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I fervently hope Anu Malik continues to tune in with Ranjit since they seem to  work the magic together. Aks warms the heart and commands respect for its intelligent and stylish use of various styles




A stranger in
Anu Malik's mirror

Rs 55

Never before has Anu Malik produced such intense musicality with such felicity of expression. Aks proclaims a composer in full creative form

This album stopped me in my tracks. Anu Malik has done a couple of good numbers lately in Jung, Josh, Refugee and Fiza. But the music sometimes dipped into cliches dictated by long years of cinematic expression.

Aks reveals a new maturity. Anu Malik must be a new man to come up with such consistently well thought-out music. Each line is weighed carefully and there are absolutely no flippant notes. 

At the music release, Anu Malik spoke of his collaboration with his arranger Ranjit Barot and his experiment with sound. The sound in Aks is impressive, thanks to Anu Malik's daring break from convention, Ranjit Barot's intelligent arrangements, and excellent mastering by Bernie Grundman at his studio in Hollywood.

Rakesh Mehra who directed Amitabh in the music video Eir Beir Fateh (the score was done by Bally Sagoo) has directed Aks. Industry talk is that Rakesh, an ad man before he turned director, has probably given Amitabh his first real hit after almost two decades. Aks stars also Nandita Das, Raveena Tandon and Manoj Bajpai.

Let's begin with the Chitra number Hum bhool gaye. Her voice is high pitched, and as a contrast, Anu Malik uses a low bansuri in the interlude. Aks is a study in how low tones can be used to pack power into an album.

The unusual voices are a true delight. You have Anupama (the voice of Chandralekha in A R Rahman's Thiruda Thiruda) in Yeh raat. About an unforgettable night of evil, Gulzar paints throbbing, fearsome shades.

Shubha Mudgal sings Raat aati hai. Though the first phrase may remind you of Sharm aati hai magar by Lata Mangeshkar, it veers away totally in expression. Its graces are all very Indian, even 'classical', but the background uses markedly Western beats and orchestral bangs. Shubha brings a gutsy optimism even to songs of despair, a quality that songs like this and Man ke Manjeere show.

The huskier side of Vasundhara Das's nasally pitched voice is highlighted in Aaja gufaon mein and Rabba rabba , songs to which K K and Sukhwinder Singh also make inspired contributions.

The tunes borrow from rap, Arabian, jazz and Indian classical modes. Yet I didn't get the feeling that it was all just patchwork.

Aaja gufaon meinshows shades of Madonna's Frozen in its beat track, but goes beyond being a copy; you could probably call it an impressionistic interpretation.

Anu Malik gets Vasundhara to sing at the right pitch for her voice, which silkily spreads out its bass power. The jazzy trumpets in the interlude are unexpected but fit into the painting of a night of sin. Rabba rabba is saved from being another run of the mill Punjabi number thanks to the Arabian inflexions.

Hariharan is sober and restrained in Hum bhool gaye, which incidentally reminded me strongly of one of his popular ghazals. The bass guitar on the Enigma-style whisper is not as surprising as the pleasant introduction of a sarangi in the interlude. The song is modelled on the ghazal format but the background moves far from the traditional ghazal orchestra. Chitra's version differs in the interlude treatment, and the beat gets more Indian with a dafli beat. The sense of bleakness is intense when the song laments that even one's pain and shadow seem estranged.
Gulzar uses the classic image of the mirror:

Umeed bhi ajnabi lagti hai

aur dard paraya lagta hai
aina me jisko dekha tha
bichda hua saya lagta hai

Hope too seems a stranger
And pain is another's
The one I had seen in the mirror
Seems like my estranged shadow

Amitabh raps out Bhala bura, with a wicked expression and a blood curdling laugh. This tune is composed by Indrajit Sharma and the sense of doom is stylishly achieved. The chromatic notes on the piano add to the eerie effect and recall themes from James Bond films, which incidentally follow the same sound design. From Russia With Love, Tomorrow Never Dies and Golden Eye, for instance, follow similar chord progressions, and use similar instrument arrangements. Aaja gufaon mein evokes the same music imagery. 

Amitabh portrays Ravan in Ramleela. The narrative is very pleasantly confused, with a girl playing the boy who warns Ravan against going to war with the great Ram. She forgets she is a boy and keeps slipping into into a feminine verb ending: jaoongi, she sings, and he corrects her with "Ga, Ga"! The girls joining him are Kavita Mundra and Nandita Das. Hanuman is requested to send an e-mail to Ram for help! This tune is composed by Rajat Dholakia.

Banda bindas has wonderful accordion work and takes you back to the Latin Amercian numbers from the '70s. K K sings so competently that you can relax instead of waiting for the inevitable tonal lapses of many singers today.

I fervently hope Anu continues to tune in with Ranjit since they seem to  work the magic together. Aks warms the heart and commands respect for its intelligent and stylish use of various styles.

S Suchitra Lata

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