The composing trio of Hrishikesh Datar, Saurabh Bhalerao and Jasraj Joshi have had a rewarding association with director Sameer Vidwans that dates from Time Please (2013), their debut film together. The same team is back together for the fifth time, with their most ambitious project yet, the biopic of Anandi Gopalrao Joshi who is credited with being one of the earliest Indian women with a medical degree. Given that Datar, Bhalerao and Joshi are naturally inclined towards melodic pieces, a biopic project like this is right up their alley.
While the soundtrack for Anandi Gopal is a period one, set as it is in the later 19th century (The protagonist lived between 1865 and 1887), it is only in one song where the retro feel is conveyed in an obvious filmi fashion. ‘Waata Waata Waata Ga’ is a cheery folk-flavoured song set to a horse-cart rhythm, punctuated by a familiar marching band tune. All of which is interestingly generated with shehnai and tabla, and made to sound like a pipe band. It’s delivered spectacularly by Priyanka Barve — one of the many highlights of Anandi Gopal’s soundtrack is its splendid assortment of singers. The composers have drawn a lot of inspiration from natya sangeet, which has its roots in the same era, for the songs.
It’s an effect that can be heard in the delightful abundance of classical and folk elements in the album. The best of the lot is ‘Ranga Maliyela’ – a song where the composers and lyricist Vaibhav Joshi employ ovi (rhythmic prose) to build a beauty of a song that takes us through Anandibai’s wedding at a very young age. While the melody itself is a beautiful one (top singing job by Ketaki Mategaonkar, who has featured in the composers’ past works too, and Sharayu Date), the composers are brilliant with the arrangement. Ethnic percussion that keeps changing mode in each verse (in line with the tune change), I loved that every verse is set to a different melody, such a rarity these days.
Yogesh More’s shehnai adds that auspicious touch at the right moments, and the chorus voices rendering those ovi-styled refrains seemingly layered in accordance to the call-and-response format of the genre.
The composers take a more classical-flavoured route for ‘Anandghana’ that talks about the protagonist’s relationship with her husband, and we get another fabulous melody in the process. One that traverses the ragas — shuddh sarang, Saraswati and bhinna shadja. The talented Aanandi Joshi and Hrishikesh Ranade lead the vocals here, and once again the chorus is wonderfully employed, cutting across the dreamy soundscape with a refrain that marks the song’s switch to classical-heavy mode. ‘Majhe Mauli’ is a gondhal song sung by Jasraj Joshi that follows the traditional percussion-heavy arrangement with an interesting shift in rhythms through the song. Conventionally an ode to the goddess, the gondhal here too is a celebration of Anandibai. Finally, there is ‘Tu Ahes Na’, a salute to the spirit of womanhood, that checks all boxes of an anthemic piece — a pensive melody, orchestral grandeur highlighted by splendid use of strings, and a competent chorus. Adding to the song’s appeal is its raagamaalika structure — the melody keeps flitting between multiple ragas (Durga, Kalavati, Bageshri, Asavari, Jaijaiwanti), all chosen for their obvious association with female power. While Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar presents a fine delivery in the song’s solo version, I preferred the track better in the multi-vocalist version that features Jasraj Joshi, Avadhoot Gupte, Rahul Deshpande, Adarsh Shinde and Rohit Raut. It’s supposedly the makers’ attempt to produce something akin to ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, and the song gains from the way the singers play off each other’s improvisations, especially in the crescendo.
The combined team of Datar-Bhalerao-Joshi, with their director and lyricist have worked on this soundtrack for 18 months — and their good work shows. Anandi Gopal is easily the best soundtrack by this team.