You don't really know what to expect from Dev D. Considering the subject (the eternal story of Devdas), you know that it has to be a musical in the offering. Looking at the inlay card, you find as many as 18 tracks being listed (yes, that's right, and we are not talking about the remix versions here). However, knowing the director, Anurag Kashyap, you are left wondering what to expect. After all each of his three films so far, No Smoking, Black Friday and Paanch (it's music was released years back though the film is still awaited), has boasted of unusual music. With all due credit to the soundtracks, they may not have made waves at the music stands but they have certainly been noticed. Still, one isn't quite sure what to expect from the commercial standpoint. And then a number like 'Emosanal Attyachaar' (yes, that's how it is called) comes on air and you end up saying to yourself - 'Ok, so let's play Dev D and see what Anurag and his team has to offer this time around'!
Amit Trivedi, who has earlier composed for Aamir gets his biggest break till date as he is allowed full creative freedom sans any boundaries for his original soundtrack of Dev D. The man certainly makes full use of the opportunity meted out to him and goes all out in getting a totally unexpected score for the film in place. He tries out just about everything, whether it is rock, 'bhangra', fusion, classical and the works. He goes overboard too at a few junctions, justifiably so, since the film allows him to explore the avenues hitherto unexplored in hardcore Bollywood outings.
This is the reason why there is a lot happening on Dev D. To begin with there is a full-on 'bhangra-pop' in the form of 'Mahi Mennu'. Towards the album's end, there is a rustic and totally unadulterated 'Hikknaal'. Both the songs are expected to blaze on loud and strong at the dance floors, especially up North! Trumpets blow hard for 'Emosanal Attyachaar' which is just the song for the marriage processions. Presley meets 'bhojpuri' meets 'bhangra-pop' meets Anurag Kashyap as Amit goes all out in making the number as quirky as possible. 'Duniya' is the best sounding number to arrive in the album and is the most youthful of all due to an intrinsic rhythm to it.
The kind of sound that one associates with Pakistani artists is heard in 'Aankh Micholi' which only adds on to the variety of this album that continues to be engaging and entertaining song after song. Soon after arrives 'Yahi Meri Zindagi' that has an international pop feel to it while 'Ek Hulchul Si' is soft rock. On the other hand 'Pardesi' and 'Nayan Tarse' are folk fusion tracks. While 'Pardesi' has a slight Western touch-up to it while remaining rooted throughout, 'Nayan Tarse' begins with a slight Indian classical shade to it, only to become a full-on rock track during its progression.
'Paayaliya' follows next and this is the first number in the album which seems to be in the true 'Devdas' tradition, courtesy a semi-classical flavor. 'Saali Khushi' takes the audience through the journey of the protagonist looking for happiness and you can actually find yourself smiling at the way he approaches life and the miseries that follow with it. On the other hand 'Dhol Yaara Dhol' perks up the situation with a feel good romantic feel to it, though with a different flavor due to a folk touch-up. This is the one that would sound as good on a desert drive as a lounge outing!
There is an extended piano piece for 'Dil Mein Jaagi' which is yet another number to have an international feel to it. With Dev and Chanda being the two most important characters in Dev D, there are as many as two theme piece being devoted to them in the form of 'Dev Chanda'. However, in totality they last for only a little over 4 minutes.
Shellee gets the responsibility to write songs with a folk flavor to them. While 'Mahi Mennu' and 'Hikknaal' are full-on Punjabi, there is Rajasthani folk flavor in 'Pardesi', 'Dhol Yaara Dhol' and 'Ranjhana'. Amitabh Bhattacharya has assured that he would always be remembered for 'Emosanal Attyachaar' during his entire lifetime and beyond. On the other hand his 'Duniya', 'Yahi Meri Zindagi' as well as 'Aankh Micholi' (where he is joined by Amit Trivedi) come with a philosophical touch to them. His lyrics for 'Nayan Tarse' bring the angst and pain of the protagonist whereas 'Ek Hulchul Si' is about hope and living life.
Ever so consistent Labh Janjua, who has mostly been heard singing for Pritam, gets to open Dev D with 'Mahi Mennu'. Later in the album he also sings 'Hikknaal' while making it three for himself by singing the sad version of 'Mahi Mennu' too. Band Master 'Rangeela And Rasila' are in great form as they make 'Emosanal Attyachaar' a number that is hard to forget after the first listening itself. Later Bony Chakravarthy too joins the fray and comes up with a 'Rock Version' of the same song. However, give us the Band Master duo anytime! Comparatively Joi, who gets to sing his only rock track in the album, brings on a youthful feel to 'Ek Hulchul Si' and ensures that Amit Trivedi's confidence in getting new singers on board for Dev D is justified.
Amit Trivedi brings in variety to the proceedings by bringing himself behind the mike with 'Duniya' and 'Aankh Micholi' and completely justifies his presence since he sings the two tracks in completely different ways. He continues to surprise as a singer with 'Nayan Tarse' which is 'classical music' meets 'rock'. On the other hand in 'Saali Khushi' he seems to be in an intoxicated state, something that goes with the theme of 'Devdas'. Tochi gets his only song in the album, a solo, as he sings the folk fusion track 'Pardesi'.
For the first time a female voice is heard in Dev D with the arrival of Aditi Singh Sharma. A relative newcomer, she brings in a Western touch to her voice. Same holds good for Anusha Mani who sings as well as writes 'Dil Mein Jaagi'. However, this time around the Western influence is much more prominent. Surprises are the order of the day as Shruti Pathak, who was so husky and low-key in 'Mar Jaanva' [Fashion], one of the best songs of the year gone by, gives an altogether different account of herself in semi-classical 'Paayaliya' which she not just sings but also writes.
Shilpa Rao and Kshitij Tarey, two of the most promising newcomers on the Bollywood singing scene today, get two duets to sing - 'Dhol Yaara Dhol' and 'Ranjhana'. Do they do well? Of course! The other duet couple in Dev D, Neuman Pinto and Bianca Gomes, come together for crooning the two theme versions of 'Dev Chanda'.
Amit Trivedi gives an excellent start to the year by presenting to audience the music of Dev D, which brings in so much variety to proceedings that one just feels truly content. These are the kind of songs that should play for bits and piece in the narrative of Dev D and add great value to it. There are some albums that make you say - 'Chuck the very thought around whether this album will do well commercially or not; it is an exemplary piece of work and that's what that matters most'! Well, Dev D is one such album. Just pick this one quickly from the shelves; they don't make such albums in dozens!