Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy Patiala House Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A missed opportunity which leaves the listener wanting better.

Vibhuti Patel 2011

When Nikhil Advani signed Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy to score his 2003 film Kal Ho Naa Ho the result was an immensely successful album which went on to win a National Film Award. It is this previous success that makes the unremarkable soundtrack to Patiala House all the more disappointing.

This should’ve been musical gold. As well as the much respected music directors themselves, the playback singers of choice include Mahalakshmi Iyer, Shafqat Amanat Ali and Vishal Dadlani, and rapper Hard Kaur. Yet somehow the opportunity presented by this excellent ensemble of talent has been almost entirely missed.

The opening Laung Da Lashkara starts promisingly enough but never really takes off, resorting to an unnecessary use of vocoder. This is followed by Kyun Main Jagoon, which plods along and cannot even be brought to life by a remix from the immense Asian Dub Foundation. Aadat Hai Voh struggles to inspire and possibly needed Atif Aslam’s endearingly imperfect vocals to give the track the Pakistani rock-pop edge that it is clearly aiming for. Rola Pe Gaya gives the impression of improvement but the chorus lets down the build-up and the limited use of Hard Kaur is frustrating for anyone who knows of her brilliant, unique abilities. In fact, you can’t help but wish she’d had more involvement in putting together all the music. Perhaps then there would be a better reflection of British-Indian sentiment, matching the film’s setting. The closest the album ever gets to British is with Baby When You Talk To Me, and that’s only because it resembles a poor (or maybe winning) Eurovision entry with disturbing accuracy.

One of the big problems with these five tracks is a sense of trying too hard. It is somewhat ironic, therefore, that the two tracks offering redemption are Tumba Tumba and Aval Allah. The former is a piece of charming Punjabi folk from Hans Raj Hans, the latter a wonderfully understated song with vocals by Richa Sharma. They even display that lyricist Anvita Dutt is capable of some depth, although it can’t quite excuse her previous poetically-lacking efforts for films such as Tashan and Tees Maar Khan.

It’s never easy to carry the weight of expectation, and with Patiala House Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy show that even their powerhouse can struggle. Although this album isn’t entirely terrible, it is a below par offering that gives the listener hope but ultimately doesn’t deliver.

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