While writing The Third Squad, I was principally sifting through memories of a place, a time, and a sensibility. Encounters with chawls. Questions about a way of life. In the process of writing I had a vital aid: music. Music that did not belong to that period necessarily but that triggered thoughts, words that help build paragraphs, and perhaps induced an underlying mood that set the tone of a period gone by.

I am a big fan of television serials that curate music from yesteryears. Particularly House, Breaking Bad, and True Detective. I followed True Detective closely. The first season had some great scenes and some brilliant music. The second season was flat but I have picked a track from it as well, one that I heard after I finished the writing. There are a few Hindi and Tamil filmmakers, younger ones, who have a noir sensibility. (I try and avoid the reductive term Bollywood.) All save one are songs. The exception is the background score from a Tamil film that I really like. It wears its influences on its shoulder but holds its own otherwise.

The Third Squad Playlist

Tum jo mil gaye ho

A cover version of a long song from the Hindi film Hanste Zakhm. It has shots of erstwhile Bombay interspersed with the villain, the common hero, the vamp, and a taxi in the rain. Add to that a delightfully dated feel to the soundtrack.


 From the film Dev D. An atmospheric bar, a dancing duo, and a ‘what am I doing?’ moment. Directed by Anurag Kashyap, a gifted auteur with a penchant for noir.

Hawa Hawai

The song is from a surprisingly engaging film called Shaitaan, a caper that has youngsters with a yen for getting into trouble.


From the film Shanghai directed by another noir filmmaker, Dibakar Bannerjee. Not his best film, it had real estate mafia, a bureaucrat, and trouble in the streets. (I realise Kalki Koechlin is featuring in quite a few.)

Aaj ki Raat

Irresistible title. As their description goes ”This is the second video of The Bartender’s album, ‘Classic Bollywood With a Twist’. The video was conceptualised as a film noir, murder mystery.” Shot in evocative black and white.

Young Men Dead

 The Black Angels serve up ‘Young men dead’ who, ostensibly, are too afraid to die. Enough said.

My least favourite life

From the second season of True Detective, Lera Lynn with ‘My least favourite life’. A great title for a book?

The Angry River

More from True Detective: The Angry River (by The Hat ft. Father John Misty & S.I. Istwa). This song has some great lines:
The emptiness that we confess
In the dimmest hour of day
In the common town they make a sound
Like the low sad moan of prey

Background score of Aranya Kaandam

This wonderful Tamil film by Yuvan Shankar Raja was in some sense influenced by Quentin Tarantino. I played this soundtrack on loop while writing The Third Squad.

Ellaam Kadandhu

I like the retro arrangement in this track from the Tamil noir caper called Soodhu Kavvum.

And to round things of there is this other playlist on Youtube, one that is helpfully called Modern Noir Songs. There are no songs in common with mine but then there is enough and more of noir in music.
To read V. Sanjay Kumar’s The Third Squad, click here:

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