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Teen love from a master poet

Sunset Point
Conceived, written
and narrated by Gulzar
Sony Music
Rs 65 (Cassette)

This is like listening to the soundtrack of a film with the visuals blanked out. The other novelty is that Gulzar attempts a story of teen love

For those who were wondering what ever happened to Bhupinder of Dil dhoondhta hai, here is a chance to listen to his deep voice again. With him is Chithra, who's in every other album these days.

Gulzar tells a tale of love, separation and reunion. He works with stock images -- sunset, bridge, river -- and this tape probably won't be recommended to students looking for Gulzar's best poetry.

The novelty in Sunset Point is that a story is told through music, and a Gulzar voiceover. The style is inspired by Hollywood musicals where actors underplay their roles and let a grand orchestra explore the turns and twists in mood. Can't say the orchestra on this album is very grand: there's quite a bit that's routine synth.

Vishal Bharadwaj, music composer of Maachis and Chachi 420, is now Gulzar's favourite composer. Gulzar's earlier favourite was, of course, R D Burman, with whom he made many memorable and commercially successful films like Parichay, Kinara and Kitaab.

Vishal gets Chithra to open the album with a song that fades in on Gulzar's narration. She ad libs, with no percussion, and accompanied by a keyboard humming in the background. Aa chal dubke dekhe sounds a bit like Chai chappa chai (Maachis) reworked. The pop beat and guitar chords catch on fast.

Aasmani aankhon ka is a slow duet where the man dreams of flying in the girl's sky-like eyes. Vishal's sophisticated adaptation of blues makes the tune wander dreamily and unpredictably. To ears tuned to Indian melodies, this may sound faintly unsure.

The flute intro to Aarzoo swings away and plunges you into the song. The first interlude on the veena and flute is the best on the tape. The veena uses just four or five notes and the graces are so well executed (Narayan Mani) that they lend authenticity to the whole song. The piano is all over, giving the song a tinkling will o' the wisp effect.

Pakhiya ve is a typical Punjabi wedding number. Goes to show that the album is not so different after all -- it follows the pattern of a wedding song, a love duet, a sad song, and a cheerful reunion song... We've seen that before, haven't we?

Bhupindra sings Tere jaane se kuch badla nahin -- "everything seems the same, only there is no sleep left". The string section has varied layers and catches attention, but the synth feel too comes across strongly. The veena comes out more poignantly than the entire string section. Vishal's interludes are composed with more musical expression and aesthetics than the songs themselves. They emote far better. And the south Indian veena continues to show its presence in his orchestra.

The heroine's next step is into the water under the bridge. She contemplates suicide. Only a wandering sheep's bleating stops her. The setting brings in daflis and some folksy humming. The plea is for rain to come and regenerate a barren life. This tune comes closest to an Indian identity.

In Kache rang uttar jaane do the chord progression is true blues, and the pattern works beautifully on the piano and guitar. The sevenths create a keen sense of yearning. The sarangi interlude speaks eloquently.

Vishal attempts original fusion ideas, but not with consistent success. That's partly because Gulzar, who explored mature love in films like Mausam and Kinara, dabbles in teen love in Sunset Point. The poet in Gulzar may be getting younger -- and he is a rare liberal humanist in a crassly money-minded industry -- but one must still ask the question: is he getting any better?

S Suchitra Lata

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