Director A. R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman is a curious case. On the one hand, his musical compositions can soar to unbelievable heights, as it did in the superb Dil Se... and the epic Jodhaa Akbar. On the other hand, it can descend to the depths of painful atrocity, as it did in the Oscar-undeserving Slumdog Millionaire or the failed experiment Blue. So I mean no offence when I say that I am not in awe of his music, considering him a tad over-rated. However, Gulzar is arguably one of the greatest lyricists in Bollywood, and his words flow like poetic melodies which are immensely enjoyable even today.
With that said, what does one expect when such people come together with the late Yash Chopra for a film? Its actually hard to say. But the general perception is that brilliant music is in the offing, and the enthusiasm is very infectious. Soon, all of us were waiting with bated breath for what some were calling as "the soundtrack"; expectations were sky-high and nothing less than spectacular would have worked.
And then came Judgement Day. So what's the judgement? Well, suffice it to say that the music of Jab Tak Hai Jaan is not what we expected.
Challa is a Punjabi song vocalized by Rabbi Shergill and picturized on Shahrukh Khan. I was rudely shocked by this song, which can only be described as "awful". For one, the tune is only marginally catchy, except for the ending "Challaaaa..." which was very well-executed. The song also did not grow on me the way other Rahman songs have. And third, Rabbi Shergill for Shahrukh Khan? The vocals do not match the actor in the slightest, giving the video a silly and irritating vibe. It has to be agreed that the guitar is well-used, but Khan is unable to convincingly play it like a true roadside musician.
Saans is the typical Yash Chopra romantic song, vocalized by Shreya Ghoshal and Mohit Chauhan and picturized on Khan and Katrina Kaif. This is easily one of my favourites of this soundtrack, with some wonderful singing (though I should note that some of Ghoshal's high-pitched moments are trilling) and a fabulous background tune, filled with orchestral singing and a large-scale romantic tune. However, Gulzar's lyrics fall short of the gold standard, especially in the beginning. The video boasts of excellent cinematography, but the romance seems a bit forced and the feelings rehearsed, giving it an unnatural feel. The reprise is surprisingly unoriginal, immediately bringing into mind previous Khan and Chopra films. This one can be avoided.
Ishq Shava is a slightly slow dance party number sung by Shilpa Rao and Raghav Mathur, again picturized on Khan and Kaif. This song is also one of my favourites from the soundtrack. Featuring some really good singing by Rao, the song is peppy and refreshing and is also very catchy and hummable. The video deserves a special mention - the choreography, while not terrific, is certainly very good, and the Khan-Kaif chemistry is at its best. Kaif is particularly stunning and shows some great dance moves, which can't be said for Khan who looks good enough but dances rather awkwardly.
Heer is a tragic song sung by Harshdeep Kaur. One of the most beautiful melodies in recent times, its a clear throwback to Veer-Zaara and has Yash Chopra written all over it. The playback singing is first-class, laced with subtle emotion. The lyrics are excellent, soaring and captivating at the same time. The tune itself is perfect; I fell in love with it at the first listen, and the seven-minute length seemed to breeze by. This is, without a doubt, the best song in the album, and a must-listen for music connoisseurs. The video, sadly, is rather average, and Kaif's frustrating lack of expressions is a major letdown.
After so many pleasant songs, we are hurled into Jiya Re, which shares the "distinction" of being the other horrendous song from the soundtrack. Sung by debutante Neeti Mohan, with the rap sequences being executed by Sofia Ashraf, the tune is average and the singing (or rather the voice) is terrible. One wonders how such a song could even be conceived, as it contains practically no redeeming factor, especially after the sort of songs we have heard before. The video is a small saving grace - Anushka Sharma's vivacious antics and Khan's matured but fun body language make the song slightly more bearable.
The title (and end credits) song Jab Tak Hai Jaan is sung by Javed Ali and Shaktishree Gopalan. For me, this song reeks of mediocrity - ordinary lyrics, barely-hummable tune and above average singing. For some reason, the song failed to click in any way, though one cannot write it off completely either. A passable addition to this soundtrack, making no major difference to its quality.
The instrumental Ishq Dance is out-of-place in this soundtrack (though it may have a part of the screenplay). Almost completely tribal in its base, with a number of African and pop influences, this one is pleasing to the ears and (as the name suggests) very danceable, and it also tends to grow on you after a while.
We expected the highest from this album, and rightfully so, but unfortunately Jab Tak Hai Jaan does not find a place among the best albums of Bollywood. While it contains some good to excellent songs, the poor quality of the others pulls the album down, resulting in a mixed after-taste. You can go for it with an open mind and lower expectations, and you may like it better.