Daira Vol. 1 - Various (2003)

Dubbed as one of the most controversial plays in Pakistan's television history, "Daira" is scheduled for screening soon on the GEO TV network. This socio-political smack is based on Mohsin Hamid's critically acclaimed book, "Moth Smoke," which questions the double standards of a society which takes pride in being a nuclear power but is paying a heavy price for it. The film apparently attempts to pinpoint and expose the bureaucratic culture but then it also depends on how much expurgation the poor play is subjected to.

Producer Shahzad Nawaz, has also been able to release a two-volume album as a soundtrack for the play.

The music for the tele-film sounds quite unusual; one can't really tell whether it's just an experimental theme or the real deal. A lot of singers have contributed to the album. This is perhaps why one sees the blend being unable to maintain its balance on more than one occasion.

In the first volume the choice of the singers is quite diverse, from Ali Haider to Naeem Abbas Rufi and from Shakila Khorasanee to Huma Khwaja. Reeling down the album you'll get to hear a dramatically composed, very-unlike-Faakhir song named "Gham." The vocals do not tone with what we normally get to hear from him. The singer deviates from his usual 'play it safe' mode and experiments a lot with the music in this track as a composer. Najam Shiraz makes an entry with "Jaise Tu," and renders an impressive job through his vocal talents. The music has an enduring impact on the listener. Keeping in mind all the songs are in context with the theme of the play, a pure music listener should not be disappointed at points where the music fails to make a score. Ali Haider is still tripping on the techno-fused beats he introduced with his hit "Jadu." The singer has successfully been mixing the beats with the songs he made afterwards like "Mar Janiya" and "Intezar." This time he has named his song "Lust," the tune is appealing and the vocals well coordinated with the beat. Then comes Nadeem Jaffery's "Tanha," an extremely talented yet understated composer. The song is exceptionally well done as far as the music goes but the vocals do not register an impact.

Naeem Abbas Rufi, redoes folk song "Mai Nee" while Shahzad Nawaz recites Deepak Chopra's poetry in the song. The verses recited here are the same that have been used for another song featured in an international album "Ishq." Incidentally they have been rendered with the same effect too. Schehzad Mughal with the help of debutant Mohammed Ali sings "Waqt" which turns out to be a reasonably good song. A peculiar title "Mard II" is an instrumental offering that is mixed well enough to make it a chill-out session song. Another old song "Kia Huwa" is redone by Shakila Khorasanee. Khorasanee's vocals lend credibility to the otherwise bland song. Most of the songs in the album are remixes of the old hits. Aamir Saleem sings late Madam Noorjehan's hit "Munda Shehar Lahore Da." The singer is known to give good Punjabi hits, and here too the music works well to match with the rhythm of the song giving an original feel to it.

By this time when more than half of the reel is rolled over to the other side, the album appears satisfactory, but that 'one hit' number is still missing. One assumes that most of the people who would have bought this volume may not opt to buy the second one unless they are desperately inquisitive.

Huma Khawaja redoes her 'once-hit' number "Naina." Not many changes are done with the original version of the song besides that the voice of the singer is different. The next song "Kangan" (a redone again) by Salim Khawaja promises a visit to Pakistan cinema's golden days. "Meetha Zehr" gives a refreshing break to the tally of old redone songs; a good music score puts this sound as a better number on the soundtrack. The song is done by John Mall and the vocals are well worked with nice lyrical details. The last song of the album is by Ahmed Jahanzeb and the number is called "Aakhri Khayal." Though this one will not help the young singer complete his hat trick of hit songs, the track is worth listening to.

This wraps it up for the first part of what is claimed to be 'Pakistan's biggest soundtrack'. Daira should not be taken as a regular album as it's difficult to detach its 'film' background from the soundtrack. The album may find acceptability with the audience once they see it in the context of the story.

Ahmer Ashraf
The News International, Pakistan