Riding high on the success of Kahaani, Dirty Picture and Ra.One, the expectations from Vishal-Shekhar’s next soundtrack are pretty lofty. And yes, the title of “Shanghai” does unfortunately remind us of the last Orientally-influenced movie title (“Chandni Chowk to China”) which was quite the musical Hiroshima (yes, I know, wrong country reference. So sue me. This is a music review, not a geography class. Get an atlas). But Shanghai has oodles to offer – so put your chopsticks down and listen up (FYI - the Asian puns stop here. Serious Lee).
First to the pitch is Bharat Mata Ki Jai. It’s tongue-in-cheek patriotism with references to dengue, malaria and cow dung is balanced by its hyper infectious beat. This leads us to the question - how many ghaati songs can desi audiences handle in 2011/12, from Ready to Rowdy Rathore? While comparisons will be aplenty, BMKJ has a unique energy especially around its chorus hook which definitely makes it a winner. Am not a huge fan of the remix because it doesn’t really add much appeal. The original is where its at.
Ah Richa Sharma! Where’ve you been, sugar? The sultry and ductile tone that we all know and love is back with Imported Kamariya. Unfortunately, Richa's a bit waisted .. err wasted on Kamariya predominantly because the song’s situational and frankly could’ve been rendered by any heavy female voice. The song’s catchy but it doesn’t leave a very solid impression (think: Dil Dance Maare – OST Tashan).
V/S’s homegrown find Raja Hasan renders Khudaaya adeptly. A unique chord structure with crests and troughs in its energy levels give this sinewy composition a lot of character. Shekhar Ravjiani gets behind the mic as well, making his appealing presence felt especially on the song's prelude. Shekhar’s voice has really evolved since Jogi Mahi (Bachna Ae Haseeno) and if you haven’t heard his Marathi track (Saazni), check it out ASAP.
Like BMKJ, Morcha has an energetic, pounding beat – with a revolutionary swing and inspirational lyrics which, one would assume, would make a lot more sense once visualized with imagery that the movie ought to provide. Requisite vocal intensity on board courtesy of Vishal Dadlani and Raja Hasan.
And then, ladies and gentlemen, you have the coup de grace. Every V/S album has one 'blow you away'-type track with light classical undertones which grips you from deep within (Tujhe Bhula Diya on Anjaana Anjaani, Khuda Jaane on Bachna Ae Haseeno). On Shanghai, that title belongs to Duaa. Nandini Srikar’s Carnatic-ish vocals contrasted by the sufi-ish Arijit Singh create a blend that’s matchless. The song’s designed for comfort, with an easy flow decked with some lovely movements that's going to have reach for the repeat button. And when the beats and supporting pads come in at the 3:01 marker – you’re sold. You’ve hit gold once again with Duaa, Vishal-Shekhar! Hats off.
All in all – a diverse soundtrack. If one had to nitpick, one would say that Shanghai’s songs suffer from the same thing that songs on a prior V/S soundtrack (Tashan) displayed - a little bit too much going on, overwhelming the listener a bit at times. But that’s just semantics. V/S are going for a unique sound and with niche benders like Duaa and Khudaaya coupled with traditionals like BMKJ, they’re on the right track. Shanghai's worth the trip.