BBC – Music – Review of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

How original should the soundtrack to a sequel be? Should it pay homage to its predecessor, or introduce a totally fresh sound? And when said sequel is the follow-up to a remake of a 70s Bollywood cult classic, that question becomes even more pertinent. Director Farhan Akhtar sets music directors Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy this challenge, the trio returning to deliver the score for Don 2, five years after producing the first film’s music.

Unfortunately, the trio falls halfway between pastiche and progress. Of the six new tracks and three remixes on offer, most sound modern but have a hint of history about them. Zaraa Dil Ko Thaam Lo gives off strong overtones of Aaj Ki Raat and Main Hoon Don from the 2006 movie, and the same can be said of Mujhko Pehchaanlo.

Similarly, The King is Back (Theme) comes across as an electro reboot of the Don: The Chase Begins theme music, with sprinkled vocals from Sunitha Sarathy and superstar Shah Rukh Khan who takes on the title role once again. Khan also opens the soundtrack with Aa Raha Hoon Palat Ke, a moody snippet of dialogue set to music that turns out to be a terrific, albeit brief, trailer of the movie.

There’s also a definite echo of times gone by in Dushman Mera, sung by Sarathy and Shankar Mahadevan. But this time the reworking of Main Hoon Don comes out all guns blazing thanks to a psychedelic concoction of African drums, seductive cabaret and retro funk. Hai Ye Maya brings a touch of Bond-style drama into play thanks to a quality performance by grand dame Usha Uthup, India’s answer’s to Shirley Bassey. While it grows in appeal after a few listens, Uthup’s immense talent is rather wasted on a track that is catchy but somehow unmemorable.

With Don 2 being the next step in one of the Indian film industry’s newest franchises, and only the second Bollywood movie to release in 3D, fans of Akhtar and Khan may expect an explosive soundtrack that is bigger, better and bolder than the original. But what they get is more of a blast from the past.