Long before the revival of Pakistani cinema began (that is now at least a decade-old), the film industry existed on the back of not necessarily just good films and actors but also musicians, composers, singers and lyricists and consequently really good music. Even today, some of us exposed to the music of that period of Pakistani films can get lost in the melodies, the voices and the nostalgia, the romanticism, the power to wake up your inner youngster and the ability for it to communicate emotions one simply could not.
Some examples include popular songs like ‘Akele Na Jaana’, ‘Ko Ko Korina – Meray Khayalon Pay Chaey Hai’ from Armaan, ‘Aye Mausam’ from Saath Lakh, ‘Tarasta Hai Yeh Dil’ from Aarzoo, ‘Bijli Bhari Hai Mere Ang Ang Main’ from Koshish, ‘Raat Chali Hai Jhoom Kay’ from Josh, and ‘Tut Turu Turu Tara Tara’ from Muhabbet Zindagi Hai, shifting the musical paradigm and with it setting up the base for what was to come: the birth of Pakistani pop music.
Fast forward and the local industry had ultimately collapsed for many reasons and when a ban was placed on Bollywood films that existed for decades, we, the people, lived on a steady diet of Hindi films, not seen in local cinemas anymore. And as for local films, they deteriorated too. Unless you enjoyed the Shaan Shahid brand of cinema that existed in the absence of quality films.
Which brings us to the present. As the multiplex culture emerged, we went on to watch Bollywood and Hollywood films, for lack of local films.
The wounds began to heal and Pakistani films finally reemerged in significant fashion with a renewed spirit and Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Kay Liye can be credited as the film that reignited the fire.
As Pakistani films were being made, it led to beautiful soundtracks. Khuda Kay Liye, Ramchand Pakistani, Bol, Moor and Manto led from the front in the music department by giving us lasting music once again. Who can forget the strains of ‘Allah Hoo’ by Saeen Zahoor from KKL or ‘Jogiya and ‘Talabgaar Hoon’ (sung by Javed Bashir) from Moor?
A mixed bag
Given all this, we also know that of the films that have released in this post-revival period, only a few have carved a sonic mark. It seems as if the one and only purpose of songs in prolific films has been to bring the audience to the cinema and not perhaps care that with such a strong music history, using music as a promotional tool is a trick.
Just this year, though a number of films have released, only Allahyar & The Legend of Markhor and the critically acclaimed Cake have packed a punch with Motorcycle Girl coming in at a close third with its soundtrack.
That motto is up and kicking on the soundtrack of Load Wedding, whose five-track soundtrack is acceptable at best and average at worst.
The opening romance-fused number of the soundtrack, ‘Rangeya’, sung by Mulazim Hussain and Missal Zaidi, with lyrics by Shani Arshad, is a great example. It’s flat, dull and I’m not sure whether it’s the singing, the lyrical weakness or the entire combination. And that flute simply doesn’t belong in there at all. It’s a little too sweet.
‘Munday Lahore De’ with lyrics by Mohsin Abbas Haider and music director Shani Arshad and sung by Mohsin Abbas Haider and Saima Jahan is the quintessential desi wedding number that is sung in Punjabi and seems to have won over the critics. I’m still on the fence about this “authentic” bhangra-sounding track that has, for one thing, misused the strong vocals of Mohsin Abbas Haider completely. It makes you wonder if this is same singer who blew us all away with the song ‘Uddi Ja’ on Coke Studio 9. The references to Jab We Met also don’t fly because this is not dance champions Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor swaying to the thumping ‘Nagara’. Could it work within the film’s context? Sure, but does it surpass Asrar Shah’s true shaadi anthem, ‘Shakar Wandaan Re’ from Ho Mann Jahaan or the mellifluous ‘Lar Gaiyan’ from Dobara Phir Se or the larger-than-life ‘Ghar Nari’ from Ho Mann Jahaan?
‘Good Luck’ with that mandolin-based opening shines because of the sheer vocals of Asrar Shah with Tehreem Muneeba providing some support and has a playful flavor. However, it makes you wonder how many big-anthem-type tracks have been packed into one album.
Things improve with ‘Faqeera’ which is sung by Shani Arshad and is penned by the mighty Sabir Zafar and is the strongest song on the soundtrack, both lyrically and otherwise as it notes why ask the fate of the faqeera and how in the end it all comes down to the decree of fate.
Our story ends with the fifth song on the record, a tune called ‘Kooch Na Karin’, sung by Azhar Abbas with lyrics by Haleem Jalandhari. It is both beautifully sung and written. A romantic number, this one has qawwali-fused elements and is right up Shani Arshad’s alley as music director. From top to bottom, an unabashed love song, it has the potential to go beyond the film’s narrative.
In the end, the soundtrack of Load Wedding, though not intolerable, is uneven. Mercifully, it includes five songs that are short in duration, and that must be applauded particularly since editing in Pakistani films is such a confused notion that films tend to be longer than they should be.
The OST meant to be culturally rich and rooted makes you wonder what else will be passed off in the name of culture of Punjab, as was said by Fizza Ali Meerza, COO of Filmwala Pictures in a statement: “The music of Load Wedding is very different from our last three films. We have made sure that the music is very culturally rich and rooted. It will definitely be loved by the audience and will remind them of the beautiful Punjab.”
The OST is consequently uneven at best and how its sound applies to the visual of beautiful Punjab, only the film will tell.