Sometimes a film score comes along that, when listened to, leaves you a bit confused. You like what you hear but at the same time you come away from the listening experience disappointed. Mumbai-based composer Vipin Mishra’s music for the 2016 Indian action flick, Ghayal Once Again, is one of those film scores.
Written, directed and starring Sunny Deol, Ghayal Once Again is a sequel to the 1990 action-comedy Ghayal (also starring Deol). In the original film, Ajay Mehra (Deol) seeks revenge for the murder of his brother. This original movie was received quite well but the same cannot be said of the sequel as reviews for Ghayal Once Again are somewhat mixed. Seemingly fashioned into a sort of Mission: Impossible/True Lies/Jason Bourne-styled action film, Ghayal Once Again sees ageing Ajay Mehra coming to the rescue of a group of teenagers who have become the target of the local billionaire hoodlum. Putting aside consideration for a significant plot, the film descends into a series of fights, violence and chases over the course of the film’s 2-hour running time. Award-winning composer Vipin Mishra, a relative newcomer to full orchestral scoring for film, has composed the dramatic score to this film and it is this that has given rise to the confusion mentioned earlier.
Mishra’s score was recorded in Prague with a 42-piece orchestra and sounds great. It features strings, brass and piano plus the addition of a variety of electronic elements which come together to give the score an accomplished sound. There’s a good mix of dramatic action scoring that plays alongside some quite effective, slower – and more emotionally charged – tracks. The opening track of the album, “Beware”, begins with a series of guttural brass chords before leading into a mournful theme played on strings. This theme recurs at several points in the score – of particular note, it gets its own extended statement in track 6, “Sad Theme”, on solo cello then violin. Some of the most effective parts of the score are when Mishra’s music becomes more reflective and tracks such as “Everything Is Gone II” and “Everything Is Gone”, together with “Beware” and “Sad Theme”, are all highlights.
The majority of the album features more up-tempo, action scoring that’s based around bold brass, string ostinatos, percussion rhythms (including drum kits) and various electronics. Mishra’s action scoring is reminiscent of music from the likes of Jerry Goldsmith (Total Recall) and Marco Beltrami (Underworld: Evolution), however, the composer’s inexperience means that the music featured here is only a shadow when compared with that of Goldsmith or Beltrami. After opening with a 40-second upward glissando, “Fight Till The End” uses a catchy low-string ostinato as a base over which Mishra puts bold brass motifs, electronics and a powerful percussion rhythm to create a simple, catchy piece. “You Don’t Know Ajay Mehra” also includes these orchestral elements and introduces us to a second theme; a theme that’s resolute in its presentation and that seems to represent the movie’s hero, Ajay Mehra. Another action highlight is “Don’t Mess With Him”. Here, we hear the most obvious Indian influences with ethnic-styled percussion accompanying bold ostinato string motifs and powerful brass fanfares. Again, it’s relatively simple constructions. A limited number of musical ideas are repeated again and again over the course of the track. But, despite the repetition, it all comes together to form a satisfying whole and actually rather good.
Other tracks of note include “Zoya’s Contacted Ajay” with its 7-minute build-up of tension using strings, piano, guitar and blaring brass, and “Emotions Run High” which opens with a mournful and lovely cello solo before transforming into a piece featuring the now-familiar repeating string motif/bold brass/percussion combination scoring. Male and female voices feature in “It’s Time” and “Everything Is Gone”, respectively and add a nice variation to the overall sound of the score. The album closes with “Ghayal Once Again” and what sounds like an end credits suite: each of the score’s musical ideas are heard in turn with the full force of the orchestral ensemble bringing the album to a satisfying conclusion.
So, after reading all the positive comments what could possibly be the confusion I have with Mishra’s score? It basically boils down to two main things. Firstly, the musical ideas tend to be very simple constructions. Small musical ideas or motifs are stated and restated within cues, usually with little variation (other than being played on different sections of the orchestra). The composer does use the favoured combination of strings, brass and percussion to layer a number of ideas together to create the required cues but, for a lot of the time, there’s no dynamism to the music, particularly in the action scoring. It is this lack of dynamism may also be at the root of my second criticism: the lack of energy in the action scoring. Despite the action tracks being of quick tempo, there just doesn’t seem to be that much energy or power injected into the music. In some cases, even though the tempo is relatively quick, the music still manages to sound slow, almost laborious in nature. Perhaps the limited size of the orchestra may have something to do with this; there’s little a composer can do with a limited music budget. It may be the case that, with a little more experience, Mishra could have used his musical knowledge to make a smaller ensemble sound much, much bigger. It’s with projects such as this that that experience can be gained and I am sure that things will improve over time. I am not suggesting that this is a bad score. On the contrary, some of it is very good. For example, Mishra’s choice of electronics – and how he combines it with the orchestra – are noteworthy. And, it’s also worth noting here that the quality of the recording is great: the brass sounds clean and front-and-centre and the strings – particularly the low cellos – are clear and distinct.
Listening to this score over and over for the purposes of this review and with writing this review, I have been battling with myself on how to rate this one. Yes, it’s a score that’s relatively simplistic to my ears when compared with what you would hear in good action scores in mainstream Hollywood films but, the ideas Mishra has come up with for Ghayal Once Again are very listenable and he has composed a score that’s full of enjoyable tracks that I am certain to come back to. On balance, I’d certainly recommend this one for people who just want to hear 50-minutes’ worth of entertaining orchestral scoring.
Ghayal Once Again is available from most online music stores as a digital download.
- Beware (1:31)
- Fight Till The End (3:56)
- Everything Is Gone II (3:00)
- You Don’t Know Ajay Mehra (4:24)
- The Chase (2:24)
- Sad Theme (2:35)
- Don’t Mess With Him (2:39)
- It’s Time (2:46)
- Zoya’s Contacted Ajay (6:42)
- Bad Company (3:11)
- Dark Deeds (3:48)
- Emotions Run High (3:22)
- Everything Is Gone (4:43)
- Ghayal Once Again (5:54)
Running Time: 51:00
Vipin Mishra (2016)