I rate M.M. Kreem as one of the most skilled melody makers of Indian cinema. That he has so far not been able to make any headway in Bollywood in spite of outstanding tracks like "Gali mein aaj chand nikla" ("Zakham"), "Aa bhi ja" ("Sur") and "Jadoo hai nasha hai" ("Jism") just goes to show how much of mainstream Hindi cinema values mediocrity at the cost of true talent.
Kreem finally gets to do a truly big Bollywood film. "Paheli" is a Shah Rukh Khan production. Its Rajasthani folk-tale ambience gives Kreem a chance to do what he always was meant to -- create a complete sound signifying the birth of a composer who can pull Bollywood out of its musical morass.
The thing about Kreem is, he knows the ins and outs of every musical style. It's almost as though he knows where the music will flow in every melody, so that the cascade appears smooth and complete each time.
The smoldering sensuality of the opening track "Dheere jalna" just blows your mind. Like every Kreem creation, this one is a dream in semi-slow motions, designed to trigger a feeling of impending catharsis in the listener.
Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghosal have put their soul into what is one of the year's flawlessly orchestrated love ballads.
"Kangna re" has a slight "Saathiya" sound to it. But that's more to do with the quality rather than content of the song. Again Shreya and Sonu, joined by Madhushree, create an earthy erotica.
Charged and electrifying, "Paheli" gives us an entirely new sound to hold on to. The frisky folk-Rajasthani sound of "Phir raat kati" disappoints. But then you get into its gambolling mould and follow the flighty tune to its farcical finale.
My favorite after "Dheere jalna" is "Khaali hai tere bin" sung with serenading grace by Hariharan (who's hardly singing these days). Gulzar's lyrics create an ambience oozing a sighing sensuality. Sounds of diyas being extinguished, hearts being broken by the follies of destiny and lips moving to the rhythm of the soul assail our senses.
The deep ebony colours of the sound contrast well with the sandy brown of the Rajasthani milieu. The voices that are used always bring out the stirring echoes of feelings that run deep. Shreya Ghosal, Madhushree and Bela Shende in the softly poetic "Minnat kare" and Kreem, Sonu and Shruti Sadolkar in "Laaga re jal laaga" ignite passionate sentiments.
Paheli is not your run-of-the-mill soundtrack. It's got a great deal of that quality known as melodic wisdom. The quality seeps through the luminous poetry and irrigates the very essence of the drama that unfolds through the songs.