2017 stood out in recent memory with a number of Bollywood movies having pretty good soundtracks, unlike in the last few years, where there have been excellent movies at the very top but the best at the bottom of the table. While compiling this list, we have kept in mind the album as an independent listen, how well a soundtrack sat with the movie, background score, and innovation, giving emphasis to the mentioned points in the order they have been listed.
10. Qarib Qarib Singlle
Starting the list of the best in 2017 is Irrfan Khan-Parvathy starrer Qarib Qarib Singlle. Rochak Kohli and Vishal Mishra have composed the film’s music.
Vishal Mishra infuses Raj Shekhar’s fun lyrics (Na jaane kyun tanne samajh na aave; Kya tere bheje mein bhoosha bhara‘) in a high-tempo fusion of folk and electronic music in ‘Khatam Kahaani’, sung robustly by the Nooran Sisters, Jyoti and Sultana. The sheer variety of instruments including khartaal, morchang, and harmonium, among many others makes this track a winner. Mishra’s other track in the film, ‘Jaane De’, sung by Atif Aslam, immediately became the biggest hit as soon as it was released. While the melody may start edging towards a heard-before feel, especially because of Atif’s voice, the instrumental arrangement makes this melodious track special. The clarity of each sound and the clever use of many instruments is indeed brilliant.
Rochak Kohli’s composition ‘Tu Chale Toh’ is a breezy listen, delivered masterfully by Papon. It fits perfectly in the movie’s premise (of being a journey/self-discovery film), and the change in tempo mid-way is a nice surprise. Kohli’s other composition, ‘Tanha Begum’ has a strong ‘Saigal Blues’ (Delhi Belly) vibe to it (which of course is because it is a take on the popular Raag Bhairavi based thumri ‘Babul Mora Naihar Chhooto Hi Jaaye’. Kundan Lal Saigal’s version of the track in Street Singer (1938) is the most remembered one). Antara Mitra and Neeti Mohan join forces for this QQS track and match the groovy and electronic setting of the song with their vocals. The lyrics, penned by Hussain Haidry, are a highlight and should be celebrated by women. No wonder the promotions have been calling it an ‘anthem’. The ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle Mashup’ mixed by Ali Merchant is the only miss of the album and why the filmmaker/producers decided to go ahead with it remains anyone’s guess.
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9. Secret Superstar
Amit Trivedi has composed the film’s soundtrack, while the lyrics of the film have been written by Kausar Munir, with the duo joining forces after Dear Zindagi. 16-year-old debutant playback singer Meghna Mishra gives voice to Insiya’s dreams. Trivedi’s album is extremely situational. Starting with ‘Main Kaun Hoon’, where there is a rebellious tone which is delivered perfectly by Mishra, especially as the song soars. ‘Meri Pyari Ammi’, a self-explanatory song, is heartwarming, more due to Munir’s lyrics and Mishra does a fine job here as well. ‘Sapna Re’ has a beautiful and playful melody. The earthy rhythm and beautiful orchestration make this song stand out, in that it’s not just the lyrics and Mishra’s signing keeping us interested. ‘O Re Manwa’ is the ‘sad song’ of the film, but Trivedi’s melody and Mishra’s vocals make it distinct among the dozens of melancholy tracks that are churned out by Bollywood.
Trivedi gives us another debutante in Kushal Chokshi. ‘I’ll Miss You’ is a lovely song about teenage love. The lyrics are primarily in Hindi, but the English and Gujarati phrases (“Hu tanne prem karun chhu”) make it an endearing listen. ‘Nachdi Phira’ is once again a Meghna Mishra show who does a brilliant job of conveying Munir’s lyrics. The 16-year-old singer has copious amounts of talent, and it is thoroughly on display in this song, her falsetto is equally as impeccable as the few gamaks she sings. ‘Sexy Baliye’ is a fun spin on ‘Nachdi Phira’, and Mika Singh playfully delivers what is supposed to be a trashy dance song. Sunidhi Chauhan also gets a song in ‘Gudgudi’; this one is through and through a happy Amit Trivedi song.
Secret Superstar is not an album that could be enjoyed a great deal as an independent listen, and there is nothing wrong with it because that is the film’s premise. Composer Trivedi has done a great job, but this album is a winner primarily due to lyricist Munir’s work and of course, the real superstar, Meghna Mishra.
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If one is familiar with the work of Raghu Dixit, ‘Shugal Laga Le’ sounds familiar, in a good way. The upbeat song rides on a folk sound and the composer also sings it, doing a fine job with the same. ‘Darmiyaan’ is the melancholic song of the film, also sung by Dixit. While it might not be the song that many revisit after watching the movie or listening to the album independently, it is good to hear a sad song in a Bollywood film that doesn’t sound like any other (also down to the fact that Dixit decided to do the singing himself rather than get Arijit Singh).
Nikhita Gandhi is in fine form in ‘Tan Tan’, the pick of the album. Dixit’s instrumental arrangement in this song is brilliant. It features a lot of guitars, trumpets and horns. Shahid Mallya, a singer who should feature a lot more than he does, is roped in by Dixit for ‘Khoya Khoya’. The singing is fantastic, as is expected from Mallya, but the melody is average and hence it doesn’t leave much of an impact. ‘Banjaara’ again sounds very Raghu Dixit and indeed is in the same mould as ‘Shugal Laga Le‘ but Vishal Dadlani’s energetic vocals ensure there is something more going for it. Guest composer-lyricist team of Amaal Malik and Rashmi Virag come together for ‘Tere Mere’ and Armaan Malik comes behind the mic for this track. While it sounds like the music Malik has composed before, the song does make an impression.
Overall, the Chef soundtrack sits very well in the Saif Ali Khan’s feel-good film set largely in Kerala. In fact, the music of the film is arguably the most impressive thing about Raj Krishna Menon’s poor remake of Jon Favreau’s brilliant (2014) original. As an independent listen, Raghu Dixit and Ankur Tewari (lyricist) manage to ensure the album leaves a lasting impression. It is Dixit’s best work in Bollywood yet.
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7. Meri Pyaari Bindu
Sachin-Jigar have had a busy year, having composed music for six Bollywood (and four Gujarati) films. The duo managed some decent tracks in some of their films; however, in Meri Pyaari Bindu, Sachin Sanghvi and Jigar Saraiya rose above expectations and produced an absolute winner.
The album, penned by Kausar Munir primarily, has a lot of songs for the romantics. The breezy ‘Afeemi’ sung by Sanah Moidutty and Jigar Saraiya is a pleasant listen with all elements coming together wonderfully, from the singing to the simple orchestration. ‘Maana Ke Hum Yaar Nahi’ was the “song of the movie” with all promos relying on Parineeti Chopra getting behind the mic for the first time. Considering she shared space with Ayushman Khurana who almost always croons for his movies, it was a surprise that Sachin and Jigar wanted the female lead to do the singing this time, but in hindsight, it was an incredibly wise move. Not only did that sell the film more, with Chopra having more mainstream pull than her co-star, she also did a really decent job of the vocals. She’s definitely not a natural but her deep and raspy voice is perfect for the ballad. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it sounds like she has practised hard to get it right and not just relied on audio processing. The alternate version of the song features Sonu Nigam and is an improvement for those who don’t like to see non-musicians try. While Priya Saraiya has penned some nice lyrics for it, ‘Haareya’ has nothing going for it apart from the fact that Arijit Singh sings it, unfortunately enhancing its heard-before feel.
The big winners of the album would be the two dance tracks which are not item numbers, remixes or Punjabi-rap-dance-remade songs. ‘Ye Jawaani Teri’ is RD Burman style rock n roll and Nakash Aziz and Jonita Gandhi comfortably complement the song’s energy with their singing. The organs, trumpet and saxophone form key in the orchestration for this Pancham flavoured track. The use of trumpet sounds incredible in ‘Iss Tarah’. Sachin-Jigar rope in musician couple Clinton Cerejo and Dominique Cerejo to do the singing, and of course, the experienced Cerejos don’t disappoint in playing to the song’s Indipop feel.
It would certainly be a matter of choice but Khol De Baahein is arguably the pick of the album. Monali Thakur’s singing is the focal point of attention because of the minimal use of instruments, and she absolutely nails the whispered singing. I can’t vouch for what they mean but the song wouldn’t sound as incredible without the Bengali phrases in it, and guest lyricist Rana Mazumdar can’t be thanked enough for this!
Considering Badlapur essentially had three songs, Meri Pyaari Bindu is Sachin-Jigar’s best work since Shuddh Desi Romance.
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One of the more ambitious Bollywood efforts from 2017 was Anushka Sharma’s Phillauri. Due to the film’s premise, the soundtrack is rooted in Punjabi folk music, and first-time composer Shashwat Sachdev has done a stellar job.
Shashwat was initially commisioned to compose a single track for the album. He composed ‘Dum Dum’, the opening track of the album, and it was brilliant enough to go on and get Sachdev the job of composing the entire album. While it has three versions (two featuring Romy and Vivek Hariharan and the ‘reprise’ version sung by actor-singer Diljit Dosanjh), the two with Romy leave a bigger impression with the singer infusing a lot of life and heart into the song, though of course, Dosanjh does a fine job as well. One of the best tracks to come out this year ‘Sahiba’ is again sung by Romy who is accompanied by Pawni Pandey. The Sufi love ballad has everything going for it. The singing is beautiful, lyrics from screenwriter Anvita Dutt stir the soul and Sachdev hits it out of the park with the melody and the instrumental arrangement. The plucked strings, the guitar and the percussions sound incredible.
‘Bajaake Tumba‘ and ‘Naughty Billo’ are bhangra/gidda (folk dance) numbers and are quite enjoyable. Naturally, both derive inspiration from traditional Punjabi songs but Sachdev’s good orchestration in the former and use of electronic elements in the latter give them their own distinct spin.
There are two (wedding themed) songs composed by Jasleen Royal for Phillauri. ‘Whats Up’ is the energetic dance track which has Mika Singh at his spirited best. However, Royal having heavily impressed with another ‘shaadi song’ in Baar Baar Dekho (Nachde Ne Saare) last year, kind of falls flat here, in comparison. ‘Din Shagna Da’ is a popular number at North Indian weddings and Royal does a rendition for Phillauri. We were reminded of Royal’s Phillauri version more recently when snippets from Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli’s wedding were released, with this song playing when Sharma walked towards her groom to be. That aside, it is quite forgettable as Royal’s singing becomes monotonous and starts working against its traditional beauty.
The soundtrack played a huge role in the film and indeed its true heroes are debut composer Shashwat Sachdev, and the singer of a majority of songs, Romy. We can’t wait to see more of the two in 2018!
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5. OK Jaanu
Shaad Ali roped in the magical AR Rahman-Gulzar combination to recreate the tunes for his Hindi remake of OK Kanmani.
Rahman leads the vocals on the title track. The original title track ‘Mental Manadhil’ also had a female version which is missing in the Hindi soundtrack. The fun song works with its techno backdrop, though the lyrics from Gulzar are quite disappointing.
‘Enna Sona’ doesn’t sound like traditional Rahman but it is infectious, and Arijit Singh sounds like a dream in this melodious track. ‘Jee Lein’ sounds quintessentially like Rahman and is almost exactly ‘Theera Ulaa’ from OKK except for the part where Neeti Mohan steps in. The airy orchestration and Rahman’s soft-EDM backdrop against the vocals are soothing. ‘Kaara Fankaara’ is as enjoyable as it gets and employs a host of vocalists – rappers Hard Kaur and Aaryan Dinesh Kanagarathnam for the energetic rap and Shashaa Tirupati, Paroma Dasgupta and Ashima Mahajan for the melodic parts of the song.
‘Naane Varugiraen’, sung beautifully by Shashaa Tirupati and ably supported by Sathya Prakash is a beast of a song in OK Kanmani and arguably the best. Consequently, people who heard it were keen to see what the remake has in store. Jonita Gandhi comes in for ‘Saajan Aayo Re’, and her effort here is admirable. She does a great job and is well supported by Nakash Aziz, but sadly, once you’ve heard the original in Tirupati’s voice, it’s difficult to settle for anything else. Thankfully, Shashaa is present to deliver the goods as Rahman gets her to croon ‘Sunn Bhavra’, an original for Shaad Ali’s film. With the change from Tamil to Hindi, the song is composed the Hindustani classical way. Set to Raag Bihaag, Tirupati comes and does a fabulous job in the semi-classical melody penned beautifully by Gulzar. Rahman uses ‘Maula Wa Sallim’ as is and features his son AR Ameen in it.
The only track not composed by Rahman, Badshah and Tanishk Bagchi’s recreation of the classic Humma Humma, is also a highly polarizing one. The remix provides fleeting gratification and a Hindi version of the mischievous ‘Parandhu Sella Vaa’ could’ve been a better choice. Though credit where its due, ‘The Humma Song’ became a massive hit, regardless and probably due to its criticism.
The comparison to the original film, as well as the soundtrack, is unavoidable. The remake can only recreate the magic of the original in a few places, both in the film as well as the album.
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Considering Rangoon is intended to be a musical, the soundtrack composed by Vishal Bhardwaj is extremely important to the film’s premise, and fulfils its intentions. At the outset, it must be expressed how unfortunate it is that Indian producers don’t give emphasis to background scores as they never include it in the album as part of the ‘original soundtracks’. It is even more appalling when there are short songs that definitely should be released with the album. It hence becomes difficult for reviewers and critics to do an adequate job analysing it as well. Two soundtracks and movies have suffered because of this. Thankfully, ‘Indian Movie BGMs’ has taken it upon themselves to fulfil this task.
Rangoon has terrific background music; in fact, the sense of the musical arrives in the beginning of the film (due to a few songs but) primarily due to the background score. Notably, when Jemadar Malik (Shahid Kapoor) and Julia (Kangana Ranaut) make their way around the wilderness in heavy rain, the beautiful Chinese influenced ‘Mudslide’ plays.
With Julia playing a leading film star and leading a dance troupe, ‘Bloody Hell’ encapsulates her badass character. Sung enthusiastically by Sunidhi Chauhan, the song has got karaoke sounding lyrics considering she dances to it in front of soldiers for whom the lyrics need to be easy. The song is certainly more enjoyable with the visuals and despite the use of trumpets and guitars, the part where Sunidhi sings with no orchestration stands out! Sukhwinder Singh, Vishal Bhardwaj, Kunal Ganjawala and KK come together to sing ‘Julia’ in a theatrical manner and this fits the premise of the movie would not be too enjoyable outside the movie. ‘Yeh Ishq Hai’ sung by Arijit Singh sounds like a Vishal Bhardwaj unplugged of Dil Se but it doesn’t stop it from being one of the best tracks on the album; in fact, it only enhances its appeal. Rekha Bhardwaj’s version of the song is a mini-qawaali, with its Sufi arrangement.
‘Ek Dooni Do’ are both upbeat and retro, with trumpets and accordions taking over. Gulzar’s playful lyrics in ‘Mere Miya Gaye England’ are striking (na jaane kahaan karenge land ke Churchill chaunke na). Full marks to Vishal Bhardwaj for doing a fabulous job paying ode to the most popular song with the mention of Rangoon while also introducing his own flavour (the shehnai for instance).
‘Alvida’, Arijit’s second song in the album is also the soundtrack’s best. Through his singing, Arijit Singh proves just why he composers keep flocking towards him. He conveys the beautiful words penned by Gulzar with conviction. The definitive combination of Bhardwaj and Gulzar pick up ‘Tap Tap Topi Topi’ that they created for the Indian adaptation of the Japanese cartoon series, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and expand on it in Rangoon’s ‘Tippa’. The song is an absolute winner with Sunidhi Chauhan leading and Rekha Bhardwaj, Sukhwinder Singh and O S Arun supporting her. The orchestration by Bhardwaj and his team, specifically the sound of chugging of a train providing the main hook, sounds fantastic.
Penned by Lekha Washington, Dominique Cerejo sings ‘Be still’ which is an intimate and whispery jazz piece while ‘Shimmy Shake’, sung by Vivienne Pocha, is more foot tapping and rock and roll.
Gulzar and Vishal Bhardwaj reserve their best work for Bhardwaj’s films. In comparison with their previous outings, most recently Haider, perhaps Rangoon falls short. Though for a 40s-based musical (in large parts), the soundtrack works brilliantly.
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3. Jagga Jasoos
Jagga is born with a stutter, and his father informs him that his stutter will go if he sings. Jagga sings, and so does everyone around him. Jagga Jasoos is Anurag Basu’s ambitious musical. Imagine then, how important the music is to the film. Imagine how hard Pritam must have worked to deliver the needs of a musical. And now imagine the sheer indifference of the producers that they are yet to release a complete soundtrack which has all the music inclusive of the acapellas, songlets and background score that drive the narrative of the film.
From a brilliant soundtrack that has an abundance of these, the producers have only included ‘Khana Khaake’ in the official album and it has been more than five months since the movie hit the theatres. Far more than for Rangoon, gratitude must be extended to ‘Indian Movie BGMs’ who have taken it upon themselves to fulfil the task of the producers.
‘Ullu ka pattha’, which is the best song from the album. Delivered perfectly by Arijit Singh and Nikhita Gandhi, with Ulule hook with the yodel effect sounding great, it is the brilliant flamenco guitar by Daniel García Diego that make the song as charming as it is. The only miss of the album, ‘Galti Se Mistake’ doesn’t sound like the renewed Pritam, but that of the five years back.
The melody of ‘Jhumritalaiyya‘ is quite soothing and Arijit does a good job delivering Neelesh Misra’s beautiful lyrics. The soft indie rock style orchestration is quite pleasant. Arijit Singh does a fantastic job with the soft ‘Phir Wahi’, written by Amitabh Bhattacharya, but it is once again the guitar work, this time by Nyzel D’lima and Roland Fernandes, that takes the cake. Tushar Joshi sings ‘Musafir’, the only song to not feature Arijit Singh. With soft piano at the back, it almost feels like the song was meant for an independent album and not a Bollywood film. The only background music track to be released in the album is ‘Khaana Khake’, perhaps because they thought it was more enjoyable as an independent listen than the others. Its a post-party number written cleverly by Amitabh Bhattacharya and would have the listener (or viewer) grinning.
The charm of the movie is the musicality of it. In fact, that is what the movie is. The segment called ‘The Mystery of the Clock Tower’ without music would be worthless. Even the dialogue is sung, it is poetic and the characters mostly converse in verse. Jagga Jasoos is not just reliant on music, it is music.
From a director who was regularly charged with plagiarism allegations, Pritam has truly done stellar work in recent times. It is no wonder that he decided to take a break, he certainly deserves it.
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Note: You can read a brilliant review of the entire soundtrack (inclusive of all the unreleased background music) on Music Aloud.
Mom with its hummable, catchy and chart-topping numbers, as well as some of the most innovative tracks with daring arrangements, makes for a stunning soundscape.
Another great lullaby from AR Rahman, ‘O Sona’ has a beautiful, soothing and sedative melody with lovely lyrics from Irshad Kamil. The only weakness of this track is Rahman’s singing which sounds laboured in a lot of places. Shashaa Tirupati assists him and even with a smaller part, considerably outperforms the composer. It takes some effort to get through the very unimpressive ‘Kooke Kawn’ which follows the Punjabi/party format and hardly sounds like Rahman. Sukhwinder Singh’s vocals don’t help either as the melody and instrumentation is highly generic, making this song the only miss of a really good album. ‘Raakh Baaki’ is captivating with Jonita Gandhi’s whispery singing and a psychedelic backdrop that raises intrigue. Gandhi is supported by Rianjali who has written and sung the English verses. An unsettling beat runs through the track that is punctuated with creaks and other bizarre sounds. ‘Freaking Life’ starts like an extension of ‘Raakh Baaki’ but is breezier. Raja Kumari, Rianjali and Suzanne D’Mello come together to sing this one and despite the repetitive ‘Freaking’, the song holds your attention.
The soundtrack’s best, ‘Chal Kahin Door’ is also reserved for Tirupati whose magical voice has left us transcended quite a few times. Rahman’s melody is easy and he further adorns the song with flutes and violin. Considering it starts soft and slow, the changes, including those with tempo are quite fantastic and come with the maestro’s territory. ‘Muafi Mushkil’ sees a fine vocal performance from Darshana KT. Experimental with an extended prelude that takes off all of a sudden, this makes for a beguiling listen. ‘Be Nazaara’ opens with shades of Raag Durga. The final song on the album, it is an electronic-classical fusion and a showcase of Sudeep Jaipurwala’s scintillating Hindustani vocals set against a psychedelic backdrop. The EDM riff that comes in along with the other synthesised sounds gives this Rahman composition a dark and brooding sound.
Mom was a film about a mother’s act of vengeance to fight the people who did her step-daughter wrong and eventually win her love. The film’s premise didn’t necessarily require so much experimentation with its soundtrack. Consequently, the experimental and innovative Mom album can be used as the most recent example of what makes Rahman so special, the finest in the country and certainly one of the best in the world.
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1. Jab Harry Met Sejal
After three outings with AR Rahman, Imtiaz Ali returned to Pritam for Jab Harry Met Sejal (after Jab We Met) and boy, does he deliver. Irshad Kamil has written the lyrics for all Imtiaz Ali films and this one is no different. The 13-track album is packed with great beats, a fusion of Punjabi folk with different genres, breezy synth-pop, a lot of innovation and some more hummable, Bollywood melodies.
‘Hawayein’ is classic Pritam. This is ‘Pritam the hit machine’, the Pritam the public loves. It’s important to have a song with more mass appeal like ‘Hawaein’ in the album, but the rest of the album offers a lot more and is why it is number one. ‘Raadha’ starts with Shahid Mallya’s earthy vocals before Sunidhi Chauhan takes over, but the song truly comes alive when it turns techno into the main hook. Diljit Dosanjh and Neeti Mohan sing ‘Raula’, another (Punjabi) dance song, which fares much better than ‘Butterfly’ which is the weakest track of the album despite an array of talented singers in Nooran Sisters, Sunidhi Chauhan, Dev Negi and Aaman Trikha ‘Beech Beech Mein’ is retro-funk with Warren Mendonsa and Ernest Tibbs working their magic with the guitar. It is also where Arijit Singh gets to show off his fantastic singing abilities as he bosses the falsetto. It’s a pity that Shalmali Kholgade and Shefali Alvares have little to do with the supporting role. ‘Safar’ is a beautiful melody with Irshad Kamil writing about Imtiaz Ali’s favourite subject, journey. The beautiful jazzy instrumentation with guitars leading the way behind Arijit Singh makes this song extremely captivating. ‘Hawaein’ also has Arijit Singh crooning the very Arijit Singh melody. The composer strips the orchestration and shows off the melody more in the ‘film version’ of the song, and Singh delivers both with finesse.
‘Parinda’ is where Punjabi folk and rock come together to create engaging results. Pardeep Sran does a stellar job in this fiery track leading the way with his traditional Punjabi folk vocals, and the rock elements (guitar, bass, and drums) sound incredible at the back. Another version of the piece has Tochi Raina singing this one to perfection. ‘Ghar’ has a terrific quaint quality to it with Nikhita Gandhi leading the track superbly, supported well by Mohit Chauhan. Portuguese singer Cuca Roseta, Jonita Gandhi and Mohd. Irfan soar in the melancholic ‘Yaadon Mein’, which carries a Latin tinge, with the piano, guitar and Portuguese guitar playing in the background. After the noisy ‘Butterfly’, thankfully the Nooran Sisters get another song. Another soulful track for the sisters in ‘Jee Ve Sohaneya’.
Composed by Grammy winner DJ Diplo in collaboration with Pritam and Rocky Wellseteck, ‘Phurr’ has been sung by Mohit Chauhan and Tushar Joshi. Pritam has built the melody on the electronic base Diplo composed and while it may take time to grow on the listener, the final result of some brilliant orchestration and energetic singing by Chauhan and Joshi leaves the listener captivated and charmed.
2017 was most definitely Pritam’s year. Unfortunately, both the movies where he produced stellar work, were also two of the biggest flops of 2017 as well, and consequently, the albums suffered as well. Sony Music didn’t help either by treating the soundtrack shabbily and relegating some songs to a post-release launch. Jab Harry Met Sejal certainly goes on the list of best Pritam albums and is a soundtrack that is loaded with incredible music and innovation throughout. After never finishing in the top 3 of A Humming Heart’s list of Top 10 Bollywood albums since its inception in 2014, Pritam has two albums in 2017.
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