Rewind 2022: The finest Bollywood songs of the year

Budding composers OAFF-Savera, Parag Chhabra rise up the ranks. Young talents Lothika and Sireesha Bhagavatula make a bright start to their Bollywood careers. Seasoned maestros Sonu Nigam, Sukhwinder Singh add another feather to their illustrious cap.

By Mayur Lookhar

2022. A year when the country was largely Covid-19 free. Now that itself was music to the ears. Make hay when the sun shines and Bollywood music maestros made the most of a Covid-19 free year.

This was a year where few budding music composers rose up the ranks. We were also introduced to a couple of mesmerizing tones in Sireesha Bhagavatula and Lothika. Some seasoned maestros, too, reminded that they are far from finished.

As always, originality is vital but we’re also impressed with a remake. Without further ado, we bring you our baker’s dozen of the finest Hindi film songs of the year.

13 Le Sajna – Babli Bouncer

Though a bouncer, Babli’s [Tamannaah Bhatia] affection for Viraj [Abhishek Bajaj] didn’t bounce over our head. Even the man is aware of the girl being infatuated by him. You just can’t take your eyes of Babli, who is falling head over heels for Viraj. The song is best enjoyed in its full version.  So, tune into your respective music app. 

Tanishk Bagchi has penned fine simple lyrics but it is his original soothing, groovy music and Altamash Faridi’s passionate singing that makes Le Sajna such a delightful number. How often do men tend to emote the feelings of a woman in such songs. Le Sajna is a must for all lovers.

12 Shamshera title track

Its music. lyrics, singing, every voice in the song do justice to the larger-than-life figure/spirit of Shamshera. The title track is a musical encore. Mithoon weaves his magic both as a lyricist and a composer in this spirited number. Sukhwinder Singh is a man made for these songs, but though brief, his co-singer Abhishek Nailwal nails his opportunity. The song is best enjoyed in the context of the film, its titular character. Though the song is played over compiled visuals, the intensity of Ranbir Kapoor brings the two characters (Shamshera, Balli) to life.

11 Jogan – Good Luck Jerry

A pupil of A.R. Rahman. He sings too. He’s done his engineering in IT from MIT, Pune. Parag Chhabra is a name that was relatively anonymous until he composed music for the Janhvi Kapoor-starrer dark comedy Good Lucky Jerry.

To the best of our knowledge, we’ve never comes across a Bollywood film whose music is a mélange of desi, Western, Hip hop, Arabic. The album felt like a buffet, where it was hard to ignore every delicacy. Each track has a minimum of four singers.  No, the third and fourth singers aren’t chorus artistes. Chhabra pulled in an array of talent to croon his out of the box numbers.

Each track played perfectly to the corresponding situation. We were mesmerized by the Jogan track that encompassed desi, western, Hip hop, Arabic, pop tunes but without compromising or breaking the core rhythm.

Romy Khan was the standout voice, but the others – Rupali Jagga, Nikhita Gandhi and Chhabra all left their mark. Perhaps Chhabra joined Khan in singing the Jogan lines.  We were impressed by the submissive bhajan-like lyrics that is crooned either by Jagga or Gandhi. All the conflict at hand makes Jerry feel like a Jogan at an early age. This track hits you like a prescribed drug, staying with you long after it is over.

10 Loop Lapeta title track

Parag Chhabra wasn’t the only young musical maverick this year. Looop Lapeta had the duo of Sidhant Mago, Mayank Mishra. A remake of German film Run Lola Run [1998]. We weren’t quite impressed with the film, but we were blown away by the title and the title track. The three Os in the Looop implied the three different probabilities that play out in the film. Sidhant Mago’s lyrics, the intro typified the dire situation that Savina Borkar [Taapsee Pannu] found herself in, running helter-skelter to arrange for money to save her beau from a certain death.

As the song continues, the lyrics get loopier. The second verse commences with former PM Jawaharlal Nehru loving roses, and then it veers to green root, green musk melon, Madhubala, lion, Hitler, Madhubala and her sister, heart disease, temple, roses and back to Nehru – circle of life. The clever lyrics define the mood of the film.     

The largely western tunes play out finely to the weird desi lyrics and singing. The accordion provides a soothing touch to an otherwise trippy track. The singing is special as one presumed this to be a unique female voice. We didn’t find any feminine names in the singing credit. That all the more makes Jay Anand’s tone special with Mago complementing him well. How can one not marvel at the Looop Lapeta title track?

9 Jehda Nasha – An Action Hero

A recreation by Tanishk Bagchi. The Punjabi folk was given a fine contemporary touch by Sufi-Blues rock band Faridkot in collaboration with Amar Jalal group. Their version three years ago was a pure delight. Tanishk Bagchi recreates the Amar Jalal-IP. Singh duet for the Bollywood film An Action Hero. The core remains the same with hardly any change in lyrics, but Bagchi just fine tunes it to give a slightly different flavour. The new additions to the track are the vocals of Harjot Kaur and Sri Lankan star Yohani. The contrasting tones of each vocalist makes Jehda Nasha such an intoxicating number. A particular beat partly triggers Michael Jackson’s In The Closet nostalgia.

Not known for his dancing, Ayushmann Khurrana pulled off some saucy moves. The dance behemoth here is the goddess, Nora Fatehi. She is all grace in that one traditional mudra. A special praise for the background dancers too. Who says we don’t like recreations? Make it as good as Jehda Nasha, and you have us in a spell.

8 Kesariya – Brahmastra

He usually figures in the top three, but Kesariya taking the eight spot has nothing to do with Arijit Singh. We found the following songs comparatively better. However, let’s not take anything away from the delightful singing of Singh. He’s mostly good with ballads, but we also admire how Arijit Singh enjoys these joyful romantic numbers. Singh gave another tour de force. Perhaps this effort is worthy of an award. It is best savored in its extended version. Singh’s closing effort, especially crooning of the word Kesariya in such a deep and powerful tone leaves you in a trance.

The song is all about a man raving about his woman’s beauty, equating her love to Kesariya [Saffron]. Save for the words Love Storiya we loved the rest of Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics. Add to it, Pritam’s delightful western pop score and we perhaps have the most popular Bollywood song of the year.

7 Main Ki Karaan? – Laal Singh Chaddha

We heard of fire and ice but this one feels like a blend of fire and honey. Romy Khan, the fire, while, Sonu Nigam the honey. The latter naturally is the lead vocalist, but the beauty of the Main Ki Karaan? song is the brief but powerful contribution of Punjab’s Romy Khan. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics epitomize the ‘love at first sight’ spirit. After seeing Rupa [Kareena Kapoor], Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha is clueless on what he should do. The song is poetic yet tinged few layman’s words – lattoo, nikhatoo, sau-pachaas. The simple lyrics are elevated by Sonu Nigam’s joyful singing playing to an equally joyful composition by Pritam.  How likely that you would find yourself whistling to the music!

6 Ghodey Pe Sawaar – Qala

No ghoda (horse), but young Sireesha Bhagavatula rode straight into our hearts as the leading voice of writer-director Anvitaa Dutt’s Qala [2022]. The young woman is a trained singer, one who took the popular reality TV route to come into limelight. Composer Amit Trivedi and Dutt lapped onto the precocious talent early.

In a film about melancholia, the Ghodey Pe Sawaar song is a heartening number. The audio will not reveal the preceding tension, despair as one is totally sucked into the delightful tone of Bhagavatula. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics, Amit Trivedi’s music and Bhagavatula’s tone define the music of the era. New or old, Ghodey Pe Sawaar could very well become every bachelor’s dream song.

5 Tere Saath Hoon Main – Raksha Bandhan

The lone bright spot in Aanand L Rai’s Raksha Bandhan was this enchanting track that celebrates a brother-sister bond. Usually, this bond is difficult to express in words. Irshad Kamil is a master of writing romantic songs, ballads. The ace lyricist admitted to having a challenge. Kamil drew from his own personal experiences to pen such a nostalgic number which brings out the tender moments that siblings shared while growing up. Fittingly the nostalgia is triggered the moment when a brother sees his little sister getting married. She will find a new home but the brother vows to stand by her sister through every thick and thin.

Former Indian Idol contestant Nihal Tauro gets the biggest break of his career. He grabs the opportunity with both hands, reveling in its nostalgic lyrics, mesmerizing music, to give a career defining performance. We wouldn’t say that Himesh Reshammiya, the composer is back to his best, but this beautiful desi composition is a reminder of his creativity. In the age of pop, it is such a delight to hear desi tunes. Another track that is enjoyed in its full version.

4 Doobey – Gehraiyaan

Parag Chhabra wasn’t the only unheralded musician to shine this year. Dharma Productions’ Gehraiyaan introduced us to two maverick composers in Kabeer Kathpalia aka OAFF and Savera. The duo has risen from the depths of Gehraiyaan, out to usher in their ‘atmospheric pop’ music. Jeez, the Doobey track hits you like a new savera [morning].

The moral police will mock the visuals as vulgar, but here is a song that defines the deep passion, the intimacy, the gehraiyaan between Deepika Padukone and Siddhant Chaturvedi in the Shakun Batra film.

It’s taken Kausar Munir to dive deep into her heart to bring out such a fine number that epitomizes the impatience, the anxiety, the deep urges of the two characters. It’s like two boats, two waves crashing into each other. The words wouldn’t have had the same effect without the deep intimacy between Padukone and Chaturvedi. In simple layman’s term, the song is all about how deep is your love?

A new savera in music, and a new savera in playback singing too with unheralded singer Lothika casting a spell on you. Ah, that intoxicating tone grips your senses instantly. And oh, that mild ‘huh’ falsetto is simply mesmerizing. Lothika’s voice ebbs and flows like the tides. There is too much emphasis on being in control, but songs like Doobey require an artist to be lost in the depth of its lyrics and music. That second verse hits you like a fine wine leaving both Lothika and the listener sloshed. Who wouldn’t love to be drowned in Lothika’s tone?

If you listen carefully, Lothika isn’t the lone vocalist here. There is the frail male tone that syncs with Lothika’s crooning of the words,” Yun takra gaye’. Is that Kathpalia?

OAFF and Savera’s ‘atmospheric pop’ may have a sense of déjà vu to it, yet it feels like a breath of fresh air for all humble Bollywood music lovers. Doobey is another great example of music having no language. Here’s a Hindi track beating majestically to western tunes. This Doobey from Lothika, Savera and OAFF, uff, it seeped into the gehraiyaan of our soul.

3 Shauq – Qala

The lyrics, setting makes it apt to be called the song of the sea. The music, singing flows like the still waters of Himachal. The music is bare minimum as the track rides on a fine poetry by Varun Grover. Swanand Kirkire opens the track, then Sireesha chips in before being stopped in her track by Urmila [Swastika Mukherjee] – part of the plot. It is a Shahid Mallya show from hereon. There’s a languid elegance to Mallya’s voice which is the demand of the song. From the intro to the close, this is smooth sailing all the way.

2 Phero Na Najariya – Qala

The English translation [don’t avoid eye contact] is so dull. Though Hindi playback music has seen dozens of tracks that play on populist words aankhonaankhen, nainnaina, but the use of najarnajariya gives it a classic touch. Heartening to see a Thumri track in a Bollywood film. The connoisseurs are better equipped to comment. The simpleton in us is left stunned by the style, tone, music. Here is a subtle reminder of the power of Hindustani music. Take a bow, Kausar Munir [lyricist]. We submit our soul to Sireesha Bhagavatula [singer].

1 Kahani Sonu’s version – Laal Singh Chaddha

Sonu Nigam crooning for a T-Series production came like a bolt from the blue. The film already had a Kahani sung by Mohan Kannan. Then through the fag end of the promotions, came Kahani Sonu’s version. With due respect to Kannan, but he could never tell the desired ‘kahani’. Maybe, it was not T-Series but Aamir Khan’s call to have Kahani in Sonu’s voice too. It doesn’t matter who took the call, but we have arguably the finest Hindi song of the year.

Lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya’s Kahani encompasses the kahani of life in a philosophical, poetic way. Every couplet is filled with a ‘is it this or that?” conundrum. Oh, the poetry alone is so enchanting. Add the masterful singing by Sonu Nigam and Pritam’s soothing score, every ounce of our senses is filled with a story. Nigam brings his experience, the trademark Sonu ‘thairav’ [stillness] charming us with another vintage slice of life track.

We don’t know about the awards do, but Kahani takes the top spot for us. You will realise its true worth only through the complete version. Tune into your respective music app to unravel the magic of Kahani.

Special Mention

Manike Mage Hithe – Yohani

Our special mention this year takes us to our Southern coastal border where a certain voice from The Emerald Isle took not just the desis, but also the world by storm. Sri Lankan Yohani Diloka De Silva is 29 but she looks 16. She took to You Tube to express her talent. Soon she came to be known as the Rap princess of Sri Lanka. The global recognition came when she released her mesmerizing romantic song Manike Mage Hithe. Limited music, but just the sheer quality of her voice won over the world. Music has no language, and Yohani’s global popularity is an example of it. Her voice and innocent expression melted many hearts.

That success opened the door for her in Bollywood where Manike Mage Hithe was remade for the film Thank God [2022]. Of course, the remake was poor. The magic of the original Manike Mage Hithe will reverberate for eternity.

Ponni Nadhi – Ponniyin Selvan 1

The other special mention comes from Sri Lanka’s coastal neighbor our own state of Tamil Nadu. A.R. Rahman joined forces with filmmaker Mani Ratnam to score music for the epic PS: 1. This opening credit song Ponni Nadhi celebrated the river Kaveri aka Ponni in its true spirit. The Tamil audience is the best judge of the lyrics, but we were left mightily impressed with the Ponni Nadhi composition. There is pure joy in every visual, every beat, and the Tamil tone of A.R. Rahman.


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