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Director : Music : Starring :
Shawar Ali, Raima Sen, Deepanita Sharma.
At a time when the Indipop scene merely consists of remix versions of old Hindi film tracks, a film album which compiles some of the best original Indipop music of the nineties is like a breath of fresh air. The 2 Gram Films production '99.9 FM' is unique as its album consists of some of the best numbers Indipop has seen.
Directed by Sanjay Bhatia, the film stars Shahwar Ali, Raima Sen and Dippanita Sharma. A note on the indigenously titled film - '99.9 FM' is a movie set in real time about the life of Gautam Singh, a radio jockey, whose passions in life include the music he plays, and the women he loves - his wife Kim ad his ex-lover Sonali. Since the film revolves around the radio jockey and his show, Bhatia decided to choose songs which are already in the market, depending on the various situations in his film.
'99.9 FM' features 17 tracks of which 3 are original. Classical, quawali, lounge and pop are the core elements of the album and the variety ensures that there is something for everyone.
Fans of classical music will relish Bhimsen Joshi's Raag Bhairavi-based 'Jo Bhaje Hari Ko Sade'. Joshi has rendered this bhajan in his inimitable style. Then, 'Kesariya', one of the original tracks in the album, is efficiently rendered by Zila Khan (daughter of the sitar maestro, Late Ustad Vilayat Khan). But, reigning trumps among the classical songs in the album is Ustad Sultan Khan's'Kate Nahi Raat'. There is something about rain which brings out the best in musicians. With rain as a backdrop, this classical number has the sarangi master in fine form. The unique pathos generated by the mellow notes of the sarangi elevates the song to an even higher level.
A couple of songs by Zia Mohyeddin will not appeal to most. In spite of the profound lyrics, the monotony in the way the lyrics are spoken (and not sung) gets on one's nerves.
The man who introduced Sufi mysticism to the world, the Late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sings 'Sanu Ek Pal ', a beautiful number which expresses the optimism of a lover whose other half has departed. Nusrat brings about the grief with exquisiteness. His dynamics of changing the pitch of his vocal chords from a normal scale to unreachable heights is mind-boggling.
Fusion music at its unadulterated best is how you would describe the two tracks by Sum, 'Raindance' and 'Movement'. 'Movement' especially has some impressive use of percussions and innovative rhythms.
From classical to quawali to rhythms to lounge. Biddu's 'Nirvana' may not be on par with his earlier compositions, but it makes for compelling listening, all the same.
And then pop. Zoheb Hassan's 'Muskaraye Jaa' is about the human spirit - the perseverance of man. The lyrics are poignant and well-penned, while the vocals are pleasant. It's one of the few times that one gets to hear a sitar in a pop number, and the effect is brilliant.
The Usha Uthup rendered 'Sau Feesadi' is a disappointment. Unfortunately, this original track is rather feeble in its composition and even the vibrant voice of Usha Uthup cannot overshadow the churlish and predictable lyrics. The theme makes for good listening, with plenty of electronic effects used to form a well-composed fusion instrumental.
It's time for the commercially successful singers to make a mark now. As many as 3 of Shubha Mudgal's songs are included - 'Intezaar' is the pick of the three, as Prasoon Joshi's lyrics describe the eternal wait of a woman, waiting for her dreams to be realized and acknowledged. The two songs from Shaan's debut album, namely 'Tanha Dil' and 'Gumsum Ho Kyun', which are included in this album, are undoubtedly the main attraction of the album. Simple lyrics, soothing music and Shaan's effervescent vocals - what more do you need?
'99.9 FM' has something that would cater to everyone's taste, with artistes like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Shubha Mudgal, Bhimsen Joshi, Ustad Sultan Khan and Shaan, one can rarely go wrong. However, the lack of zing in the original tracks and the low publicity the film has generated would go against the album's prospects. Go for it, if you wish to re-experience some of the better phases Indipop has gone through.