Shani Arshad returns to film music with big names like Atif Aslam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan for the soundtrack of Actor in Law. Instep lends an ear
It goes without saying that the re-emergence of Pakistani cinema (from the dust that it had turned into) has given the music industry a new lease on life. In the absence of record labels, film music seems like a golden ticket for artistes as producer’s have the rights to air these songs on TV channels and it means that their voice gets heard by the masses instead of a select, hyper-reactive social media audience. But at the same time, it becomes equally important for artistes, musicians and producers to lend film music a unique sound; an identity of its own. While films like Moor, Manto and Ho Mann Jahaan, to some extent, have given us melodies that stand their own ground, the rest have more or less followed the herd, drawing inspiration from their Bollywood counterparts where music offers nothing but a tune for people to dance on around trees.
With each passing film, it seems the trend is here to stay. Though Shani’s earlier offering, in collaboration with Kami, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi wasn’t much of a chartbusting affair or for that matter even a memorable one, one hoped that his latest venture would finally buck the trend given his last, Diyar-e-Dil’s OST, was quite a masterpiece. Frankly, Actor in Law’s soundtrack does manage to pull that off but only with a drawstring that’s hanging right at the edge of Pakistani and Bollywood music dichotomy. Of course, it’s Atif Aslam’s presence that first intrigues one to give it a listen but thankfully it’s not the only song that manages to leave an impression, if not a lasting one.
But first, let’s talk about the much-hyped Atif song, ‘Dil Dancer Hogaya’. It’s indeed quite different from the breezy, romance-meets-melancholy sort of ballads that we associate with Atif’s Bollywood alter ego. This one’s more on the peppy side with silly Amitabh Battacharya sort of lyrics that are increasingly popular in B-town but have rarely been spotted on Atif’s career graph. It’s then understandable why he chose to sing the song; it offers him an opportunity to step out of his comfort zone. But while the song is different and has a likeable melody, it isn’t memorable enough and certainly not one of Atif’s greatest hits. The reason being that it’s mostly Atif who is selling the song and not the song doing much on its own.
Moving on we have Asrar Shah, who is his usual, pitch-high, aggressive self in ‘Funkaraan’ and the lack of polish works in the song’s favour that talks about a young adult’s frustration with life and the prevalent system. It’s layered with wacky sounds and has some novelty value, which is missing from Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s ‘Khudaya’. We’ve all heard the sad, melodramatic, call to God many times before and while Rahat’s vocals are powerful and engaging, there is nothing special here. The sound is dated and lacks originality.
The album only features four songs, the fifth being a reprise version of the title song, ‘Actor in Law’. Composer Shani takes to the mic for the original which starts off with an interesting, energetic prelude of strings but then dips straight into ordinary, coming across as mostly loud and flat in terms of both the sound and the vocals. The reprise version isn’t any different either.
Overall, Actor-in-Law’s soundtrack is fairly entertaining but with significant hiccups and little lasting value.