Satyamev Jayate music review: Neha Kakkar’s Dilbar is a clear winner, but Tanishk Bagchi can do better

It is surprising, given its rather verbose theme and title, that Milap Zaveri’s Independence Day release Satyamev Jayate does not have even a single patriotic song. Instead, its album offers two romantic songs, one dance number and an intense track.

The first song, that has become the first Indian track to reach no 3 on Billboard’s YouTube chart, is ‘Dilbar’, a recreation of the classic ’90s number from the 1999 romantic drama Sirf Tum. Tanishk Bagchi, the official go-to guy for possibly every rehash ever in contemporary Bollywood, rejigs this one with the aid of Arabic influences. Well aware that the original song benefited from its extremely hook-worthy rhythm, Bagchi works around it by employing electronic claps, Arabic string instrument Oud and Arabic drums.

From the original, he also retains Alka Yagnik’s unmistakably recognisable voice but only in the chorus, the ‘Dilbar’ echo. Thus, he takes a page out of Vishal-Shekar’s playbook, as they also retained Nazia Hassan’s voice for the chorus of ‘Disco Deewane’, the recreated version used in Karan Johar’s 2012 romantic comedy Student of the Year.

The original lyrics by Sameer easily overshadow the new ones by Shabbir Ahmed. But the soul of the new track is Neha Kakkar, who brings a sensual-yet-never-raunchy appeal through her vocals. Her range allows her to switch from the meditative stanzas to the uninhibited chorus like a chameleon. Her vocals also work well in tandem with Alka’s ‘Dilbar’ echoes in the chorus.

Out of the two romantic songs, the first one, ‘Paniyon Sa’, is also made more memorable by its vocalist Atif Aslam. He invests in the song a sense of vulnerability and newfound confidence that both the feelings come across as palpable. Tulsi Kumar is also on mic duty but her vocals seem auto-tuned, especially when compared with Atif’s textured voice. Composer Rochak Kohli plays to Atif’s strengths by arranging the song in such a manner that Atif can display his strengths. But one wonders why Tulsi’s voice sticks out like a sore thumb in some parts. Kumaar paints a stunning imagery with the lyrics of the stanzas, which is once again accentuated by the brilliance of Atif Aslam.

The second romantic song, ‘Tere Jaisa’, starts with a jugalbandi between Tulsi and the shehnai. Tulsi fares far better in this song than that in ‘Paniyon Sa’ as she fronts the track with her honey sweet voice, that also attains a sense of maturity as the song progresses. Composer, lyricist and co-singer Arko pulls off a smart move by using the shehnai as the sounding board to Tulsi’s repeated pleas for companionship. The use of the shehnai is wise as it not only is a symbol of weddings but also adds a devotional touch to the song.

The fourth song ‘Tajdar-e-Haram’ has intensity written all over it. While it does get morose after a point, composer duo Sajid-Wajid must be applauded for consistency. Also, Wajid taking the onus of vocals himself proves to be fruitful too as the music and his voice become one. They seem of the exact mood, which adds to the spiritual aroma that the song emits from a mile. While the chorus may give the impression that the rest of the song will also be dominated by Urdu vocabulary, lyricist Danish Sibri guns down that perception. He offers lyrics that do not alienate and thus, complement the song’s mass appeal.

Satyamev Jayate does not go overboard with its music by rounding up one patriotic song after the other. While it could have done with just one romantic song instead of two, it balances the sunshine with the extremely grimy ‘Tajdar-e-Haram’. But only thanks to the solid foundation of Alka’s original song, coupled with Neha’s sumptuous vocals, ‘Dilbar’ turns out to be the album’s best song. Tanishk Bagchi is on a roll, but it will not hurt if he pays tribute to vintage songs and styles, through fresher rehashes like ‘Mohabbat’ from Fanney Khan or ‘Monobina’ from Gold.