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Discernment. Online

















Varma experimented with nine music composers for his first 11 films
The initial response to the album was more questions than answers


One dark melody, and one parody please

Music: Sandeep Chowta

Sandeep Chowta's score for Ram Gopal Varma's Company has one ambient number in Khallas, and a few situational gems

Underworld tale:  Company

In the media blitz that accompanied the release of Company, Ram Gopal Varma's directorial exploits were more than amply showcased. Yet his penchant for extracting quality music from his crew went by and large unnoticed.

Soundtracks of Ram Gopal Varma's films usually stand apart for high-quality lyrics set to well-polished music. Before he stumbled on Sandeep Chowta in Satya, Varma experimented with as many as nine music directors in the 11 movies he had directed. Unifying the diverse streams of music (from Vishwanatha Satyanarayana for Deyyam to Vishal for Satya) is Varma's uncanny ability to motivate his composers to deliver their best.

Composing for Company must have been a challenge for Sandeep Chowta on two counts. Vishal's benchmark score for Varma's previous gangster movie Satya was a trifle short of outstanding, and hard to match. And then, Varma had expressed open disdain for including songs in this venture and was reportedly arm-twisted into doing it by his producers at the eleventh hour.

The initial few listens of the soundtrack left me with more questions than answers. Why do the instrumentals sound like an incoherent collage of sounds? How could a track like Pyaar pyaar mein with trite lyrics and equally banal orchestration pass muster with Varma? Why did Sandeep Chowta put his signature sound away and adopt songs with disparate styles? Why does the album lack a sonic fabric to match the supposedly dark and ambient film?

Well, I had to wait until I watched the movie to find the answers.

Let's begin with Sandeep's area of strength -- the instrumentals. A shot of Company and Malik's soul are indeed misnomers. The movie reveals that these are in essence medleys of background pieces. The core of Malik's soul leaves you with a feeling of déjà vu reminding you of the theme of Asoka. The beginning and the end of A shot of Company displays a strong influence of the theme of Mission Impossible, originally composed by Lalo Schifrin for the television soundtrack and energetically embellished by the duo Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton of U2 for the movie. Stylish soundscapes and well-chiseled instrumentation are amongst Sandeep's strengths, originality is not. Credit however is definitely in order for the excellent background score that Varma skilfully used to sustain the tempo of the movie.

Sandeep Chowta's reverence and admiration for R D Burman is not a well-kept secret. Pucho na yaar from Mast and Jaan from Jungle were tributes to Pancham's creations. Khallas, the chartbuster, makes it impossible not be reminded of R D Burman. So unique was R D Burman's singing style that you can be forgiven for thinking that he owned the copyright for it. This Middle East-influenced techno-dance number with an infectious beat has a 'hit' written all over it even without the help of Isha Koppikar sensually swaying to it. Khallas, when viewed in terms of its ability to pull the masses to the movie, is a definite success. The opportunity created for a 'remix' did not go unnoticed.

Ankhon mein raho, rendered beautifully by Sowmya Raoh in classic 'unplugged' style, while lacking in mass appeal, is a purist's delight. Singing with minimal support from instrumentation requires excellent control over one's voice. Sowmya, Sandeep's second protégé after Sunidhi Chauhan, passes the test with flying colours. Chaangu re hangama from Prema Katha and Roundhe from Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya exhibit Sowmya's range. Sandeep and Sowmya deserve accolades for this soft number. Too bad the slower version that appears fleetingly in the film was not included in the album.

Varma does not miss any opportunity to take potshots at the Bollywood style of film making, as we have seen in Rangeela, Satya and now in Company. Pyaar pyaar mein, I suspect, is an ingenious parody of the numerous numbers that are churned out by the Bollywood factory with assembly line precision. Sung by Sonali Vajpaye and Babul Supriyo, the song with its dholak beats, cliched violin interludes and flute bits sounds very unlike a Sandeep Chowta creation. Altaf Raja's Tumse kitna immerses itself in mediocrity with its stale tune and trite orchestration. The number is rendered in a style that is frequently heard in public transportation.

Sandeep rediscovers his roots in the stylish, groovy and experimental Ganda hai. Sung in a raspy voice by Sandeep himself, the heavily synthesized background number successfully creates the dark ambience of the movie.

Company demonstrates Sandeep Chowta's skills in diverse genres on a single soundtrack. It does appear that the majority of the songs were meant for the TV audience rather than being an integral part of the movie, which may explain the slight slack in the album. The soundtrack, while falling a little short of the film's standard overall, is nevertheless several notches above the numerous albums that hit the market.


Posted on 7 May 2002

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