By Subhash K. Jha, Mumbai, Dec 31: What a sad year for the ear! Very few Bollywood soundtracks stood out; and the ones that did were few. It was more individual singers making an impact than an entire album. Sunidhi Chauhan rocked the charts with "Beedi" in "Omkara", arguably the most successful item song after "Kajra re" ("Bunty Aur Babli"). Isn't it ironical that Gulzar, a poet known for his immensely profound images, just sizzled at the top of the charts for two consecutive years, first with "Kajra re", and now "Beedi". Gulzar also gave us the most beautiful love ballad in 2006 - "Humko maloom hai" in Shirish Kunder's directorial debut "Jaan-e-Mann". Sunidhi, who ripped through "Beedi", did a searing ballad "Humko choone paas aayiye" in the underrated "Zindaggi Rocks". Interestingly, the two Bong-babes, Bipasha Basu and Sushmita Sen, for whom Sunidhi sang "Beedi" and "Humko choone", have declared the singer's hand in making them appear larger-than-life on screen through the two numbers. So has Sunidhi arrived at a stage where she gives sublime succour to actress' image? Not quite. Her "Yeh mera dil" for Kareena Kapoor in Farhan Akhtar's "Don - The Chase Begins" left much to be desired. Strangely, despite her stunning versatility, Sunidhi failed to be the first choice for the heroine's voice. That mantle is moved a bit more away from Alka Yagnik to Shreya Ghosal, who sounds like an incredibly accomplished singer in the "Barso re megha" track in Mani Ratnam's "Guru", which is slated for release in 2007. Aishwarya Rai frolicking in the rain helps. But A.R. Rahman now shows clear signs of filmy fatigue. Among the older singing divas Asha Bhosle was in peak form in "Lamha lamha" in "Corporate". Such was her rapport with Shamit Tandon that she got together with the composer at year end to whoop it up in "Asha & Friends" with celebrity 'singers' like Urmila Matondkar, Sanjay Dutt and Brett Lee. Gimmicky marketing devices don't always mend the music market. Among the other seasoned singers Alka did a soul-stirring job of the title song in Karan Johar's "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna". But in this soundtrack it was the Pakistani crooner Shafqat Amanat Ali who stole the show. Voices from across the border echoed in Sufi-rock splendour once again throughout 2006. Director Onir's "Bas Ek Pal" had "Tere bin" by Atif Aslam, the new pinup crooner on the block, who threatens to take over from the Udit Narayans and Sonu Nigams of our singing world. And there was Zubin Garg winning over the entire nation with "Ya Ali" in Anurag Basu's "Gangster - A Love Story", Pritam's straight-off rip-off of a number from across the border. "Dhoom 2" had Vishal Dadlani singing a new interpretation of a song Pritam had already done in the first film in the series. Made you wonder whether originality had become a dinosaur. Our own singing experts Sonu and Udit had a quiet year. Kunal Ganjawala fast caught up with them with "Tere bin" in "Bhagam Bhaag". A uniformly hearable soundtrack? Yes, Anu Malik's "Umrao Jaan" had some soul-piercing 'mujras' written with sophistication and simplicity by Javed Akhtar and rendered with surprising finesse by Alka. Though the tunes had a pronounced derivative dimension to them, this was perhaps the only soundtrack this year with a heart. Unless "Chand sifarish" in Kunal Kohli's "Fanaa" made its way to your heart. A tall order since it blended Sufi-rock elements with roadside-Romeo rhythms in a mix that made time fidgety.