to be a period piece like Khoya Khoya Chand; so I am very curious as to how Basu uses this music. Nevertheless, the status of this album is cemented – Instant classic.