Meri Jaan, Vasundhara Das's
first private album, shows her seaching for the right genre
Das, the Bangalore girl who's making it big in Hindi, Tamil and
Kannada films, has released her first private album. It's called
features eight love songs.
Kamala Hassan's second wife in Hey Ram, and also sang Shakalaka baby for A R
Rahman. She is now acting in a Hindi film called
Citizen, and recently recorded some songs for
Neela, a Kannada film directed by
Nagabharana, with music by the veteran composer Vijayabhaskar. Her singing
and acting abilities make her perhaps the only serious singing
actress in Hindi filmdom (Sulakshana Pandit was the last heroine who
sang professionally -- do you remember Bekarar dil, her hit
song with Kishore Kumar?).
Jaan moves across several genres
-- qawwali, blues, reggae, salsa and even the ghazal -- all
of them framed by the tones of the keyboard and electronic
The title track is in
the qawwali-pop mode with flourishes of raga Yaman, and features
phrases where the dholak is heard quite prominently. Channel V's interviewer quizzed Vasundhara about the video with the Taj Mahal for
a backdrop, a blind architect and a hunk. You've missed the whole
thing, she laughed, and explained the storyline, which is
about the architect hearing the song of the lovers, realising the extent of their
love, and feeling as ecstatic as if he had built that
The first time you listen to the title track, the unpredictability of the
tune (Pravin Mani and Piyush Mishra) grabs your attention,
as does Vasundhara's not-too-thin timbre. Some more listens and
the gawky attitude settles in, especially in the alaap
has Vasundhara singing with a Cuban band that she roped in when
they were in Mumbai. The
guitar and percussion are credited to Acana, the Cuban band, while the words
and tune are again done by the Pravin, Piyush and Vasundhara
Side B opens with Mere nishaan, with Vasundhara singing
in the Arabic mode. I liked the tune, but Vasundhara probably
sings in a key too high for her. She sounds nasal, and is not
very convincing with the spinning phrases. The following track,
Aao yaar, is faster paced.
Mera mehboob attempts the
'ghazal' style. This again is not a strong area for Vasundhara, and
she doesn't manage the kind of flow that Salma Agha does in
songs like Dil ki armaan aasuvon mein.
Like Salma, Vasundhara
tends to use nasal inflexions, but unless Vasundhara achieves a certain fluidity of expression,
this may work against her.
Sohni sohni is part Arabian-style
and part bhangra. Some mridangam sounds make
a guest appearance. Written by Sukhwindara Singh, this
track also features a couple of lines sung by him. He is best
at the Chaiya chaiya
style that harks back to Sufi music, and you find
a bit of that here.
Besides Vasundhara, this album boasts Pravin
Mani, Sukhwindara Singh and Piyush Mishra -- star names in the
music industry -- which is why expectations are high.
aren't studded with haunting phrases: the orchestra doesn't attempt anything even
slightly complex. The instrumental bits just seem like
chord progressions that don't really make an impression except to
indicate the drift of the melody. No track on Meri Jaan
has the attractiveness of Shakalaka baby, the song in Mudhalvan that launched
Vasundhara's film singing career.
Vasundhara will perhaps have to identify
the kind of songs she excels at, rather than attempt genres that her voice
cannot yet relate to. Usha Uthup, who like Vasundhara
began with an unconventional timbre, has successfully charted
her own territory. When she sings songs in genres other than jazz
(which is the genre she is trained in), she sings them her way,
adapting them to her voice, and stamping them with conviction. Is
there a trick or two the young Vasundhara
can pick up from Calcutta's star with the stylish
and earthy voice?