Before Anjali started DJing with me in 2000, I had only been exposed to vintage Bollywood; I didn’t know the contemporary scene at all. I was only buying and listening to vinyl at the time, and Bollywood hadn’t put a record out in a decade by that point. Anjali bought me a Hum Dil De Chupke Sanam cassette, and I just couldn’t get into at first. She also got me a Chori Chori Chupke Chupke cassette, which I liked a lot more. Then I discovered the Fiza soundtrack, which had quite a few songs that I really liked. Then I got into the Asoka soundtrack. All three of those soundtracks have one thing in common: music director Anu Malik. That made Anu Malik my first favorite music director of contemporary Bollywood soundtracks.
While I did meet at least one Indian who was a big fan of Anu Malik, most of the Indians I talked to denigrated him, and saved all their praise for A.R. Rahman, whose aesthetic I just didn’t like as much. (Truthfully, I have enjoyed A.R. Rahman’s newest soundtracks much more than the bulk of his work. I definitely feel like he is creating the best work of his career these days.) Anu Malik was seen as a “copycat;” A.R. Rahman as the first music visionary since R.D. Burman. Whatever, Anu Malik was the one who saw much more play in my DJ sets.
Those three soundtracks all came out in 2000/2001, and despite buying dozens of more recent Anu Malik soundtracks, some with some songs I really like, I think that those years were his best. Other than the Ugly Aur Pagli soundtrack, I have found most of his latest offerings to be atrocious. I was firmly convinced that he was over the hill, and done for good.
Then came Kambakkht Ishq. (The soundtrack. Not the song itself.) Wow. I didn’t know he still had it in him. Even though RDB were invited by the producers to contribute a track (much to Anu Malik’s annoyance, from what I’ve read), I think Anu Malik came through with the best songs. “Lakh Lakh” is great, and “Bebo” is a wonderful throwback to ’80s-style Bollywood disco. Anjali claims to hate “Bebo,” but I know she will be won over eventually. She has more resistance to Bollywood cheese these days than I do. At least at first.
I don’t know what the future will bring for Anu Malik, but I know I will still be paying attention. And after the last couple years, that really surprises me.