Vocals: Mohit Chauhan, Nikhil Paul George, Papon, Sunidhi Chauhan, Arijit Singh, Shreya Ghoshal, Swanand Kirkire and Rekha Bhardwaj
Director Anurag Basu, speaking to the media, had declared that since the story of ‘Barfi!’ revolves around the deaf and dumb Barfi, the songs in the movie are used to express the protagonist’s feelings without lip-syncing. Considering these ambitious aims of the director, we would be forgiven for thinking that music director Pritam, who has been coming out with some garish tunes lately, would have his work cut out for him trying to create empathy with the characters through the songs. Pritam, though, manages to throw a curveball once again.
We agree with Anurag Basu of course. A movie with a protagonist who suffers from speech and hearing impediments throws up marvelous opportunities to do something interesting with the music and Pritam does not disappoint. Make no mistake; this is Pritam like you have never heard him before. There are no melodramatic choruses or brass band beats. Pritam has crafted a subtle, versatile body of work. Unlike many of his compositions of late, a bit of effort has gone into preserving that very important quality—-individuality. There’s a good mix of Indian and western instruments like the violin in the songs, with none vying for attention but just gently creeping up on you.
Pritam’s compositions are usually busy with a lot of different instruments. The difference in this compilation is that there are some great individual pieces which are not drowned out by the clutter. The instruments are spirited and instead of a strawberry jam of honks and chords; we get a kaleidoscope of pianos, acoustic guitars, violins, accordions and brass. The music is playful, with just the right touch of sentimentality. Having said this, the compositions do not rival the grandeur of, say, “Tare Zameen Par”, but they do manage to entertain and remain memorable.
The quality of vocalists involved in this project is perhaps the most exciting part of the whole soundtrack and they do their job as well as you would expect them to be. Mohit Chauhan and Swanand Kirkire perform two different versions of “Ala Barfi!” and both of them bring their own unique style to the song. It was great to see Assamese singer Angaraag Mahanta aka Papon among the names and he performs the jingle-jangle duet “Kyon” with the effervescent Sunidhi Chauhan, in his trademark versatile, powerful voice. It reminded us of the good ol’ Kishore Kumar duets. We were also pleasantly surprised by debutant Nikhil Paul George. He sings “Main Kya Karoon” with admirable ease and nonchalance and then gives a good account of himself opposite the seasoned Shreya Ghoshal in “Aashiyaan”. His voice may be a bit raw and lacking the punch of Mohit Chauhan but fits the playfulness of the songs perfectly.
Ok, so we have to admit we were pleasantly surprised with the soundtrack of “Barfi!”. There is no overdose of chirpiness that makes you reach for your shotgun, nor is there overwhelming pathos that makes you take said shotgun and shoot yourself. The compositions, the vocals and the lyrics have a proper mix of all emotions, with subtle variations and interesting orchestration. This might not be a great soundtrack of the level of “Udaan” or “Taare Zameen Par”, but it does make for pleasant hearing.