While listening to the music of Pritam's newest set of songs for the Ranbir Kapoor vehicle Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (YJHD), the thought crossed my mind that - rather unfortunately - Pritam might prove me wrong yet.
First things first: what's the music of YJHD like? It's full of energy, soul and very catchy tunes. As he did on (the much better) Badmaash Company, Pritam uses a lot of chorus singers, dhols and whistles on several songs to convey a sense of dhamaal and fun. You'd think YJHD was a wedding album! There's slowdown via some well crafted ballads. All the songs are very listenable. They are what critics like to call "FM-ready". They have such familiar turns and beats that they sound like deja vu.
And in here lies the problem with the path Pritam is barreling down. The weight of putting out ready-made hits is so great that it can stifle creativity. It might not be intentional on the part of the composer - after all everyone has obligations. Pritam, by his own hit-making standards, is now obliged to hit every ball out of the park. Music promos are so integral to a movie's publicity campaign that the people who hire Pritam expect his music to grab the attention of viewers on the first listen. And that expectation is weighing his music down.
Take the horn-heavy, swing track Badmateez Dil where the problems become apparent. I loved that Pritam composed this song as a straight, quick shot of fun. His choice of Benny Dayal on vocals is inspired. But Badtameez Dil has one good hook and a lot of glitzy musical arrangements. It sounds entirely too familiar and it is at least 30 seconds too long. It's like drinking unaged Pinot in a tequila shot glass.
You'll see similar issues on Balam Pichkari and Dilliwaali Girlfriend - both of which are rescued by Pritam's trademark hyper-produced musical arrangements. You can just see those songs being on a DJs list to get a dance party started. Yet if you sang those lyrics over silence, you'd hear catchy but uninspired tunes.
Why does Pritam's music feel like it's bogged down? Do listeners not have the patience to allow a song its space (like for example, the under-appreciated corker Yaaram from Ek Thi Daayan). Does a composer only have a precious few seconds to grab Youngistan listeners by the scruff of their neck and compel them to listen? Is that the reason why Pritam uses familiar themes, tunes and instruments in his songs?
Despite all those early allegations of reconstituting songs, no one can deny that Pritam ignited the world of filmi music with his entry and continued presence. I see emerging Pritams all over the place now (Jeet Ganguly is the best of them). But given the volume of songs Pritam puts out, its not difficult to stagnate. If you think about how many of the same themes run through all movies ("hit dance song", "special promo song", "dukh bharaa song", "Pyaar ka ehsaas song") - just about how original can you get when composing tens of these every year?
But the difference between catchy and memorable is musical ingenuity. Pritam - and his crack production team - are hugely capable and can do more to tweak the music landscape.
Pritamda, thanks for the music of YJHD. Enjoyed listening to it. Forgotten all about it already. Looking forward to your next one.