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Bollywood songs of the year – Beyond Bollywood

Another Arijit Singh year, but the likes of Jasleen Royal, Qaran delight with their brand of music. Young Utsavi Jha arrives on the big stage. Our pick for the memorable Hindi film songs of the year.

By Mayur Lookhar

Phew, times flies by in a jiffy.  2023 comes to a close and it is that time when we revisit the best creative works in the year gone by. As always, we keep an ear out for quality music. As always, popularity is immaterial. We look for sounds, words that strike a deep chord. It’s a year where Western influence was pretty strong, but couple of desi tracks exhibited the corresponding culture. 

Without further ado, we bring you Beyond Bollywood’s pick for the finest Hindi film songs of the year.

13 Kanhaiya Twitter Pe Aaja – The Great Indian Family

Vicky Kaushal proved his versatility as the new age bhajan [devotional] singer in YRF’s The Great Indian Family. Maybe, it is tough to pitch bhajans to millennials. How do you attract them then? Lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya knows the right text, tone. Add a dash of social media, Twitter [now renamed as X] and one is bound to get followers to this peppy new age quasi bhajan-cum-dance track. Bhajan or Vicky Kaushal, you never associate dance with both. The Kanhaiya Twitter Pe Aaja song was a revelation in every sense. Kaushal floored with his desi dancing. With a name like Aziz, Nakash naturally sang a Hindu deity number in a tone so reminiscent of the late Mohammad Aziz.  [No relation here]. Even the legendary Mohammed Rafi was much loved for crooning songs on Hindu deities. Pritam’s rooted score, and Nakash Aziz’s passionate, fun singing struck a chord with the listeners.

12 Netflix and Chill – Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat

Not almost, but Anurag Kashyap’s Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat certainly tanked without a trace at the box office. It’s Gen Z music though was a hit with the target audience. This reviewer might be from a different era but good music cuts across generations. Pay bill or dil (heart) on the smartphone. Pub G, Whats App, beer, fire. Netflix, momos, munchies, pay via app. With words like these, the Shellee [lyricist] song has all the ingredients to make for an appetizing Genz Z number. Add to it Arjun Kanungo, Sharvi Yadav’s impressive vocals and Amit Trivedi’s peppy music. Netflix & Chill is our pick from Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat.

11 Mere Sawaal Ka – Shehzada

The Shehzada (prince) turned out to be a pauper at the box office, but couple of tracks appealed to both masses and classes alike. Lyricist Shloke Lal’s Mere Sawaal Ka is a fine ‘love at first sight’ number. You see someone, and your heart feels s/he is the soulmate. Often it is the boy drooling over the girl. In a marked difference, Shloke, composer Pritam also choose to have the girl outline the kind of guy she seeks. There’s beauty, simplicity, humility, anti-materialism in Lal’s words. Pritam’s joyful score, Shashwat Singh and Shalmali Kholgade’s equally delightful singing, plus Kriti Sanon, Kartik Aaryan’s infectious smiles answered a viewer’s call for a breezy romantic number.

10 Jhoome Jo Pathaan – Pathaan

Besharam Rang courted all the controversy, but it was Jhoome Re Pathan that had the nation jhooming [moving]. The lyrics maybe average, but it is the peppy score by Vishal-Sheykhar that will have you foot tapping. The vibrant beats that follow the hook line is simply magnetic.  Kumaar’s lyrics are average, but it’s the energetic singing by Arijit Singh, Sukriti Kakar, [additional vocals by Vishal-Sheykhar] that is instrumental in Jhoome Re Pathaan becoming a chartbuster.

Bosco Caesar are usually good with their choreography, but an aging Khan perhaps also limits a nimble Deepika Padukone. The gorgeous artistes and their hot bodies though are enough to appeal to the gallery.

9 Ghar Ma Lado Aai – The Song of Scorpions

In the modern world, it is difficult to find purity. Anup Singh’s The Song of Scorpions [2023] and its music is like finding an oasis in the desert. The music is bare minimum, as it’s a cultural show all the way.  Credit to the director Singh, composer Madan Gopal Singh for sticking to the roots. Ghar Ma Lado Aai has a gentle heartbeat-like dhol tune with the earthy tones of Shefali Bhushan and Kritika Pande sinking into every senses. Can there be anything purer than Rajasthani folk?  From start to finish, there’s culture in every scene, every beat, every tone of The Song of Scorpions. Nah, it isn’t stingy at all. Thank God, Ghar Ma Lado Aai isn’t corrupted by greed for perfection. From singing, music, dance, Anup Singh, Madan Gopal Singh simply let the culture flow.  Aren’t baby showers celebrated best this way?

Though a Rajasthan film, it would be grave injustice to not include Ghar Ma Lado Aai in this list.

8 Chedkhaniyan – Shehzada

Arijit Singh is often typecast with ballads, but hey, the guy surely knows how to enjoy himself with peppy numbers.  Pritam’s riveting pop score was enough to bring out a joyous Arijit Singh. Yes, his Punjabi isn’t perfect but Singh always makes a sincere effort. Nikhita Gandhi complemented Singh finely in this delightful duet. IP Singh and Shloke Lal, the architects of this song but the lyrics are nothing without Pritam’s gripping score. The slightly emotional ending is part of the script but it doesn’t dilute the earlier thrilling experience. Kartik Aaryan’s few saucy dance moves, and Kriti Sanon’s enchanting beauty add another flavour. Chedkhaniyan is arguably one of the finest desi pop numbers of 2023.

7 Desi Wine – Thank God For Coming

An Ekta Kapoor-produced feminist drama. It tends to divide opinion but there can be consensus on Thank You For Coming’s music. Intoxicating is a word that aptly defines Qaran’s Desi Wine. In that state, very few lyrics seep into your ears. All that matters is the music to flow into your veins. Composer-singer Qaran first showed his talent with the Tareefan track in Veere Di Wedding [2018].  He gets an additional track in Thank You For Coming. Haanji has its appeal but it’s Desi Wine that gives us the real kick. English, Punjabi, Hindi lyrics, it doesn’t matter. The blend of pop, club, Calypso music makes it impossible to not hit the dance floor.  Qaran is his usual self, but it’s Nikhita Gandhi’s inebriated tone that is harder than a Tequila shot.

The choreography isn’t Farah Khan’s best, but it’s hard to be sober after gulping down wine. What you see is very much like Bhumi Pednekar on the dance floor. Desi Wise is simply irresistible.

6 Dilkash – Gulmohar

A ghazal in contemporary Bollywood music is like gold dust. So too the forgotten voice of Talat Aziz. The veteran singer himself must have been surprised with this rare opportunity to not just croon but also play a little cameo in the acclaimed film Gulmohar [2023]. A special evening with a close guest, down a few drinks, and merrily agreeing to charm the host family with a soothing ghazalesque number. This one is for the poets, the romantics. Aziz’s tone, charming smile and Shellee’s neat lyrics beautifully capture the mood [both internal and external] of everyone present in Gulmohar villa that night. Siddhartha Khosla’s music had a touch of both the old and the new. Not just ghazal lovers, but such music can appeal to most listeners.

5 Phir Aur Kya Chahiye – Zara Hatke Zara Bachke

As we get down to the top 5, it is here that often a certain Arijit Singh makes an impression.  Although a romantic, joyous track, there is a slight melancholia in Singh’s tone. The mood is set with a passionate intro sans music. The song comes across like a guy being more relieved at having the girl of his dream. Amitabh Bachchan’s fine lyrics, Sachin-Jigar’s splendid score, and of course Arijit Singh’s brilliant singing. Phir Aur Kya Chahiye ek gaane mein? (What else game do you need in a song?). Just play and hum along.

4 Tere Pyaar Mein karaoke – Tu Jhooti Main Makkar

This is an Arijit Sing track, but it still isn’t. The lyrical track is part of the film and the album, but it’s the karaoke version that had us in a bind. For near three hours, the film tested our patience, but the karaoke version of Tere Pyaar Mein, that played in the end credits roll, calmed our nerves.  Jeez, this is f*****# better than the lyrical version. No disrespect to Arijit Singh, who sang the song with all glee, but Tere Pyaar Mein was much more endearing sans the singing. We came across an unofficial Youtube link that had karaoke version sounding so similar to the one we heard in the end credits. Perhaps this track is more enjoyable when played on a loud speaker in a pub or discotheque. It has enough beats to get your feet moving.

3 Woh Ghar – Gulmohar

In times when many composers nearly bring an orchestra, it’s refreshing to hear a Bollywood track that plays to just about two instruments. We say just about for a reason as composer Siddhartha Khosla keeps piano and the violin tune to bare minimum. In cricketing parlance, this would be akin to offering a dead bat. The two particular instruments are ideal to trigger melancholia. Then add the majestically sombre tone of young singer-actor Utsavi Jha. You wouldn’t find many better singing this year. The Batras [protagonist family] deciding to sell the house is naturally leaving its members sad, especially the youth. Seeing things packed, moved out, the empty walls and the internal turmoil naturally leaves Amrita [Utsavi Jha] sullen. She keeps pace with the tempo, but it’s in the dying low notes, the thairav [stillness] where Jha leaves you mesmerized. The closing note mirrors the dying Holi pyre. Of course, none of it would have been possible without the moving lyrics by Shellee.

2  Dil Jhoom Gadar 2

Living up to the original Gadar, both in storytelling or the music, was next to impossible. Uttam Singh wasn’t approached as director Anil Sharma picked new age composer Mithoon. After all, some of Arijit Singh’s best songs are Mithoon compositions. We weren’t moved much by Gadar 2 or its music, save couple of tracks. The Udd Jaa Kaale Kaava remake had its refreshing elements, particularly Udit Narayan’s singing, but it’s the Sayeed Quadri-penned beautiful song Dil Jhoom that stands tall. Dil Jhoom, it lives to the name striking a deep chord with the listeners. Quadri’s words are truly poetic. Even simple Urdu is so enchanting.

Before we come to Arijit, one has to marvel at Mithoon’s music sense. Listen carefully and you realise how he has deliberately underplayed the music. It is like an undertone to the magical tone of Singh. That opening aalap, followed by the lyrical pronunciation of nafasat, nazakat! Phew, just so majestic. There’s more Arijit artistry at play in the words sar se paaon tak. The ‘on’ is just silent. Jeez, you wish that that paa… is infinite.  Singh revels in Quadri’s poem and Mithoon’s soul touching score.  Simrat Kaur’s beauty justifies the lyrics and adds to the infinite charm of the track.

1 Heeriye – Guns & Gulaabs

Hey, this is from a web series. Leave aside topping, it is inappropriate to even include this in a Bollywood songs of the year list. True, but no other Hindi track outside Bollywood films has been such a rage.

The soul of this is track is its unique, refreshing music. Composer, singer Jasleen Royal couldn’t help but also appear in the video. Which girl wouldn’t want to share the screen space with Dulquer Salmaan? The pop score, particularly the guitar tunes serve as the lifeblood of this soulful track. The opening guitar tune sets the tone for a blissful lyrical/musical experience. The intro lyrics in Arijit Singh tone is filled with passion. Brace yourself for a minty romantic number. If Singh is like a sizzling brownie, then Jasleen Royal is the ice cream on it. That Royal tone, style is second to none. More than duet, they work like a tag team, passing the baton to each other.  The on-screen chemistry is fabulous too.

The additional vocals, the rising OOOOOOOs complement the corresponding maybe electric guitar tune superbly. That feels like a crescendo already. The antara score, particularly the gentle but skillful guitar work shows Royal’s class. How can one forget the early finger-snapping? The overall music is like gentle waves kissing the shore.

As for the lyrics, the legendary Heer Ranjha would be envious of the Aditya Sharma poem. You don’t really need to know the Punjabi to enjoy this track. Just let the music, singing seep into your soul.  How could Heeriye not be the best Bollywood track of the year?

Special Mention

Khalasi – Achint, Aditya Gadhvi [Coke Studio)

Views, likes, shares are never a factor in judging a song, but with over 76 million views, this Gujarati number, performed on Coke Studio Bharat, surely must have something about it that has not just the nation, but even people across globe grooving to it. You don’t need to know the language to enjoy good music.  Budding composer Achint is one who scored the magnetic theme music for Hansal Mehta’s scam franchise, Rocket Boys, and Monica Oh My Darling [2023]. Khalasi was a smooth sailing into the Gujarati coastal culture. The words are every bit rooted, but the music is truly global.

Lead singer Aditya Gadhvi also charmed us with the Gujarati rap. A guitar wielding curly haired Achint is the rockstar here. Gadhvi and Achint do their things, but it’s the female vocalists, their tone, expression that has wow written all over it. They even purr the wow. Khalasi is a musical encore hitting every sense, triggering an eternal sense of euphoria. It is arguably, the most joyous number of the year, sailing into our heart and much more worthy than just a special mention.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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