When it comes to love stories, the story of Laila Majnu is quite popular. There have been several versions, different visions, many movies and shows on these two characters madly in love. In 2018, Sajid Ali, Imtiaz Ali’s brother, shared his understanding of the epic love saga set in the Kashmir backdrop. The film stars Avinash Tiwary and Tripti Dimri in the lead roles.
When the film released two years ago, it received a great appreciation from the critics. The people who saw the movie in the theatre were in awe of the story, actors and their performances, music, scenic visuals of Kashmir and the intense emotions it derives. However, despite so many positives, it didn’t perform well at the box office. But two years later, when many people saw the movie on the OTT platform, they regret not watching it in the theatre.
I do not have that regret. I loved the trailer, the promising faces as Qais and Laila and the music of Laila Majnu. Also, who doesn’t want to enjoy Kashmir’s beauty on the big screen? Till today, I don’t find appropriate words to describe what watching the movie felt like to me. I felt love and pain at the same time; I laughed, cried, experienced the passion and madness. I saw the heartbreaking fate of two fierce lovers on the screen. It can go on and on. But as much as the story is intriguing and the performances are brilliant, the music plays a great catalyst in enhancing Ali’s movie.
Music composers Niladri Kumar, Joi Barua and Alif have composed the songs for Sajid Ali’s Laila Majnu. The lyrics are penned by one of the best lyricists in the industry, Irshad Kamil. Every time you listen to any random song, it feels like you’re listening to it for the first time. The songs in this movie have a life, a story to tell of their own.
When I asked Niladri Kumar about the response to the songs in the movie, he answered, “It’s good to know in these superfast changing times even after two years since release people still celebrate them. I didn’t compose these songs to be celebrated only as compositions; rather my focus was on how my music the songs would best depict & take the narrative of the film forward. If the music enhances the script and enriches the sensibilities of the viewers which are supposed to be conveyed in the film, I think that’s were my main intent lied.”
Joi Barua’s Gayee Kaam Se gives us a perfect description of how Tripti Dimri’s Laila is. So there’s no waste of time in showing 20 mins of what kind of personality she possesses. In just 4 mins, you fall in love with the character and become a part of the storyline. Another fascinating track in the movie is Tum. It tells that two people have realised they’re falling for each other, but rather stay quiet. ‘Aankhein bolein ho lab pe khamoshi…’ means that Qais and Laila didn’t need words to describe what they think of each other. Eyes speak out the message. That’s what we enjoyed in the first half of the movie with the track played in the background.
Niladri Kumar’s Aahista is my other favourite of the movie. The lines ‘Mere hona Aahista, Aahista’ tells us that Qais and Laila do not want to hurry in love. The song is soothing, but there’s a bittersweet feeling one experiences when they listen to it. The song calms your mind but not without telling you the plight of two lovers who want to be together but the circumstances aren’t in their favour. It intends to let this feeling sink in their souls and yours too. The song has the same tune as Tum yet is it transpires you to a different world.
About the same, Niladri shared, “Tum – was the first song I had composed long before even Aahista or the other songs were in the pipeline. When the script got tighter & the shooting schedules were closing in suddenly the song Tum did not have a place in the narrative and an outright love, longing, emotional, heart wrenching whatever you may call it the song was required. Aahista was born then. Hence you are right when you feel they are so similar yet so apart.”
The Laila Majnu composer added, “Aahista was born out of Tum. And as each one has its destiny, each song also has its destiny. Tum found a place back after the film was shot. Not on my insistence but as naturally as it could get. It just fit in where you see it in the film. Aahista almost as how the name suggests slowly intoxicated everyone who heard it almost like slow poison & the rendition of Arijit Singh, Jonita in Aahista & Atif Aslam (Tum) & the separate version of Javed Ali for Tum, all contributed in the magic.”
In the second half, the madness grows. Avinash Tiwary’s Qais transform on Majnu. Yet again, we are not told this directly by any particular character. We witness Qais’ journey of commencing into the world of Majnu with the song Hafiz Hafiz. Crooned by Mohit Chauhan, his vocals and Irshad Kamil’s words hit you with Majnu’s pain and emotions through this song. This song is another proof of how the movie was not only about acting, music played an integral part in the storytelling.
Niladri Kumar, who also composed Hafiz Hafiz agreed that music does play a key role in Laila Majnu’s storytelling. He shared, “I hope it did. The audience is the final judge of that. Because if it didn’t, I’d wonder what was I doing there then. The songs not just played a great role in the storytelling, but it gave it that unique envelope & canvas of sound & colour, which made it stand out in the crowd. I just felt this beautiful film Laila Majnu should have been watched by way more people than it actually did back then for it did have that incredible freshness in all aspects especially in the music.”
The music of Laila Majnu is an amalgamation of different compositions by Niladri Kumar and Joi Barua. But if you listen to them in one go, it doesn’t feel like different individuals created them. The songs of this album feel like a work of the single soul. So were the musicians aware of what the other is composing? Kumar revealed, “Yes & No. I was aware of what the other songs were like in the film & it did not come in my way in any aspect. Thanks to the director Sajid Ali also because I was composing after I had a few narrations of the song sequences from him and what it had to convey in the film was entirely left to my own imagination and feeling and it turned out to be in sync with the director’s sensibilities too.”
These songs are mesmerising in their own way. But one cannot forget the title track composed by Joi Barua. The song is a cheerful version telling the story of these crazy, young, carefree and passionate lovers. It’s fascinating how the lyrics go well with what we watch in the 2 hours of this movie. A year ago, when I spoke to Avinash Tiwary, he called it the album the best of 2018. When the music composers didn’t win National Award, many fans expressed their disappointment on social media.
Today, Laila Majnu completes two years. But a lot of people are still discovering it. Fans are writing the anatomy of the characters; they are trying to find different meanings of the dialogues and songs. As Avinash had told me once in an interview, “Imtiaz sir told me that a film is full of life and if it’s ending good, it will keep growing and keep finding its audience.”