Music Critic: Subho Das
Music: Pritam Chakraborty
Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharya & Neelesh Misra
Director: Sriram Raghavan / Producer: Saif Ali Khan (Illuminati Films)
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor
Saif Ali Khan’s Agent Vinod, the much publicized Bollywood whodunit written and directed by Sriram Raghavan, has been making news much before its release – for it music! This suspense-action film is about the adventures of an Indian agent before he gets killed in Russia. But the hoo-ha is around the inclusion of the all-time favorite Boney-M number “Rasputin” – which gets a new vehicle in this officially approved Bollywood adaptation – thanks to music director Pritam.
This is not the first time that “Rasputin” has inspired Indian film music. A long time ago, Jatin-Lalit used the tune for the song, “Sachchi Yeh Kahaani Hai” in Kundan Shah’s Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1993) sung in a nightclub and picturized on none other than Shah Rukh Khan. Fast forward 20 years, and Amit Kumar, Udit Narayan, Vijeta Pandit of that song are replaced by Neeraj Shreedhar, Aditi Singh Sharma, Shefali Alvares, and Barbie Amod for “I Will Do the Talking Tonight” in the Moscow nightclub sequence of Agent Vinod.
However, Pritam told the Press that his song is based on the Serbian folk song “Ruse Kose Curo Imas,” which originally inspired Boney-M’s “Rasputin.” He also cites a Turkish song “Uskudar’a Gider Iken” and a Bengali Nazrul Geet “Shukno Patar Nupur Paaye” that have shades of the same folk melody.
It is striking that there are as many as four versions of the same song – “Raabta” in this album. Here I am not talking about remixes and reprises but versions of the same songs sung by different singers. I have no idea which ones will get finally picked for the film, but it’s good for the singers of today that they at least get featured on the music CDs. Similarly, you have two great singers crooning the other good composition of the album – “Dil Mera Muft Ka.” Is it Pritam’s back-up tactics or a necessity for the film? I think it’s T-Series that wants to give you more music for your money!
There is crop of at least four fresh or relatively new singers that may need introduction here:
First, Nandini Srikar, who has done hundreds of ad jingles and recently sang for Ra.One (2011), and before that in Holiday and Chalte Chalte. Besides being a prolific and trained Indian and Western classical singer, guitarist and composer, Nandini is a Post Graduate in Math and holds a degree in Information and Systems Management. Hear her out in the superb “Dil Mera Muft Ka!”
Second, Hamsika, another trained Carnatic singer, who many of you may have seen in two of the most popular music reality shows of the 1990s from Zee TV – Close Up Antakshari anchored by Annu Kapoor and Sa Re Ga Ma hosted by Sonu Nigam. Her real break came with Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Eklavya (2007) in which she sang the popular song “Chanda Re.” Her most recent chart-topper is “Chhammak Chhallo” with Akon for Shah Rukh Khan’s Ra.One. She features in two versions of the best romantic number of the film – “Raabta”
Third, Joi Barua, an Assamese musician and lead vocalist of the band “Joi,” who has previously sang for Udaan and Dev D. He is one of the male voices of “Raabta” in Agent Vinod.
However, the real find of this album is the young Arijit Singh from Murshidabad, West Bengal – a top favorite singer of the Sony Entertainment Television’s music reality program Fame Gurukul (2005). His vocals in “Raabta” will tell you that he is a trained classical singer and a very gifted one. Arijit is one singer to watch out for in Pritam’s music in Agent Vinod.
How does the various tracks in this album sound? Let’s listen:
I Will Do the Talking Tonight [xrr rating=2/5]
This is the much talked-about Rasputin remake and the album openly credits the license taken for the Boney-M for this rehash. Neeraj, Aditi, Shefali, and Barbie belt out with a lot of energy in this techno-avatar of Rasputin. The result is a fast-paced and peppy dance number fit for night-clubs (only). Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics “Jashn manale, jee le har lamha … haq se bhula de rahmoh ka sara gham” bring out the carefree spirit of the song.
Pungi [xrr rating=3/5]
This is a Mika special from Pritam, who also features in this hilarious song along with Nakash, and the lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya himself. Who else can write such lines? “Bangle ke pichhe hai tala, ghusu kahan se main sala, laila ki khidki khuli hai, khidki ke niche hai nala.” And no one can sing such fun songs better than Mika: “O meri jaan, o meri jaan, mere ko majnu banakar, Kahan ja di, kahan chal di, pyar ki pungi baja kar.” And don’t miss Javed Jaffrey’s Rap inputs here – fully entertaining!
Dil Mera Muft Ka [xrr rating=4/5]
Nandini Srikar excels in this mujra number from Agent Vinod. Very reminiscent of Richa Sharma’s “Namak Isk Ka,” this song is written by Neelesh Misra, and sung superbly in Srikar’s silken smooth voice. Misra’s lines, “Yun to premi 75 hamare / le ja tu kar 77 ishare / Dil mera muft ka” are highly evocative. Add to it the powerful male backing vocals of Altamash Faridi, Shadaab Faridi, Shabab Sabri, Muazzam, and Rizwan – bringing in a whiff of raw qawwali style to this seductive song.
Dil Mera Muft Ka (Remix) [xrr rating=3/5]
Pritam has a back-up for Nandini Srikar in Malini Awasthi, the immensely popular voices of Bhojpuri folk music in this “remix” version of “Dil Mera Muft Ka.” Awasthi, is you know, is a disciple of the Thumri exponent Girija Devi of Benaras Gharana. No wonder she does a great job at adding a more rustic and folk touch to Srikar’s smoothy version.
Raabta (Kehte Hain Khuda Ne) [xrr rating=4/5]
The first of the four “Raabta” songs in Agent Vinod is a treat to the ears, for here comes Shreya Ghosal with her mellow sweetness. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s prosaic lines “Kehte hain, khuda ne is jahan mein, sabhi ke liye kisi na kisi ko hai banaya har kisi ke liye” find a nice tune from Pritam, and Shreya does her usual job of pleasing you with her voice. But what will surprise you is young Arijit Singh’s vocal range and maturity. It is Arijit who takes this okeydokey number to great heights. Way to go, Arijit!
Raabta (Night In Motel) [xrr rating=4/5]
If you like the above version of “Raabta,” you will also like Hamsika’s rendition of the same Shreya song but with different lyrics. Hamsika’s soft and sweet voice gives the “Night In Motel” version of “Raabta” the required sensuous feel. She is again supported superbly by Arijit Singh with his fantastic singing. Another version of the same song labeled as “Siyaah Ratein” – which is no different from this one, features Joi along with these two singers. There’s also a solo version of “Raabta” by Arijit, which is equally good!
Bottom Line: The most likable original track of the album is “Raabta,” which means “rapport” or “relation” in Urdu. If you add to this, Mika’s “Pungi,” which is an unadulterated fun-song, and Nandini Srikar’s mujra-syle “Dil Mera Muft Ka,” you get a music album which is has good variety. You can forget the Rasputin-remake – “I Will Do the Talking Tonight.” It may the most strategic song for the film, but as far as its music goes, let Pritam’s three other better tracks do the talking.