Multi-composer film soundtracks no longer elicit surprise and are considered the economical thing to do. Producers save money by compiling the tunes of various artists who use fresh singing voices. No one goes home unhappy.
In 2016, the trend caught on in January itself, when Wazir featured six composers on the seven-track album. Shantanu Moitra got two songs, Tere Bin and Maula Mere Maula. Ankit Tiwari, Prashant Pillai, Rochak Kohli, Gaurav Godkhindi and the rock group Advaita composed a track each. Did the soundtrack outlast the film’s popularity? Not quite. More importantly, did the score match up to the themes explored in the vigilante thriller?
Multi-composer soundtracks follow a standard template. One composer will churn out a dance track, another will deliver a stirring ballad, a third will ratchet up an intense sound. Are the six composers of Wazir on the same page with the film’s background score designer, Rohit Kulkarni? It is probably not a good question to ask.
Also in January, composer Clinton Cerejo tried to assemble musical heavyweights for his solo debut project, Jugni. At his behest, composer Vishal Bhardwaj sang Dugg Duggi Dugg and AR Rahman guest-composed Lakhon Salaam. The impressive feat of 12 songs fit well within the narrative, following the journey of a composer in search of a folk singer. The songs would have also made for a fantastic episode on Coke Studio. However, Cerejo’s musical outing was short-lived like the title of the film, which translates into a flickering firefly. Neither the film nor the music took off.
In the movies produced or directed by Neeraj Pandey, the focus is never on the music, as was the case with Airlift. Featuring four songs by Amaal Mallik, the soundtrack had a guest composition by Ankit Tiwari, who reworked Algerian singer Khaled’s international hit Didi as Dil Cheez Tujhe Dedi. The makers were trying to incorporate a popular song from the period in which the film is set (the evacuation of the Indian diaspora living in Kuwait in 1990) to lend an air of authenticity to the narrative.
Khaled’s track was released in 1992. This anomaly reiterates the lack of attention to detail paid to musical synchronicity in most Hindi film scripts.
Mastizaade rounded off January with three composers, Amaal Mallik, Meet Bros Anjjan, and Anand Raj Anand, and not one song registered with listeners.
The Divya Khosla-directed mushy love story Sanam Re was released in the Valentine month with nearly half a dozen other romantic titles. The title track, composed by Mithoon and sung by the ever-dependable Arijit Singh, was the only saving grace of the soundtrack, which was populated by four composers. Produced by T-Series Films, the album was an early sign of what the production house would be regurgitating in the following months.
March belonged to Kapoor and Sons. The soundtrack had six composers for five songs. Badshah and Amaal Mallik collaborated on the dance hit Kar Gayi Chull. Arko’s Saathi Rey, Tanishk Bagchi’s Bolna, and Mallik’s Buddhu Sa Mann got ample airplay but were overshadowed by the dance track. Did the songs merge into the plot of the film? Almost.
The April-June period was littered with multi-composer albums such as Ki & Ka (Ilaiyaraaja, Mithoon, Meet Bros Anjjan), Baaghi (Meet Bros, Amaal Mallik, Ankit Tiwari, Manj Musik), Sarbjit (Jeet Gannguli, Amaal Mallik, Tanishk Bagchi, Shail-Pritesh, Shashi Shivam) and Azhar (Amaal Mallik, Pritam, DJ Chetas). Even at the halfway mark, it was still too early to ask: why the herd mentality?
Rustom, produced by Neeraj Pandey, was released in August, with the soundtrack featuring four composers, Ankit Tiwari, Jeet Gannguli, Raghav Sachar and Arko Pravo Mukherjee. Tere Sang Yaara, written by lyricist Manoj Muntashir and composed by Mukherjee, was the cream of this crop.
The September release Baar Baar Dekho fared better with its songs (Amaal Mallik, Arko Pravo Mukherjee, Badshah, Jasleen Royal, Bilal Saeed), but the film tanked and the tunes scattered in the air. The remastered version of Kala Chashma, hovering around the curves of its leading lady Katrina Kaif, got the film early attention, but it wasn’t enough to get the movie up and running. No one questioned why the tune was reworked in the first place as it rolled out with the end credits. Was it an integral part of the plot? Far from it – but had it not been for the zingy number, would audiences have flocked to theatres to watch the time-travelling film?
The multi-composer soundtrack is a stunt that is used sometimes to prop up a weak film that is trying to ride on the crest of the sonic waves produced by talented musicians. When the film fails, the tunes are immediately laid to rest alongside in a freshly-dug grave.
Despite Baar Baar Dekho’s failure, Kala Chashma joins the ranks of Kar Gayi Chull as one of the year’s most-sought out dance tracks, but it is partly because the original Punjabi number has been around since 2005.
By the last quarter of the year, multi-composer albums thinned out as films gearing up for the holiday season were ushered in. The more-established names, including Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (Mirzya, Rock On!! 2), Pritam (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil), Amit Trivedi (Dear Zindagi), Vishal-Shekhar (Befikre), and Pritam (Dangal) began to muscle their way in.
Vishal-Shekhar and Pritam went toe to toe in this period – Vishal-Shekhar had five soundtracks (Fan, Sultan, Akira, Banjo, Befikre). Pritam had three solo projects (Dishoom, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Dangal) and shared the soundtrack of Azhar with Amaal Mallik and DJ Chetas.
Both Pritam and Vishal-Shekhar’s work stood out for their popular tunes. Between them, they are likely to collect most trophies when the awards season begins. Multi-composer soundtracks are one way for aspiring musicians to prove their mettle. Until they make the leap as solo artists, they will have to continue to hope to be at the top of the heap and the music charts.