Jaisi mile ajnabi…. my take on Madras Cafe , Shantanu M’s latest

There are some people who are known for their volume of work and there are others who are known for their quality of work. Shantanu Moitra , definitely falls into the latter category in my humble opinion. His recent work in films like paanch adhyay and aparajita tumi stands evidence to this fact and his latest soundtrack for Madras Cafe adds to the credibility of his stellar reputation.

Electric guitars and strings give lead to Papon in the simple and stunning Sun Le re . The song has minimalistic orchestra work involving strings and drums while the lovely sarangi playing peekaboo in the interludes enchants one and all. The tune is further embellished by the stunning string work which includes splendid carnatic music riffs.The song also has a reprise version , which to me sounds like a pale version of the original. The tempo is faster than the original and the arrangements are the same , yet the feel of the original seems lacking.That said the interlude of the reprise dominated by the guitar is something quite striking.

To round off Sun Le starts off as an anthemic number and grows into a completely different creature while the reprise has a stunning interlude which grabs one’s attention and holds it However one tends to forget all this as ajnabi ( which BTW is the best song of the album IMHO ) starts playing.

Guitars and great collaborators are mainstays of any Shanatanu Moitra soundtrack and more often than not , this powerful combination results in an intoxicated concoction which never fails to captivate. In the days to come Ajnabi will definitely be hailed as such. Featuring Zeb of the famous Zeb-Haniya duo on vocals , and a lonely acoustic guitar ajnabi is that number that one would hum on a friday evening thinking about missed chances and memories of days gone by.One can’t help but close ones eyes and sink into the song as the pipes and the faint accordion join the guitar and Zeb to bring the screen down on the song. The eyes open as the song ends , gently and smooth and one hits the play button again to soak in the feel.

If the electric guitars captivated in Sun Le , the electric violins leaves one spell bound in Khud Se. The song which is dominated by the lovely piano and the electric violin in the interludes  is helmed by Papon who charts his course quite well.If I have one complaint with the song , its that the electric violins could have been given a greater part to play.

The soundtrack also has a considerable instrumental portion with 4 instrumental tracks. The first of these , the titular Madras Cafe (theme 1) , has a celtic feel and features some splendid string work , including the mesmerizing violin.  The choral portions when featured are non obtrusive and add to the charm of the song.Just Like Sun Le Re , this theme has a second version , which features only the violin and boy what a difference the violin makes. At 3 min and 16 sec , this piece  is a showstopper , and nothing short of it.

Shantanu compensates for the lack off violins in Khud se in entry to Jaffna , which at 1 min and 7 sec , is the shortest instrumental piece but this short track is to me the most effective piece from a background perspective with the violins depicting the political unrest and urgency of Lanka with their intense yet discordant co-ordination.

The Soundtrack is brought to a fitting end with conspiracy , whose key attractions are the string work and the vocal segments rendered perfectly by Monali Thakur.The electric violins make yet another appearance and close the proceedings with aplomb.

To Summarize , Madras Cafe is yet another feather in Shantanu’s cap – one which tickles all the right musical bones .

PS : I personally believe the buying original music is the greatest acknowledgement one can make to the one who creates it. This album definitely deserves the honor and is available for purchase at : https://itunes.apple.com/in/album/madras-cafe-original-motion/id684217378

Paanch Adhyay – A feast to the ears !!!

People often say that Music transcends barriers of language and it is with this absolute belief that I set up on a journey to discover and share fantastic music – Paanch Adhyay definitely falling into that category of musical excellence. Shantanu Moitra is no unknown name to fans of music – thanks to the high quotient of melody in his compositions. Off late he’s largely been absent in the bollywood music scene , not counting his excellent coke studio work or his TV stint as the judge of a musical show. I’m not sure of the exact count of people who’ve missed him as a composer ; I don’t have a count of folks who listen to his earlier works like Hazaron Khwaishen Aisi or Khoya Khoya Chand and wonder why he’s not doing more work ; I don’t know the count of filmmakers who want to work with this wonderful artist – What I know , is that the numbers whatever they are will go up once they listen to Paanch Adhyay .

Phire Paoar Gaan (whatever it means) begins with whimsical guitars crooning a highly memorable hook , as Ash King takes his place behind the mike. Guitars , gentle percussion and Ash make your fingers click , feet tap and eyes dance with sheer ecstacy.Close your eyes and imagine sitting in front of a huge campfire , on a cool winter night , a cup of hot tea in your hands ; watching time fly by. Thats the feeling you get when you listen to this song and you almost feel that. The feeling stays with you even after the song ends as you keep humming the pam pam para bit !

If you are dazzled by Phire , you’ll be blown off your socks by ‘you and me’ . It’s the same tune , with guitars still playing a major role  – only difference being Usha Uthup , the language and boy what a difference. Usha sounds like an enticing siren and takes the tune to even greater heights. Her singing reminded me of  this woman in a club , sitting with a guitar singing about her beloved. The arrangements are again noteworthy and a tad bit different from phire , adding to the novelty.

Baavri is again characterized by splendid arrangement and lovely singing. Shreya is in top form and as expected from her does a fabulous job. The string work continues from where it left off in the previous songs and is excellent. The only flip side if one can call it that is the fact that I’m not Bengali and hence can’t understand a single word of the song. That said I’ve been looping this song through the weekend and it ain’t going off my playlist that soon.

Ura Jaye/Uda Jaye again has two versions : Hindi and Bengali , Swanand on vocals for Hindi and Shuba Mudgal for Bengali – both of them , long time collaborators with Shantanu. Uda Jaye is a lovely track ,with Swanand doing super justice to the vocals. The only deterrent for me was a very slight resemblance that I seemed to notice with the pooche jo koi track from Yahaan – that said the resemblance is not at all overwhelming and can be attributed to a passing mention.The flute interlude in Uda Jaye is totally kick ass and left me wanting more of it. The Bengali version – Ura Jaye is more sedate by comparison and Shuba sounds fantastic and almost in a reminiscing mood . I also loved the detour she took into the Aao Balam part. The flute again is splendid , and absolutely wonderful as in the case of Uda Jaye.

Rahoon Tere Piche to me is the best song of the album along with you and me. Kaushiki is in top form as she goes on about a woman in love ; eyes open yet dreaming ; losing herself to gain more of her beloved. That addictive hook from Phire, You and me , makes an appearance in the interludes and hints of a connection between the songs. Slow and heady , Rahoon is like the poison that gets inside your system and refuses to leave , however strong the medication may be – and the best part you don’t mind getting addicted to it.

Agontuk to me seems to be the weakest song of the album , due to the fact that it doesn’t hold a candle to the other songs of the album. That said , the singers do a competent job with Shreya edging ahead of Shaan by quite some distance. It’s however lovely to hear Shaan after a long long while. Hopefully this song will be propped up a splendid video to make the inadequacy disappear.

To round up , Paanch Adhyay is one album I would absolutely buy , never mind the fact that the songs were shared by a music pal and I don’t understand a stitch of Bengali. Flipkart are you listening ?

PS : Special Thanks to @Rohwit , who shared the songs across!

PPS : If you are one of the people who are reading this review and are quite competent with Bangla , Please Please Please translate the songs for me !