Tag Archives: film

Thoughts On Amit Trivedi’s “Bombay Velvet”

This is not a review of Amit Trivedi’s Bombay Velvet. I loved the album to bits and wanted to share a few things that stood out for me as I was listening to it:

  1. It struck me as a rare album in that it is so thematically consistent. We hear Neeti Mohan’s voice in six of the fourteen songs and other than two songs, the album is based on jazz music with a few modern embellishments in places. We have had this kind of consistency in Hindi film albums before, of course, but such albums have been few and far between. Also, this is the first time a Hindi film album has dedicated itself to jazz-based genres. We must commend Anurag Kashyap for his vision and guts to stick to his vision and Amit Trivedi for delivering to the vision in style. Guts? Yes, guts because when was the last time you heard an album that did not mix up an assortment of pop, Sufi, a variety of folk and light classical sounds with a base of “filmi” music? Heck, if a music director doesn’t deliver all those sounds in an album, he/she runs the risk of being seen as using “templatized” music. Bombay Velvet runs the same risk. Also, guts because jazz-based music is far from mainstream and may not be an average Indian listener’s cup of tea.
  1. I think it’s time to officially declare Neeti Mohan a diva. What a voice! Smoking hot texture, incredible range and although it ought to be a given for singers at this level – boy can she hold a tune! I am surprised that people continue to look at her as an up-and-coming singer. For example, when we reported that she was the most prolific female singer of 2014 with 42 songs, a common reaction was “Really?!”. It’s high time we acknowledge her as a premier singer in the Hindi film industry. I’ve heard parallels drawn between Mohit Chauhan/Rockstar and Bombay Velvet/Neeti Mohan but in my opinion, that comparison is unfair to Neeti. Neeti makes Bombay Velvet her own in a way that Mohit Chauhan could not with Rockstar, which was an A.R. Rahman album all the way. (Highly subjective opinion. I would understand and accept vehement disagreement.)
  1. There have been rumblings of the sameness of Amit Trivedi’s music in the past few albums. I countered those criticisms here. His out-of-tune singing has also been criticized. This is a fair criticism, although his signing, at least on recorded songs, has not annoyed me as much as it has others. Perhaps he’s heard criticism of his singing and other than a couple of harmonies (I think it’s him), he’s not sung in the album! With this tour de force of an album, my guess is that complaints about the sameness of his music will ease. For some time.

2014 Bollywood Music Review


2014 was not a great year for Hindi film music. The Indian Express carried a bleak piece discussing the death of Hindi film music in 2014. We have observed the rise of multi-composer albums and albums riding on one or two item songs for a few years now. This trend continued in 2014. The other thing that happened in 2014 was that there were fewer solid, single-composer albums to offset the mediocre ones. For example, while 2014 had only Queen, Haider and Highway as the hit-the-ball-out-of-the-park albums, 2013 had Lootera, Kai Po Che, Raanjhana, Aashiqui 2, Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani, Bhaag Milka Bhaag and D-Day.

Moving on, to digging deeper into the year. 2014 saw the release of 142 films with 982 songs between them.

The year saw the passing away of Chandrashekhar Gadgil, Juthika Roy, Raghunath Seth and Sitara Devi. It also saw influx of new talent. Some of the notable debuts of 2014 were:

The most prolific composers in 2014 were:

  1. A.R. Rahman – 7 films, 68 songs
  2. Himesh Reshammiya – 4 films, 46 songs
  3. Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy – 4 films, 24 songs
  4. Vishal – Shekhar – 3 films, 24 songs

Since Rahman’s list includes 2 Hollywood films (“Million Dollar Arm” and “The Hundred-Foot Journey”) and 3 Tamil films dubbed in Hindi (“Kochadaiiyaan”, “Lingaa” and “I”), we have included 4 composers in this list instead of the usual 3.

The most prolific lyricists in 2014 were:

  1. Kumaar – 22 films, 60 songs
  2. Irshad Kamil – 9 films, 55 songs
  3. Amitabh Bhattacharya – 8 films, 39 songs

Kumaar tops the lyricist list again. As we had mentioned last year, the disconnect between how much he gets talked about and the volume of his work output is stark. Other than Irshad Kamil and Amitabh Bhattacharya switching spots, this list is the same as last year’s. The stability of this list gives us an indication of how much value Bollywood places on these three lyricists.

The most prolific male singers of 2014 were:

  1. Arijit Singh – 62 songs
  2. Mika Singh – 37 songs
  3. Himesh Reshammiya – 22 songs

If 2013, with Aashiqui 2, was Arijit Singh’s breakout year, 2014 was the year he established his dominance. With 62 songs, he ruled the charts and the airwaves. Despite murmurs of “over-exposure”, Arijit has managed to appeal to both the masses and the critics. Mika Singh’s presence on this list shows Bollywood’s continued and, for us, inexplicable, fascination for his voice and/or the genre he represents. Singer Himesh Reshammiya can thank music director Himesh Reshammiya for all the songs he got to sing in 2014.

The most prolific female singers of 2014 were:

  1. Neeti Mohan – 42 songs
  2. Shreya Ghoshal – 32 songs
  3. Shalmali Kholgade – 21 songs

The careers of Neeti Mohan and Shalmali Kholgade continue to be on the rise and deservedly so. Shreya Ghoshal is still placed comfortably although she seems to have lost a bit of her sheen. It is very clear that Sunidhi Chauhan is getting fewer offers, although, as you’ll see below, the songs she does sing are well-liked.

Finally, based on a combination of ratings and number of well-rated songs in 2014, the most popular artists of 2014 were:

  1. Most popular composers: A.R. Rahman, Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy, Vishal – Shekhar, Pritam
  2. Most popular lyricists: Amitabh Bhattacharya, Gulzar, Irshad Kamil
  3. Most popular male singers: Arijit Singh, Vishal Dadlani, Papon
  4. Most popular female singers: Shreya Ghoshal, Neeti Mohan, Sunidhi Chauhan

2012 Bollywood Music Review

MySwar has a lot of data on Bollywood music over 2012 and we thought it would be fun to see what the data told us. So here goes:

Number of film music albums released: 123

Number of songs: 843

Artists who passed away in 2012: Mehdi Hassan, Ravi, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Anil Mohile, Shahryar

Notable debuts:

Most prolific composers:

  1. Sajid – Wajid – 10 films, 63 songs
  2. Pritam – 7 films, 53 songs
  3. Himesh Reshammiya – 5 films, 46 songs

Most prolific lyricists:

  1. Sameer – 14 films, 52 songs
  2. Shabbir Ahmed – 12 films, 46 songs
  3. Kumaar – 12 films, 35 songs

Most prolific female singers:

  1. Shreya Ghoshal – 70 songs
  2. Sunidhi Chauhan – 55 songs
  3. Mamta Sharma – 20 songs

Most prolific male singers:

  1. Shaan – 30 songs
  2. Sukhwinder Singh – 27 songs
  3. Mika Singh – 25 songs

Best artists based on a combination of ratings and number of well-rated songs in 2012:

Best Music Directors:

  1. Pritam
  2. Amit Trivedi
  3. A.R. Rahman

Best Lyricists:

  1. Amitabh Bhattacharya
  2. Swanand Kirkire
  3. Irshad Kamil

Best Female Singers:

  1. Shreya Ghoshal
  2. Sunidhi Chauhan
  3. Harshdeep Kaur

Best Male Singers:

  1. Arijit Singh
  2. KK
  3. Amit Trivedi

Pancham Unmixed – DVD Review

Pancham Unmixed is a homage to R.D. Burman by film-maker, Brahmanand Singh, the key word being “homage”. It is not a documentary or biography but an unabashed tribute offered by the filmmaker to his hero.

The 2-hour film is a compilation of interviews with people who knew and/or worked with Pancham and also with a few people who didn’t. The former works, the latter works only partially. The latter set of people consists of present day musicians like Shantanu Moitra, Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy and Vishal Bhardwaj, who look up to Pancham and have been influenced by his work. The views of these musicians add great value to the film. The latter set of people also consists of die-hard Pancham fans and in my opinion, the filmmaker wastes about 5 minutes of the viewers’ time talking to them. Compared to the other heavy-hitters in the DVD, the sections with the fans are banal and add no new perspective.

The real substance of the film is formed by the interviews with R.D. Burman’s contemporaries. These individuals offer us insights into Pancham’s life and work and through their voices emerges a picture of a creative, musical genius who changed Hindi film music forever. For most Pancham lovers, there are probably no new revelations but it’s still pretty cool to hear giants like Gulzar, Shammi Kapoor and Asha Bhosle talk about R.D. Burman, his creativity, his ability to marry melody and rhythm, his willingness to experiment and his knack of getting the best out of his singers.

The other really impactful set of conversations in the film is with people from Pancham’s team – Manohari Singh, Bhanu Gupta, Kersi Lord, etc. The tenderness with which they speak about R.D. Burman is touching and shows that Pancham was not just a great musician but also a very nice human being.

The film left me with a lump in my throat. I will probably watch sections of it again (Gulzar, Shammi Kapoor, Bhupinder, Asha Bhosle, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Bhanu Gupta being my favorite ones) but that’s probably because I am a Pancham fan to begin with. This DVD is really a fan collectible and people wanting to get to know Pancham and his work better will find more value in the National Award-winning book, R.D. Burman – The Man, The Music.

The product I bought from Flipkart (link below) had two DVDs – one had the film and the other had a collection of 30 R.D. Burman songs. – and a coffee table book. If you have the option of purchasing only the film’s DVD, go for that. I’m not sure who picked them but the choice of songs in the extra DVD is quirky at best. I also found the coffee table book wanting in quality in terms of the content as well as the design.

[Update: Pancham Unmixed is now available on YouTube. You can try before you buy.]