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Surf Board: ‘The Unheard’ film music podcast

'The Unheard', curated and hosted by composer-singer Shankar Mahadevan, picks up the highly underrated music from the film 'Aiyyaa' for its first episode

Rani Mukerji in a still from ‘Aiyyaa’.
Rani Mukerji in a still from ‘Aiyyaa’.

The announcement of a new podcast about Hindi film albums “that didn’t get due recognition" was welcomed by film music buffs on social media. The Unheard, available on the music-streaming website, and curated and hosted by composer-singer Shankar Mahadevan, picked up for its first episode (13 December), the highly underrated music from the film Aiyyaa (2012). A thread discussing personal favourites from the album followed. It isn’t as if the songs have been forgotten by listeners who take Hindi film music seriously, but it feels like vindication—a belated, official recognition of a song or album you noticed far before the world did.

Mahadevan, an articulate, respected artiste, is an ideal choice to helm this programme. It allows him to be critical of his younger colleagues. For instance, in the second episode—on Issaq, composed by Sachin-Jigar, Krsna Solo and Sachin Gupta—he says the quality of Mohit Chauhan’s voice is better than his singing talent. At another point, he sounds pleasantly surprised at Ankit Tiwari’s ability to feature in a song (Aag Ka Dariya) that doesn’t sound like his career-defining hit Galliyan. “Why do they make him sing the same kind of songs that sound like someone has died?" he says. In praise, he is not only generous but refreshingly constructive. In the 39-minute episode on Aiyyaa, Mahadevan calls composer Amit Trivedi “forward thinking", a “champion of electronic music", praises Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics and describes his pairing with Trivedi as “legendary".

He points out the use of drums and keys at the start of the song Dreamum Wakeupum as reminiscent of the music played on the streets at Dandiya and Ganapati festivities. Aiyyaa, has a humorous quality, he observes, an elusive element in our film songs. With a keen ear for the small things and the insights of an insider, Mahadevan is like a fan, critic and composer all at once.

The podcast also gives you the feeling of an ideal kind of show on radio—where the songs aren’t chopped off to meet the demands of airtime. Even the 2-minute piano-shehnai prelude to Mehak Bhi is played to its full length.

Many of Mahadevan’s recent compositions (as part of the trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) would fall in the “unrecognized" category—the most recent being Mirzya. For the success of a song is increasingly beyond the control of a composer. It depends on too many external factors: the movie’s commercial success/failure, lack of enough promotion for some songs, and, in others, no promotion at all. You can sense the despair in Mahadevan’s words, especially when he rings up one of the artistes during the show. “The actual top 10 is usually not our favourite. You and me, both of us know that," he tells Sachin of Sachin-Jigar. And when Bhattacharya says director Sachin Kundalkar gave them complete creative freedom for Aiyyaa, Mahadevan laments, “Wish we could get this kind of freedom in every movie."

Here’s a show that will never run out of music.

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