The Oxford dictionary defines ‘Theme Music’ as “music that is played at the beginning and end and/or is often repeated in a film, television programme, etc.” But is that the only thing it does? I was 14, my cousin who was 26 then introduced me to Mani Ratnam’s Bombay, a film that I hold close to my heart (and is on this list too). The amateur Bollywood fan in me sensed something different in there. After half a decade and at least hundreds of films later, the now-adult boy could understand it was AR Rahman who spoke to me differently in Bombay, it was his theme that kept me awake.
A film is made of innumerable elements, but if it is a piece of art made with all the passion and love for music, the theme song is the thread in that necklace. It does not have to be tragic all the time. It could be John Abraham riding his bike to the beats of adrenaline-boosting Pritam’s Dhoom track or Paro running towards her dying Dev while Ismail Darbar’s crescendo plays with our hearts in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas, the themes have stayed with us.
As we continue to marvel at Bollywood’s capabilities of churning our melodies after melodies, I at Koimoi list some of my favourite themes that will be with me till my days on Earth (maybe I will take them to space too, if Elon takes me).
In my opinion, Bombay belongs more to A R Rahman than to anyone else after Mani Ratnam. The film is a classic example of how music can define a film. Bombay theme music is a blueprint of what happens in the film. There is soothe in the flute and destruction in the orchestra. You could mute the dialogues and watch Bombay with just the background score, it would still be crystal clear. Rahman’s genius!
BLACK (MICHELLE’S THEME)
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s universes have a lot to say. The filmmaker who believes in poetry depends a lot on his music to tell the story. Black specifically was about a mute and blind girl. Monty Sharma builds theme music that defines Michelle. A silent opening to the mute world, a hand to pull her in the light indicates the lifting crescendo, that transits into a high pitch operatic orchestra. Fun fact: this also became the theme for Bhansali’s production house and is used till date.
If there is one theme that speaks of melancholy, hope and comfort together it has to be October. Shantanu Moitra is the man of themes and no one can take away his uniqueness away from him. While Dan and Shuily are pieces of a puzzle there is more of Dan’s confused emotions and a sprinkle of Shuili’s suspense. Shantanu takes instruments and makes them talk to each other and creates a melody that is till date sitting like a knot in my stomach.
ROCKSTAR (DICHOTOMY OF FAME)
Trust Rahman to move you with just Theme music pieces in Bollywood, even without a back story. It’s a jugalbandi between two instruments that function in a tad opposite zone, a Shehnai and a guitar. But it’s Rahman and his sensibilities that can make even door banging sound melodious. Dichotomy Of Fame takes you to height and leaves you there, feel the air, let the instruments take you on a ride.
Some might call this a misfit, but revisit the initial Race (which was the best in the series), and you might just notice it was Pritam’s them music that made it all the more exciting. There’s thrill, groove, pace, drift and all of the above excitement in that piece and for me, it definitely deserves to be on this list.
DEV D (CHANDA)
While Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas gave this story the most magnum opus touch it could get, Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D turned the world upside down. The same with the theme music pieces in both. Dev and Chanda’s love story is doomed and Amit Trivedi makes sure their theme reflects that. A ghostly whistle, while the angry piano plays its high note, is the most underrated piece of music. Give this one a chance.
We found ourselves in Piku and Bhaskor Da and Anupam Roy and Pratyush Banerjee added comfort to the tale Shoojit Sircar weaved. Piku’s sarod theme music is the reminiscing in the old times while you revisit the happy corner of your heart. The second one was just a person whistling like you would expect a happy man walking on the streets of Kolkata on a breezy day, while you hear him do that from your window. This is a happy tune you must listen to.