2020 has produced more shocks than there are cover versions of Yesterday by The Beatles. The year 2009 produced just one and a pleasant one. It was the Bollywood movie soundtrack ‘Dev D’. A stereotype breaking album by a then relatively new music composer, Amit Trivedi. The songs linger in your head long after you have heard them.
In this week’s Album Talk, fellow cowboy and musipedia Narendra Kusnur and I discuss this classic.
Note: Language may be altered to suit the platform’s requirements.
Me: Can this soundtrack be termed as a ‘concept album’?
Kusnur: Not sure about that but it is definitely a path-breaking album for Bollywood. It had a new sound. Although at that time, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy were composing songs that had a unique sound themeselves but Amit Trivedi brought a good mix of Indian and Western elements in this soundtrack with Rock, Punjabi, Awadhi, etc.
A concept album has a unifying theme that runs through the album which is not there in this case but the songs did fit the movie’s script perfectly. The soundtrack has many songs compared to other movie soundtracks which have at the max 8-10 songs.
Me: This one has 18 songs including 2 themes. The movie is based around the songs, there aren’t that many dialogues. Most songs are featured when Abhay Deol is either buzzed out of his head, walking, or just staring at nothing.
Kusnur: The songs were weaved into the story. The movie isn’t an out and out musical like Les Misérables.
Me: Of course it’s no Moulin Rouge. The movie needed a strong soundtrack otherwise it would have fallen flat. This is also Amit Trivedi’s first release. He had signed Aamir before this one but Dev D released earlier.
Kusnur: Amit Trivedi has not been able to reproduce such music again. He has done some great work like Manmarziyaan but nothing compares to Dev D.
Me: Manmarziyaan was melodic and Dev D is dark and intense. When I had interviewed Amit Trivedi for 10 years of ‘Dev D’, he told me that he was composing jingles when he was approached for this film. While composing this soundtrack he had little knowledge about Bollywood and that is what helped him create this magnificent soundtrack. He has used many unconventional elements in the songs. There’s even a brass band in one song!
Kusnur: Brass Band, Sitar, Sarangi…
Me: Breakbeat, Trap, Rock… all woven to create a classic soundtrack.
Kusnur: I was asked by a tabloid to compile the best Bollywood albums of each decade for 100 years of cinema celebrations. Dev D made it to the list.
Me: This soundtrack was released when Bollywood was again going through a musical slump and it turned the music on its head. No other movie has been able to match it. There is only one happy song in the movie, Dhol Yaara Dhol.
Kusnur: For me, the standout songs are Paayaliyaa and Pardesi.
Me: Amit Trivedi chose some unconventional singers for the songs like Tochi Raina.
Kusnur: Aditi Singh Sharma, Shruti Pathak, Shilpa Rao, Labh Janjua and he himself sang a few songs.
Me: Janjua sang Hikknaal which I have never heard maybe because some songs were used as background score. Amit Trivedi has sung a few songs and for each of them has used different vocal styles. In fact lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya has co-sung Emotional Atyachar, the brass band version, with Amit Trivedi which also has Nawazuddin Siddiqui dressed as one of the “band” boys in the movie. I like the Rock version of the song which was sung by Bonnie Chakraborty.
Kusnur: I prefer the brass band version.
Me: Nayan Tarse, sung by Amit Trivedi, is one of the most tragic songs. The lyrics are almost cruel. “Gaali si laage malhar..Nayan Tarse..” Do you think a more accomplished singer would have done a better job?
Kusnur: Maybe, it depends whom he got to sing it.
Me: More than being a great song, Emotional Atyachar became a catchphrase.
Kusnur: It is the biggest hit of the album.
Me: Mahi Mennu, sung by Janjua also has two versions, sad and happy if you can call it that. How different is it composing two versions of the same song than just one?
Kusnur: It’s not that difficult. Slow versions are generally slower and happy versions are happy!
We shall leave you to ponder over this great piece of thought by the Bandra cowboy.
Until next week,