Best Hindi Soundtrack of 2017, Editor’s Choice: Jab Harry Met Sejal, Perfect Meeting of Music and Movie

 

This will be the ONLY award for JHMS this year.  Just pointing that out for people who think I am blindly Shahrukh mad.  It was a good interesting movie, but it is only the soundtrack that really stands out for me when I compare it with the other films of the year.  Plus, it wasn’t that great of a year for soundtracks.

There’s been a lot of focus on how there needs to be a new crop of director/producers and movie stars in the industry.  But I haven’t seen as much coverage about the lack of new exciting talent in the composer arena.  And looking back on the films of 2017, that is where I really feel the lack.

Pritam is, as always, hit and miss and a bit derivative.  But when he hits, he is brilliant.  Rahman is still willing to do his one or two Hindi soundtracks a year.  Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, when they work, are brilliant.  But they all have such busy schedules, they don’t work together often.  Vishal-Shekhar are great in their own very narrow range.  Armaan Malik is a good kid, but I’m not sure if he can handle a full soundtrack yet.  Jasleen Royal, I love her, but she isn’t really being given a full soundtrack either.

(Jasleen Royal, sang and wrote this)

And so all the films are beginning to be more and more of the same. That is, the big films.  And it is only big films, now, which are able to pay for and dedicate themselves too supporting a rich full collection of songs.  In 2017, Pritam did the soundtrack for Raabta, Tubelight, Jagga Jasoos, and Jab Harry Met Sejal.  Vishal-Shekhar only did the soundtrack for Tiger Zinda Hai, but they’ve got five movies coming up in 2018 and they had five movies back in 2016.  AR Rahman barely counted, just the remix of his songs for OK Jaanu.  The one bright new hope is Amit Trivedi, who did the songs for Secret Superstar.  Tanishk Bagchi too, he did some songs for Bareilly Ki Barfi and got to do the whole album for Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, but didn’t really impress me there. Otherwise, it is all Pritam and remixes.  Or hodge-podge soundtracks like Golmaal Again, where it never quite feels like they are from the same movie as each other.

Amit Trivedi and Tanishk Bagchi are, hopefully, on their way, but I want more composers!  I don’t want poor Pritam to be stuck working with everybody all the time.  Because it isn’t fair to Pritam.  He can do brilliant work, but it is getting hidden in all the other trash he has to do.

Which brings me to Jab Harry Met Sejal.  Taking out everything else about the film, this is just a brilliant brilliant soundtrack.  Every song is different, and yet they all feel somehow part of the same whole.  Watched in context, they are brought to a whole new level.  Not from flashy visuals and clever costumes and so on, but because the music perfectly captures the characters, and the character developments.  Purely going song to song can tell you the entire plot of the film.

And you don’t even need to know the lyrics!  It’s in the sound of the songs.  “Safar”, our opening song, is about traveling.  But we don’t need the lyrics to know that, we have it from the way the song paces along with the tread of a long distance walker.

 

“Hawayein” is about being blown by the winds of love.  And we don’t need the lyrics, we can hear that in the bouncing flying way the notes go up and down and around.

 

“Beech Beech Mein”, that is about having fun, being on vacation, not taking things seriously.  And you know that, just because it is Disco, the sound of silliness.

 

“Phurr”, that’s the really remarkable one, it is unpleasant and strange to the ear when you first hear it.  But when you watch it, with Anushka’s strange trancelike awakening happening as she listens, it makes total sense.

 

“Yaadon Main”, it’s about memories, loss, sadness.  And it’s in Jonita Gandhi’s voice, and the wonderful heartbreaking cries of longing that Pritam wrote for her.

 

And then “Raula”.  The two songs next to each other on an album make no sense, but brought together by the narrative, they do.  “Yaadon” is the depths and heights of emotions, and “Raula” is the joyous relief once you have expressed those emotions.

 

“Ghar”, it is about the longing for home.  And again, you can hear that in the music.  It isn’t a deep torturous longing like “Yaadon Mein”, it is lighter than that, the small slight feeling of homesickness that wears away at you slowly.

 

And finally, “Butterfly”.  The joyousness of love triumphant.  It’s not the light sound of “Raula”, not transitory happiness, but strong and rough and deep and abiding.  And most of all, with the male and female parts intricately dancing around each other, as do a couple in love.

 

The greatest triumph of the album is, of course, “Radha”.  It is the rare song that tells you everything about the film, about the characters, without needing to see the movie.  It gives you the feel of it in one 3 minute audio piece.  You don’t even need to understand Hindi, it is all there in her determinedly strong and simple chorus, and his complex up and down and changing response, that finally gives into her.

 

So, that’s the best soundtrack of 2017.  It just is.  And it is also a soundtrack from poor overworked Pritam, and for a big star film.  But I really really hope that the best soundtrack of 2018 is from someone who isn’t Pritam or Vishal-Shekhar or AR Rahman even, and I hope it isn’t for a big budget film.  I hope it is for a small gem of a film that invested the money in building a real legitimate soundtrack and took a risk on an untried composer, and helped to prove that you don’t need to have a 100 Crore budget to have good songs.

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16 thoughts on “Best Hindi Soundtrack of 2017, Editor’s Choice: Jab Harry Met Sejal, Perfect Meeting of Music and Movie

  1. I adore this soundtrack, and could totally watch JUST the songs in JHMS and follow the characters stories. You left out the folk song that repeats, which also plays an important role, though neither Harry nor Sejal are shown.

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    • Parinda too. Those are fascinating, the way they weave in and out of the story never fully heard but still creating a perfect atmosphere.

      On Sat, Jan 6, 2018 at 9:40 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Love this soundtrack to the moon & back! If JTHJ’s music hadn’t already hooked me on Indian film music ( with DilSe’s sealing the deal) this would have done it. Even the background music is magical & memorable.

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    • It’s just an amazing soundtrack. It works best in context in the film, next best listening to the whole album straight through, and third best listening to one song individually. Which is the reverse of how most film soundtracks work!

      On Sat, Jan 6, 2018 at 10:35 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I, too, love the JHMS album. I found the subtitles to Jee Ve Sohaneya a little odd though. The songs Safer and Ghar particularly resonant with me, having been rather nomadic all my life. Pritam outdid himself with this soundtrack and for that I am grateful. It’s in my car, on my iPod and IPad. Amazed that Indian audience didn’t get it but then I am an Imitiaz Ali fan.

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  4. I love this soundtrack so much too! Back when I was trying to convert my non-Hindi movie-experienced family and friends to watch JHMS, I wrote a little summary which I called JHMS in Songs, which I then never sent. I was pretty happy how it turned out, so I’m sharing here. 🙂

    Margaret–if this is too long or has too many links–feel free to delete!

    1. Safar (song starts 1 minute in–They released it as a goofy video with Shah Rukh, the songwriter, the lyricist, and the director of the film. In the movie this plays over the intro shots–Harry’s a tour guide, has been for a long time, is a bit bitter, has an empty kind of life, and no deep personal connections): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xORB1S9YvP8

    2. Trailer (Grouchy tour guide Harry is compelled by spoiled Gujarati rich girl Sejal to take her back to the cities she’s just visited with her big family and fiance to find her missing engagement ring. We know his job is at risk because he’s had lots of complaints about his tendency to sleep with women he meets on the job. Sejal threatens to complain, that’s why he agrees to help her–that and she will keep paying his daily rate. We are already getting a feeling that the ring may be more of a pretext to stay in Europe than a real issue. Sejal has sensed a different side of herself on this trip and wants to get to know that side more before settling down and getting married): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5MZevEH5Ns

    3. Parinda (Sejal’s a bit fascinated once she hears about Harry’s womanizer rep, so she follows him one night in Prague. This plays as he strolls out to a bar, smiling and getting good reactions from various groups of women out for the evening. Later the song plays as he follows her. It’s a very Punjabi-sounding song apparently–Harry is still very Punjabi despite living abroad for a long time.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdId6htvXD4

    4. Radha (After a night sleeping rough in Prague, after running from some baddies together, Sejal comes upon Harry crying, and asks him why. He deflects by telling her he’s from the Punjab, and Punjabis sing loud to be heard over their tractors. That’s why she looks a bit sleepy and confused when he starts talking. There’s more dialogue but that sets the song up.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5Gyw-nGf1I

    5. Hawayein (She has realized he’s very lonely and says that they can be “boyfriend/girlfriend” while she is there looking for her lost engagement ring–meaning, from her side, companionship, no sex. By now they’ve arrived in Budapest. They are both playacting, but we know [and they know on some level] that they are falling in love for realsies. Yes, it’s a terrible rom-com trope, but they make it work! Because we are only half-way through the movie, they argue just after this song.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs1e0fRyI18

    6. Beech Beech Mein (And we’re back after intermission. They’re doing normal “boyfriend/girlfriend” things like singing karaoke with amazingly well fitting and rapidly changing outfits, while looking for the ring here and there. Wish they’d put sub-titles on this video, it’s a cute song about the push and pull between them.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp1qNO_mPOg

    7. Phurrr (Ignore the beginning of the song–it makes sense in context! For most of the song they are spending a sunny day in Portugal, waiting to meet a gangster who may have Sejal’s ring. They enjoy the city and join celebrating football fans. Over the course of the movie so far, Sejal realizes that Harry really likes her. Though brash and confident on the surface, she’s insecure, and has spent her life trying to fit the expecations of her family and then fiance. But Harry likes her most when she’s just being her, awkwardness and all. She keeps apologizing for herself and he keeps telling her she’s great, no need to apologize for anything.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNqXpnYI1Co

    8. Yaadon Mein (A torch song being sung in a little candle-lit bar in Lisbon, Harry and Sejal both look amazing, drinking red wine. They start out kind of making fun of the song, but over the course of it both realize, oh crap, we’re actually in trouble here. What are we going to do? Ends in a very sweet embrace–none of which shown here, which just has the song with lyrics.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlJ_teT5TLs

    9. Raula (They have a run in with the Lisbon gangster, Harry gets hurt but they escape. Back at the hotel things get hot and heavy but Harry pulls back. They sleep in each others’ arms. In the morning, Harry learns that Sejal has set it up for them to go to Frankfurt to help with his best friend Mayank’s engagement celebration. Harry is essentially the closest thing Mayank has to family in Europe. Harry says, “We didn’t go to Frankfurt on the tour. There’s no way the ring is there.” Sejal says, “We’re going and that’s that!’ So this song is them working together as a couple to show Mayank’s guests a good time, but they are also in complete denial of reality–it can’t last long!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHImjt2Sq3w

    10. Ghar (They come crashing down to earth, the ring is found. Sejal goes back to Mumbai because she doesn’t consider herself the “type” to break her engagement and run off with a tour guide. Harry doesn’t ask her to stay when she asks him what he wants her to do, because he doesn’t think he’s good enough for her. This song is him going back to his life before Sejal, but of course he can’t fit back into that rut again.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmz_8VX12U8

    11. Butterfly (I won’t spoil how it works out, except to say that I LOVE the way it’s handled, for both characters. But of course this is an SRK/Anushka romance so they end up together. Harry takes his bride home to meet his family and his homeland. Harry has made Sejal feel free to be herself, and Sejal has made Harry feel that he’s worthy to be home again.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHLWb8RPL54

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  5. Pingback: 2017 Hindi Film Awards: Best Elements of a Film, Character and Soundtrack | dontcallitbollywood

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