I’ve been staring at the Chandni Chowk To China CD for a while now. The cover credits proudly list a melee of music composers: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Kailash Kher-Naresh-Paresh, Bappi Lahiri and Bohemia. Naturally, I’m expecting a LOT of versatility. Without much ado, then, I slide the CD into the drive, sit back, frown and prepare to be delighted.
You know what they say, right? “The first impression is the last one?” W-ell….going by this age-old adage, this one’s going to be a major disappointment. S.I.D.H.U begins with the regular Kailash Kher tabla-sitar solo followed by the words “Bade, bade” in an annoying loop. A minute later, Kher thankfully lets you know it’s dreams he means and not…..forget it. I’d hate to be rude to the redoubtable trio of Kailash-Naresh-Paresh and that’s why I won’t elaborate, but this song sounds like one of those irritating commercials for rice that you keep seeing between cricket matches. Enough said.
But who said life doesn’t give you second chances? Well, even if life doesn’t, music albums do :-D. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s masterful composition of the title track, Chandni Chowk To China, is what hooks you right from the word go. It begins with a distinctly Oriental (for wont of a better word) jingle which soon gives way to the Indi-pop beats we’re so used to by now. Neeraj Sreedhar’s smooth voice lyrically blankets these Indo-Chinese beats and you know you’re in for a killer time when he intones “From Chandni Chowk To China”. Anoushka Manchanda, who I’ve got to say doesn’t usually impress me (she’s far too repetitive), surprises me. She’s lightened up her usually husky voice, opting for a playful, melodious and subtler vocal texture which totally rocks. Shankar Mahadevan, as usual, makes you wish he sung more often, the man’s a freakin’ genius when it comes to singing. The lyrics are simple, which is a good thing because they don’t distract you from the music.
India Se Aaya Tera Dost, Bappida’s iconic song of the late 70’s, is what you’d call “Much hype about nothing”. It’s pretty much the same (track name notwithstanding—the original song was called Bambai Se Aaya Mera Dost) as the old version from Aap Ki Khatir with a few beats pointlessly injected. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, it’s just nothing new. Bappi and Bappa Lahiri zing things up with drums and electric guitars, serving you (re)hash browns on a Chinese platter (the Oriental jingle heard in the title track is repeated in the middle).
The only romantic ballad in the album, Tere Naina, and the second (and last) song composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy shows you exactly why they reign supreme. Shreya Ghoshal, in a completely new vocal avatar, is the perfect foil to Shankar Mahadevan’s strong rendition. It’s a fluid number and pulls you deeper as it progresses. Take your girl for a long, long drive down Marine Drive and watch as she embraces you while you tackle the sharp turns (on second thoughts, just listen to it at home).
Chak Lein De, another Kailash-Paresh-Naresh compostion, is the most confusing track in this album. It kicks off with some superb trance music (which, incidentally, reminds me of some Vishesh Films recent number. Can’t place it!!). Kailash Kher assumes control of this moody number exactly 30 seconds into the song (I counted), preceded by a flute I wish I could hear more of. Now I happen to be a major Kailasa fan (the band consisting of the three composers) and, to me, Chak Lein De sounds way to similar to some of their earlier numbers, reminding me of Teri Deewani and Tauba Tauba in places. The song ended and I replayed the title track (I’m in love with it) but I found humming “Chak Lein De” quite a few times. Is this what they call a track “growing on you”? I guess it is. I listened to it again and I realized that it’s Kailasa’s signature style at work here. I heard it yet another time and I realized I did, in fact, like it.
CC2C, abridged name apart, is the shortest song in terms of length…..thankfully, because it also happens to be the worst in the album, beating S.I.D.H.U by a cymbal’s breadth. Akshay Kumar quite obviously has a Singh Is Kinng hangover—here, he teams up with domestic rap legend Bohemia to give us CC2C. The song begins quite hilariously with Akshay Kumar telling you to shut up and listen to him (though in the Chandni Chowk vernacular) and I waited with bated breath for the ‘song’ to begin (I’m a major Bohemia fan, too). I was disappointed by the less-than-average rapping (by Akshay Kumar and Bohemia) and the nigh-dead beats that get on your nerves after a while. This one’s got repeat value though: I felt like repeatedly beating Bohemia over his head with it. Akshay Kumar, sir, stick to Snoop Dogg, will you?
The rest of the songs are remixes (of Chandi Chowk To China and Chak Lein De, respectively). I’m not much of a remix person, they do nothing for me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the title track remix version. Seriously, after Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’s Dance Pe Chance, this one will make you want to shake your booty. The second remix is ok, I guess, but I prefer the unadulterated version more.
That’s a wrap.