The last time somebody was referred to as Papa The Great in a movie was Kishan Kumar, paradropped on the innocent audiences in the eponymous movie released in the year 2000. Kishan Kumar was the resident rajah of graceless grunge, a producerputra (he was the younger brother, if we are to get technical) inflicted on us in at least five movies between 1993 and 2000. From Aaja Meri Jaan to Bewafa Sanam and from Kasam Teri Kasam to Papa The Great, KK was on the mission impossible, gunning for the unachievable. But he kept trying. Diligently, self assuredly, continuously. Despite a face that only his mother would have found palatable and acting skills that even his mother would not have found palatable. Papa The Great was one final assault from the Karolbagh Kumars, till brother Gulshan became wiser and moved on to the non-Kishan things in life. But the movie, and everything about it, remains an unforgettable piece of awkward awesomeness. Exactly what gives Kishan Kumar a hallowed place in the history of Hindi Cinema.
Poetic, therefore, that fifteen years later, the contender to topple and gobble the peachy coarseness of Kishan Kumar is another Papa The Great. Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan. The Messenger. The Artist Formerly Known as the Messenger of God.
And this Papa does not fly solo. He comes all guns blazing, with stadiums full of people chanting his name and carnivals dedicated to his bonbon affability. As he portrays the middle India messiah, the middle class man-crush. Hell, I was the only person at the theatre when I watched the movie, yet I was whistling away to glory! And that’s what Pitaji does to you. Before you realise it, you become one with him, mildly suffocating though this sounds considering the kilos surrounding him. He builds your confidence, one fat cell at a time, layering one adipose tissue over another, and soon enough, you start believing that you can conquer the entire world. Like Papa.
All that you need to win the world over is extreme self belief. I don’t know what this Satguru does in real life, but if I were to just go by his film persona, he left me totally charged, yes sir. That you can look like a complex cross-pollination-product combining Hagrid, Govinda, Barbie and Austin Powers and mesmerise millions with that persona is reason enough for me to believe that I can score and more with whoever I want to. That you can wear red-colored slacks purchased from Sarojini Nagar Market and yet make enough money to buy red colored helicopters, is motivational for the multitudes including me. That you can be a dreadful singer and an awful dancer, and still change clothes ten times in a music video and have three laadli betis, including a firangi, as your heroines, brings spring in my step, with both my left feet raring to go. Don’t think any of the Khans can do this to me or any of their viewers. We get out of that dark cinema to our dull and dreary lives, knowing very well that Raj, Rahul and Prem are best placed on that screen. MSG gives us hope, confidence and faith.
The film also underlines that it is okay to be lowbrow. Why, it takes pride in it! The villain Chillam Khurana is a throwback to the over-acting Jogindar of yore, Gaurav Gera digs his nose and throws booger-balls at the bald head of the villain, a prostitute mouths lines like “Hum chalti phirti gaaliyan hain” and there are supposedly funny dialogues in form of “Main gas chhodunga” and “Because Guru ji is god and you are dog”. Crummy computer graphics meet Punjabi Baroque sensibilities, and the resultant set of dolphins and lotus pods in a swimming pool, to give just one example, are delightfully cringe-inducing. The blind set of followers in the film is what the film wants to achieve in real life, and it does an awesome job of it. By continuing to salute the embarrassing ensemble that it is! You stop feeling sorry about your own sorry self when you leave the theatre.
At the same time, Pitaji immortalizes the spirit of the new India where it is okay to work hard and party harder, flaunting what one has worked hard to achieve. He keeps calling himself ekadna sa fakeer. And yet, every single part of his rotund frame, and every single frame featuring every single part of his rotund frame, has bling on it. Everything around him is a by-product of shiny disco balls. His jhadoo, bicycle, motorbikes, cars, thrones, carpets, swimming pool and even the hot air balloon from which he makes one of his entries, AND his hair follicles, all shimmer and sparkle. Unashamedly. The sets seem loud, ostentatious and trippy, almost as if they have been designed by a poor man’s Sanjay Leela Bhansali on bad quality ganja. But this blatant display of his glaring wealth is very matter of fact. With a singular underlying message. Don’t denounce the world, but love and celebrate it. And that sometimes it is okay to cross-dress.
Thank you, Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan. Thank you from taking over from where Kishan Kumar left us. Thank you, Papa The Great. Thank you for the lowbrow magnificence. Thank you for the gauche pomposity. Thank you for the boisterous flamboyance. And thank you for reaffirming my faith in high art. :)
I rarely get mails which offer me jobs. In fact, I rarely get mails. Solitary reaper, et al. Which explains why I got so enamored and impacted by this mail forwarded to me by one Probaldwip Bakshi from SREI BNP Paribas, offering me a job as “Assistant Manager – ARM – Opportunity Management” at Durgapur. The mail was accompanied by the scanned copy of the offer letter and the renumeration package. For my perusal. (I didn’t really have to write the last sentence, but I don’t always get to use the word “perusal”, and I think I have a secret crush on the word. So yeah. For my perusal.) I was also told that the hard copy of the offer letter along with the joining kit would be handed over to me on the day I would join them.
Now, I have always had a fixation for joining kits. I rarely get joining kits. Plus, “Assistant Manager – ARM – Opportunity Management” sounded like my kind of thing. But most importantly, who can say no to working with Probaldwip Bakshi! Naturally, I lapped it all up, and sent a merry reply confirming my acceptance.
Mr. Bakshi, the OPM – SH (WB), sent me a short and curt reply, establishing the working relationship and expectations. That’s the kind of boss I have always wanted. Quick on the uptake and sort of British. Succinct and successful. I could only thank my gods for the good fortune. More so, because I rarely get replies.
I sent an immediate mail back to Mr. Bakshi, offering him my undying support in this momentous journey we were about to take together. I also had a few routine questions and clarifications pertaining to the job.
And just when I had started thinking how I would play Tonto to this amazing Lone Ranger, I got a note from Chandrima Dutta, asking me to stop all communication on this subject. Just like that. No, really!
Crestfallen and dejected, I tried figuring this sudden change of behavior towards me. We were on a happy Paribas ride not very long time back, all of us, and now this! My innocent mind could not fathom why would something so bitter and brutal reach my inbox. And while I have always followed the peaceful path displayed by Dr. Martin Luther King, I could not control myself from questioning the logic behind Ms. Dutta’s mail.
Ah, Human Resource people, why art thee so cold, callous and cruel! Not only did Ms. Dutta decide to not write back to me and answer my good-natured, noble-intentioned questions, she also used her continued silence as her strongest weapon to shut me up and crush my child-like enthusiasm. This painful placidity, this sullen stoicism was too much to take for the very emotional me. My plan to make a difference to the world was savagely sabotaged by the world.
I decided to not take up the job. :|
This hasn’t quite been the best experience of my life, but I still believe in the goodness of mankind. I believe in angels, something good in everything I see. I believe in quoting from an ABBA song and not giving them any credit for the same. I believe in honest people getting what they deserve, what is rightfully theirs.
Only, I rarely get mails which offer me jobs. :(
(I later gathered that the email ID of the guy they were trying to write to was vaibhav.vshl@****.com. Clearly, his favorite actor is Ajay Dvgn. His Action Jackson affiliations notwithstanding, I’m sure he makes a better candidate than me, and would do very well at the awesome organisation that SREI BNP Paribas is, blending in with the lovely people in there. All’s well that ends well.)
Posted this on Facebook on 15th December, 2014 and the response was touching. While this note does not quite fit in with the general tonality of my blog, I am still posting it in here. Because I can. :)
I haven’t quite been well for the last four days and have been severely out of action. Made the first move out of home today for a drive to Bandra Kurla Complex for some work. To my horror, I discovered that there was some Vishwa Hindu Sammelan being organized at BKC. The roads were filled with various hues of saffron covering the rural Maharashtrian tourists on their first visit to Mumbai. There also was Poonam Mahajan showcasing her beatific smile from illegal hoardings in the backdrop of Jai Shri Ram war-cries and at least 30 of those huge Police trucks with the battalions deployed all over. I was suddenly taken back to Advani’s Rath Yatra that I had witnessed at the Rajendra Nagar over-bridge in Patna, and while the context today was not as militant, the confused feeling inside my head was the same… of unease, discomfort and fear, not being able to understand the motivation behind such a loud and ferocious assertion of the faith.
I drove back home, and had to leave again in an auto to Sion to get my other car from Servicing. (Yeah. First world issues. I know.) On the LBS Road just before Sion, I was suddenly greeted by a sea of green flags, long beards and Aligarh pyjamas. There were speaker-stacks on the side of the road matching the length and breadth of the Gateway of India, with their thump hitting the insides of the intestines, playing what sounded like some Islamic religious songs. I could not understand the context. But the feeling in my head was exactly the same that I had encountered not too long time back.
The auto stopped at the Sion station and I had to switch to a taxi. Had totally forgotten about this little technicality that no autos run beyond Sion. Womenfolk and cabbies always find reasons to reject me, and it was only after a wait for almost half hour that I finally found an affable Sikh driver asking me to hop in. The moment the car was about to leave, a Muslim man along with his burqa-clad wife carrying a toddler leaned in, and asked the cabbie to take them to Sion Hospital. Of course, I was in the cab already, so the driver expressed his inability, and zipped the car past the yellow blinking light to reach the other side of the signal.
I felt uneasy again. And this was worse than the discomfort encountered twice already in the span of last two hours. Something was acutely wrong and I wanted to make it right. And at least in this case, I knew how to. I told the cabbie to stop the car. I wanted those people to get in, too. The Sardarji said he was just about to do that himself, “aur aapne muh ki baat chheen li, babuji.”
Soon enough, the couple crossed the road and was surprised to find us waiting for them. Thus began our 5-minute journey towards Sion Hospital. A Hindu, a Sikh and a Muslim family travelling together to ensure that a toddler got timely treatment for whatever was bothering him. We talked about the baby and his health and told the mother that all would be okay.
I don’t know how much of a Hindu I was or how much of a Muslim or Sikh they were in that little ride that we took together. There were no Sammelans or congregations that we were going to. We weren’t getting satiated by loud songs or war-cries either. No flags were being carried. No overt symbols of our respective religiosities were being flashed. And yet, I knew I was a good Hindu. And that the couple were good Muslims, and the cabbie was a good Sikh.
All would be okay. I hope. I pray.
PS: Of course, I had to spoil it all by being the lowbrow low-light selfie-taker. But in my defence, I was just too overwhelmed by the moment, and what the heck, I am so good-looking!
I saw Singh Saab The Great. I was the only person at the theatre. Okay, that would be a little bit of an exaggeration because there were two ushers at the entrance. We also had three different couples of varying ages amongst the audience. Going by what they were up to, I am sure they must have watched all the films of Jackie Bhagnani and Mimoh Chakraborty as well at the same auditorium. But we are digressing already. I saw Singh Saab The Great. I was the only person at the theatre who was there to watch the film.
Sunny Deol sang Jab Hum Jawan Honge in his debut film Betaab in 1983. Jab Hum Jawan Honge, Jaane Kehan Honge. Lekin Jehan Honge, Wahan Fariyaad Karenge. Prophetic words, these. Because Fariyaad Karenge became the raison d’être, the motto of the life and career of Sunny Deol in Hindi cinema. From Betaab till date. Fariyaad Karenge. Will appeal / complain/ grumble/ lament/ object/ protest/ oppose/ moan/ attack. Fariyaad Karenge, yes sir.
Not that he had any options. He was the son of the original He Man of Hindi Cinema. Besides, his contemporaries were Kumar Gaurav, Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt, and all of them had clearly defined profiles. Gaurav was the chocolate hero, Shroff was the rugged Mr. Goodlooking, Kapoor was the actor experimenting with his roles, and Dutt was the junkie non-actor. So the only choice baby Sunny had was to plunge into the cauldron full of magic potion and follow it up with his fariyaad, lots of it. And follow up he did in style. From Arjun to Dacait, from Border to Indian, from Zor to Ziddi and from Jo Bole So Nihal to Gadar. And everything else in between. Barring the Rajkumar Santoshi trilogy of Ghayal-Ghatak-Damini to some extent, Deol’s pulsating pectoral pictorials have been these mammoth exhalations of brute, brawn and brooding, meant essentially for the front benchers. And I say this as a very good thing.
With his Herculean abilities— physically speaking, that is— the scion of the Deol dynasty could actually achieve something truly Herculean in Bollywood. He carved a niche for himself with no dancing skills and limited acting expertise against the likes of Jeetendra, Mithun and Govinda in the 1980s. He competed with other action heroes like Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty, and the Khan triumvirate, and still could create box office frenzy in the 1990s. And he gave the biggest hit of his career, Gadar, against everybody else in the industry in the early 2000s. All this, and more, through just the regular revisits of his grouse-grumble-groan formula again, and yet again. This was Ajay Singh Deol’s personal Bollywood, backed by three key directors, Rahul Rawail, Rajkumar Santoshi and Anil Sharma. The dhaai kilo ka haath, Balwant Rai ke kutte and ik mod aaya were incidental to his growth. Because it never was just about his looks, dialogues, mannerisms, songs or fights; but the Sunny Deol persona in totality. The entire career of Deol can be summed up as the longest running episode of MTV Roadies, complete with incessant machismo, chronic impetuousness and persistent chaos. And Punjab. Lots of it.
It was only in the latter half of the 2000s that the Deol magic started to diminish with duds like Naksha, Big Brother, Fox, Khuda Kasam or Teesri Aankh. His true fans, of course, would refuse to admit even now that Sunny Deol has not given a hit of Sunny Deol proportions in ages. They would still make the rounds of the cinema halls to count his muscles and uncount his expressions. Hell, they would insist that the real Ironman to deserve the largest statue in the world is Sunny Deol. But his hardcore fans would not count Apne and Yamla Pagla Deewana as Sunny Deol films either.
They miss the man who was their hero.
Back to what we started off with. I saw Singh Saab The Great. It was embarrassing to see Sunny Deol as a caricature of Sunny Deol, battling a rotund Prakash Raj with those trademark swish-swish Madras-remake moves. And the suspension of my disbelief collapsed gloomily. What I saw was a man in his 50s, trying to hold on to the vestiges of the past, and losing it all in the process. The angst was redundant. The anger was ill-placed. In one of the scenes from Singh Saab The Great, a kid asks Sunny, “Tuhaadi chaddi kitthe hai?”, referring, of course, to him as Superman. And this, specifically, is what has been Sunny Deol’s biggest failing in recent times.
In the heart of their hearts, his audiences never saw him as Superman. From Arjun to Kashi to Tara Singh, we saw his vulnerable side and we empathised with him. We associated with his helplessness against Katya in Ghatak, we understood his resentment for Chadha in Damini, we grieved over his love for Sakeena in Gadar. Because he was one of us. Louder, yes. More muscular, certainly. Guttural, absolutely. But real. And honest. This Anna Hazare-Bajirao Singham-Tara Singh mishmash called Saranjeet Singh seemed from some distant land. Singh Saab The Great isn’t one of us. He surely isn’t the Sunny Deol we know. Precisely why Singh Saab and his box office performance gather not our gentle empathy, but our dim indifference. Sad, because very few actors can get away with ‘The Great’ added to their screen persona.
The economy does not look all that great. The drought situation is getting worse. Politicians continue to stay aloof and unaffected. Cricketers are getting fixed. Fixers are running cricket. Business leaders are getting their CFOs pregnant. Jackie Bhagnani is still acting.
These are really bad times.
Now, I know there is this terrible terrible urge to hang our heads in despair and feel hopelessly bad about our existences. It does come naturally to most of us, especially after seeing those Rangrezz posters. But you know what, life is not that black, despite how bleak things appear. One can either feel utterly depressed. Or, one can invoke the name of Altaf Raja to make it all disappear. Seriously.
Altaf Raja who, do I hear? For those not in the know, Altaf Raja was the singular reason why the cassette players of the 1990s were mobbed, mauled and molested, day in and day out. Altaf Raja was the demi-god of the autodrivers, their secret man-crush, their muse. Altaf Raja was the snazzy sultan, the ritzy rajah that the entire B-grade population of India wanted to be. But to top it all, Altaf Raja was what kept the people across the country going, giving them hope and optimism, as they sung his songs in the trains, collecting monies for charity, in most cases their own charity.
The first half of the 90s was an exciting period in the life of India. The skies were opening up. The reforms were taking off. We were a bemused and overwhelmed nation, getting exposed to an MTV which played music and a Manmohan Singh who had a voice, amongst other things. The divide between the rich and the poor was beginning to get drastically wider. Rishi Kapoor was still wearing Woolmark-approved pure wool turtlenecks, dancing around trees, and Mithun Chakraborty was singing Gutar Gutar in Dalaal. Not that the last two statements had anything to do with each other.
It was during these times that Altaf Raja made an appearance in the Indian stratosphere. Tum toh thehre pardesi, saath kya nibhaoge, he said it on behalf of the country in his first album in 1996, mouthing the concern that the economic reforms were not to stay forever. Subah pehli gaadi se ghar ko laut jaaoge, that is.
But then again, lest you misunderstand him, it was just a healthy expression of anxiety, and not pessimism. Considering in that very album, Altaf presented the enthusiasm and exuberance of the nation, willing to take on the world: Woh bhi anjaan thi, main bhi anjaan tha. Uss se vaada na tha, kuch iraada na tha. Bas yun hi darr-ling keh diya. Yaaron maine panga le liya. Panga Le Liya summed it up brilliantly. Pokharan-II, the Indian nuclear tests happened soon thereafter.
And THIS – the eternal understanding of his environment and its impact – is what makes Altaf Raja relevant all over again in our lives. Yes, the times are tough. From pathetic rapes to pitiable rappers, from a silent PM to an over-zealous wannabe, from Kalmadi’s fistulas to Kejriwal’s frictions, we have issues and diversions. But we need to embrace our surroundings. And wait. Patiently. Because that is the right thing to do. Thoda intezaar ka mazaa leejiye, sang our man in Shapath. That’s the mantra to live by. Wait and watch, and enjoy the downtime. All material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary. This, too, shall pass. Btw, for the fans of geriatric gyrations, the song has Jackie Shroff and Mithun Chakraborty shaking it with the ladies at the bar. That, too, did pass.
His teachings, though, are not restricted to just helping people cope with the larger issues. Altaf Raja has created many a sparkling gem that are relevant to us in our everyday lives across audiences. Even more so in this day and age, when everything around us is getting redefined and restructured. Refer to the lucidity with which he discusses the complexities of the gender roles and the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered appropriate in the context of the modern times. Biwi hai cheez sajawat ki. Biwi se ghar ko sajaate hain. Sautan ka shauq purana hai. Sautan ko sar pe bithate hain. Bharti nahin niyat sautan se. Sautan ki sautan late hain. Balle balle, oh yaara balle balle. Wow Yeah. Wow Yeah. Brilliantly put. Sajawat. Aesthetics. This is why the purists love him.
The most pertinent message of Altaf Raja for his audiences, however, is in this timeless creation called Kar Lo Pyaar. There are discords and disputes all over. Conflicts have divided the globe. The world is fighting a furious war with itself. And I just used three sentences with exactly the same meaning. Precisely the reason why the world needs to hear these immortal lines in his mellifluous voice. Kar lo pyaar, kar lo pyaar, kar lo pyaar, kar lo pyaar. Pyaar gazab ki cheez hai padh lo aaj subah ka parcha. Pyaar karoge muft mein ho jaayega yaaron charcha. This is poetry at exceptionally sublime levels. No other song in the world has EVER tried rhyming charcha with parcha.
Wikipedia says Altaf Raja has had a mix of twenty-three film and non-film albums so far. But none of this matters eventually. Because it is not about his songs or the albums. It is about the man. Who goes far beyond the songs or the albums or the hits or the platinum discs. Altaf Raja is a concept. He is the victory of the mundane over the elite, of penury over pomp, of the coarse over cultivated, and of hopes over realities.
When I moved to Mumbai in the 90s, I had a singular agenda. I wanted to kill Aditya Narayan. He was fast turning into the resident kiddy voice of Bollywood, mouthing inanities like Atli Batli Chakhlo Chakhli Chakhlo Vadapao, Khao Jalebi Oh Baby, Babu Ko Bhi Lao and Sim Sim Pola Pola Sim Sim Pola, Fine Flat Flute Pipe Petula Petula, Drum Drum Tubelet Symbola Symbola on us unsuspecting victims, and his entire vocal fold oscillation system needed to be amputated for the greater good of the mankind. The idea was also to use the opportunity to steal all the pansy purple and ruby red bandmaster blazers owned by his dad Udit Narayan and then burn them with acid. After shredding them into a thousand little pieces, that is. Unfortunately, I could not quite succeed in my mission. I had to let the father-son duo live because one needed the Biharis in the city for Raj Thackeray to get angry at, later in our lives.
I live to regret my decision.
Because just when I thought Aditya’s larynx, pharynx and trachea had been tamed and converted into Udit Narayan without his moustache, being aptly utilized in Zee TV’s singing monstrosities, Narayan Jr. made a fresh comeback to Hindi Cinema with Vikram Bhatt’s Shaapit The Cursed, as the leading man, no less, which I caught on cable TV the other day. The film also had Rahul Dev playing Professor Pashupati, a professor of Paranormal Studies. So, yes, it was an intellectually stimulating work of art, indeed, as all the films made by all the Bhatts are. But we are digressing already. Twenty minutes into the movie, Aditya does this morbidly ecstatic dance of extreme elation with an umbrella, swaying his limbs like some spastic sex-toy on stimulating substances. I swear by my middle class gods I am not exaggerating this. He jumps with joy, he goes back and forth, he makes random circular motions. AND he kisses the umbrella like some hungry African kid just hitting puberty. All to express his love for some girl in leotards.
Exactly the point at which the nauseatingly exasperating memories of the past began to haunt me, frame by frame, shot by shot, sound by sound. Doobi Doobi Dub Dub. And what an onslaught it was. Of actors who were not meant to be heroes. Of heroes who were not meant to be in the movies. Of movies which were not meant to be in existence. Of existences that were… okay, I need to stop this. It was as if Bollywood’s bad chromosomes had suddenly decided to descend into my brains all at one go, punishing me for getting myself reintroduced to Mr. Narayan. Of course, I do realize that all film industries have good actors and bad actors, and Hindi film industry cannot be an exception. We have the histrionics and hysterics of Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and the likes. And then there are the better actors. But I don’t think any industry can flaunt as many also-rans and almost-rans as we do.
Back to the attack, though. The first set constituted of people who believed they had the right to plunder our posteriors with their plasticity because of their family connections. The list was extensive, endless and on-going. From Sunil Dutt’s brother Som Dutt (He debuted in Man Ka Meet along with a small time actor called Vinod Khanna who played the villain.) to Mahendra Kapoor’s son Rohan Kapoor (His father sang Mere Desh Ki Dharti, he danced to Oh Miss De De Kiss. Fair enough.) to Suneil Anand (Dev Anand’s numerically-adjusted son, trained extensively in Hong Kong under Grandmaster Sifu Leung Ting in Wing Tsun Kung Fu. Don’t blame me. Wikipedia says so.) to Uday Chopra and Kishan Kumar, the legendary brothers of Aditya Chopra and Gulshan Kumar respectively, to Faizal Khan (He acted with his brother Aamir Khan in Mela. Then they got separated. Mela. Saw what I did there?) and Sohail Khan (Salman Khan with a flatter face, flatter nostrils and flatter acting skills.) in recent times.
Then there were the independent invaders, the strugglers who got lucky enough to assault the viewers with their talent, or the lack of it. Legend has it that the theatres would erupt in wild applause when the 70s hero Anil Dhawan would get whacked by the villain Shatrughan Sinha. The decades that followed saw actors like Arun Govil (Of tobacco teeth and Maganlal Dresswala dhotis fame. Also Advani’s best friend.), Dheeraj Kumar (Debut film: Raaton Ka Raja. I rest my case.), Vijay Arora (Romanced with Zeenat Aman in Chura Liya and played Meghnad in Ramayan. Botched them up with equal earnestness.) and later Deepak Parashar, Deepak Malhotra (Famous last word: Pallo.), Inder Kumar, Avinash Wadhawan, Ronit Roy, Sudesh Berry, Vikas Bhalla, Hemant Birje and Chandrachur Singh at various points of times of our lives. A lot of these guys were resurrected later in their careers by Ekta Kapoor. That must be exciting.
The last category was that of the rich boys. Have money, will make movies. Cases in point: Harman Baweja (The robot dance moves of Love Story 2020 got rejected by the audiences. Which is why an Oscar nominated director made What’s Your Raashee with him.) and Jackie Bhagnani (F.A.L.T.U. and now Rangrezz). If you don’t have a rich father from the industry, get one from outside of it. Or so did convey Anuj Saxena (Heir to a mega pharma company. Heard of this film called Chase? Neither has he. He produced and acted in it.) and Sachin Joshi (Aazaan, Mumbai Mirror. Son of Gutkha King Jagdish Joshi. It shows.). The Naseer Khans and Kamaal R Khans of the world were next in line. Naseer, a supposedly partially-blind actor, made this film called Shadows. He was later put behind bars for some chit fund fraud, though I wish they had arrested him for this film. Kamaal R Khan made Deshdrohi, the sole reason why the North Indians believe the North Indians should be out of Mumbai.
Now imagine all these guys entering your mindspace one after the other in a never-ending space time continuum, displaying their mojos. From Kiran Kumar to Kush Sinha. From Mahendra Sandhu to Mimoh Chakraborty. As you simultaneously shed tears and witness the Aditya Narayan thingamajig on screen. Bad acting, awkward screen presence and a personality painful enough to give you haemorrhoids.
Yes. I wish I had taken care of the boy when he was younger. I am sure YOU do now. :)
(Had written this piece for Outlook magazine. That explains the length of the article. Or the lack of it.)
Hailing from a middle class Hindi medium school belonging to a middle class Hindi medium town belonging to a middle class Hindi medium India, I always found English to be the alien language that it is. I grew up in an era where knowing English did not mean reading and flaunting a Chetan Bhagat book, but shaking the limbs in our stone-washed jeans to ‘Won’t you take me to Funky Town’, the lone English song that all the cassette players could recognize. We actually felt very cool humming along whatever we could decipher of the song, genuinely believing that we totally had it in us to win over the world, starting with our cousins from Delhi. Wontchu tekmetwo funkeeey taaaaown. Ah, bliss. I can feel equal to all my English medium counterparts all over again right now.
Hindi cinema was what gave fillip to our attempts to empower ourselves with this authority, expertise, knowledge and interest around English. Yes. Had it not been for our exposure to the Hindi film songs in various states of undress, showcasing their wonderful English interiors, we would have never been able to appreciate the nuances of the Queen’s lingo. Or Funky Town.
Bollywood was very quick to recognize the importance of the English language, and it took it upon itself to ensure that the minions had a fair share of the same. Sample Hello Hello Gentleman from the 1948 film Actress. Hello hello gentleman. Milaate kyun nahin humse nain. Tabeeyat kaisi hai, kaisi hai, kaisi hai. Hello Hello Hello Hello Hello. Shamshad Begum and Lata Mangeshkar kill it by exhorting the Indians to be and behave Indians post the British rule. No prizes for guessing the chosen language of communication. Hat to hamne phenk diya, tum phenko necktie. Chala gaya Angrez, keh do inn sab ko good bye. English cheezen kar do ban. Be an Indian if you can. Hello hello gentleman. That’s what I am talking about! Be an Indian if you can, preferably in English.
And we are not just talking pidgin English here. There are quite a few pure English songs which have featured in Hindi films, and some of them may just delight the listeners. Shanta Apte sang Longfellow’s A Psalm of Life in Duniya Na Maane way back in 1937. Iqbal Singh rocked it like Elvis with Beautiful Baby of Broadway in Ek Phool Char Kaante (1960). Usha Uthup became a mini industry singing English songs for the likes of Bindu, Padma Khanna and Aruna Irani. Of course, the vamps/ nightclub dancers sang in English because it underlined on their western and therefore wayward values. Further case in point: Sharon Prabhakar’s My Body Has A Surging Fire from the 1982 release Apmaan. Then there were the Goans, the Anglo Indians, the D’Costas and the D’Mellos with their Christian affiliations, who sang in chaste My Heart Is Beating English if one of them was called Julie (1975). There have also been random entries like I And You Just You And I from the 1985 film Unchi Uraan, and the 80s, for some inexplicable reasons, offered quite a bit of such randomosity. In recent times, long portions of English lyrics, including rap, have made smooth entries into the regular Hindi songs’ space. But rap, by itself, could not quite earn a place of its own in isolation, despite Amitabh Bachchan mouthing the BNB rap way back in the 2005 release Bunty Aur Babli.
Having said all of the above, for the purpose of this research, I have decided to demonstrate only the songs that have appropriated the English language as a home-grown product; as an almost parallel and natural counterpart to Hindi. Er, so I guess we ARE talking pidgin English here. PS: I feel good using the word “research” for my inanities. Just to prove a point, I may faux-quote Ananda Coomaraswamy in my delirious state.
So without further ado, ‘hello friends’!
The biggest contribution of the Britishers was not just the English language, but the niceties that came with the language. Thanking you. With warm regards. Yours Faithfully. Only, the last phrase happens to be an Asha Bhosle-Kishore Kumar song from the 1986 film Begaana. Picturised on Rati Agnihotri and Kumar Gaurav on a surreal set of an over-sized office, complete with a giant typewriter, gigantic envelopes and a gargantuan telephone, the song is an elegant celebration of culture and politeness. Dear Sir, aapko main bahut chaahti hoon. Zindagi bhar rahungi, yours faithfully. The benevolent boss replies with as polite an affirmation of his love. Dear Madam, aapko main bahut chahta hoon. Zindagi bhar rahunga, yours faithfully. Awww. Everybody loves a love story. Especially when it is about a boss sleeping with his secretary.
Ever wondered how they hire such people who agree to stay yours faithfully all their lives? Simple. They conduct a Love Interview as they did in the Suneil Shetty-Shilpa Shirodkar starrer Raghuveer (1995). Kal ka kya program hai? Kuch zaroori kaam hai. Phir miloge kab? Jab waqt milega tab. Kab aur kehan kitne baje milna hai kaho sanam? Love interview. Love interview. Poornima, Kumar Sanu and the divine chorus girls give this love interview all that they have. I would not be surprised if this song was the only sex Sanu got in a long time.
Contrary to popular beliefs, it is not just chemistry that gets two people together. A lot of it is also mathematics. Knowing the general lack of love in our lives, I am absolutely certain half of you would not know what Tum Into Main, Main Into Tum is equal to? If you don’t know the answer, ask Sridevi and Jeetendra, who croon this Asha-Kishore number from the 1987 film Majaal, teaching us a few key lessons of life. Tum into main. Main into tum. Equal to pyaar ke sau saal. Reh ke juda, hum kuch nahin. Mil jaayen toh bemisaal. Shehzada, khwabon ka tu shehzada.
What do you do when you fall in love? You fall in love with Love Letter. Or so would SP Balasubramaniam and Asha Bhosle have us believe in Dev Anand’s 1993 release Pyaar Ka Tarana. Love letter love letter love letter. Tujhko pyaara, mujhko pyaara love letter. Issko pyaara, ussko pyaara, humko pyaara, sabko pyaara love letter. Love letter love letter love letter. I can quite understand the excitement since I suspect that by the 90s when he got into his 90s, the only love letters Dev Saab was getting were the ones he was writing to himself. Jissko mil jaaye love letter, woh kehlata hai lucky lover. Tum issko daak se bhejoge ya karoge hand deliver? Zara kar lo intezaar. You keepaan guessing dear. For those not in the know, this film saw the debut of Mink Singh. There is a joke hidden in that somewhere, I promise you.
Look I have been waiting for you for a long time. Please tell me whether you love me or not. As far as I am concerned, I can tell you that I love you very much, yes my darling… I love you. If you are head over heels in love and totally smitten, this is how you should go about expressing your feelings. The only pre-condition is that you need to get Shabbir Kumar to sing Dil Dil Dil from the 1986 film Pyaar Ho Gaya for you. In theory, the song is in Hindi, with the regular samplings of dil, pyaar, neel gagan, takreeban, tanhai, pagla kahin ka and a count from dus, bees, tees, chalis to sau, but in its heart, the song is in pure-bred English. As far as I am concerned, I can tell you that the Hindi is just a façade.
Next time you hear Remo Fernandes ruing about the music scene in India, just utter seven golden words to him. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. He would be transmogrified into something else in no time. This is why. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. You are my sajni. I am your diwana. You are my diwani. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. I am your sajni. You are my diwana. I am your diwani. Let’s sing together. Let’s dance together. Let’s sing together. Let’s dance together. Impressed already? Well, Indeevar, the lyricist, does not just stop at this. He converts this Kamal Sadanah-Ritu Shivpuri song from the 1995 release Rock Dancer into high art with what follows. Yeh toh kaho darling love hua kab se? Dekha tumhen jab se. Yeh toh kaho darling, love karoge kab tak? Sooraj mein fire hai jab tak. Aa ha. Honth tere laal hai. Aa ha. Kaale tere baal hai. Aa ha. Teri kya chaal hai. Aa ha. Tera kya face hai. Aa ha. Tera kya grace hai. Is my future bright? Yes darling, alright! Waah, kya scene hai. I saw ‘grace’ somewhere in the lyrics. That’s the word I was looking for. Indeed.
Here’s a little tip for all you boys in love. Don’t refer to your girl as ‘baby’. Ever. Because if you do, Sapna Mukherjee is going to hunt you down and subject you to this loud appeal of hers from the 1989 film Kahan Hai Kanoon. Don’t Call Me Baby. No, sir. If you thought ‘baby’ was a term of endearment, you couldn’t have been any farther away from the truth. Don’t call me baby. Don’t call me baby. Jawaan ho gayi main, jawaan ho gayi. Baby ab main rahi kahan, ang ang ho gaya jawan. Mere labon par angaare, mere seene mein toofan. Don’t call me baby. Don’t call me baby. Smoldering embers on her lips. Violent tempests in her tits. Fair enough.
Roses are red. Violets are blue. You love me. I love you. This was the first exposure to real poetry that I had had, with all my notebooks littered with lines like these for girlfriends that did not exist. It was fun while it lasted. Which must have been all my school and college life. Guess the lyricist Madan Pal was my pal, because that’s how his song from the 1994 release Zaalim starts. But before you even begin castigating him or the Kimono-wearing extras prancing in this song with a “You shut up, Gutt lost!”, you would find Alisha Chenoy ready with an innocent apology on behalf of Pal. Aayi Yai Ya, Sorry Sorry. Koi jo maange dil, inkaar karti hoon jaanam. Meri kitaab mein tasveer teri rahti hai. Aayi yai ya, sorry sorry. This song succinctly teaches you that most relationship spats give an opportunity to resolve conflicts. And make slutty baby-girl sounds. I know you are khafa. Darling main kya karun. You know that I love you. Tum pe hi main marun. Main gar jo kho gayi. Phir na milungi main. You will then search for me. Phir na rahoongi main. Aaaaaah!
Alisha, of course, must be honored by the Linguistic Society of India for her contribution to the languages. Because nobody else could have done as much justice to the extreme lyrics of LML Baba LML from Hathkadi (1995). LML baba LML. LML baba LML. Hone de baba LML. Shaam subah LML. Saaton din LML. Sunday to Monday LML. Monday to Sunday LML. LML? LML? Kya hota hain LML? Let’s make love, baybee. Don’t be shy, baybee. It took the genius and talent of an Anu Malik to come up with the well thought-through and right retort to Alisha’s LML. GTH baba GTH. Hone de baba GTH. Shaam savare DTH. Saaton din GTH. Sunday to Monday GTH. Monday to Sunday GTH. GTH? GTH? Kya hota hai GTH? Go to hell, baybee. Go to hell, baybee. When Ananda Coomaraswamy said ‘the man incapable of contemplation cannot be an artist, but only a skillful workman’, Anu Malik sure was watching him. <smug expression>
If you found GTH offensive, trust me, it was all in jest. Boys do this to their girls. What is important to know is that whatever name-calling the boys may do, eventually, girls are john-um. Tina tin tinna tin. Tina tin tinna tin. Read on. You Are Paglam. You are chiklam. You are jhagram. You are lafdam. You are bigdam. You are chidiyam. You are budiyam. You are motiyam. You are bambam. You are chitkam. You are pampam. You are tikdam. You are chakram. You are nakhram. But you are johnam. Ha ha ha ha ha. Haaaaaan. Gali Gali mein paani hai. Tu ladki deewani hai. Tu hai four twenty. Tu hai khatre ki ghanti. Tu kab de jaaye dhokha. Nahin teri guarantee. Tina tin tinna tin. Tina tin tinna tin. This Bappi Lahiri-Vinod Rathod song from the 1994 movie Juaari gains even more significance when you realize that it was picturized on Armaan Kohli. The Arman Kohli. But let’s not be very loud about it, else his father would relaunch him as a hero all over again.
Enough sparring. Need some love back in our lives. In any case, Where Is The Time To Hate, especially when there is so little time to love. I have included this song from the 1992 film Saatwan Aasman only for the rather perverse pleasure that I get listening to Udit Narayan sing in English along with Preeti Uttam. Where is the time to hate, when there is so little time to love. Come on let’s sing sing sing. Come on let’s dance dance dance. Come on have fun fun fun. Meri jaan. <Insert racist comment on Udit Narayan here.>
Since I am being allowed to indulge, here’s Kumar Sanu singing Oh Laila Hum Tumpe, Dil Jaan Se Marta Hai in the 1994 release Chhoti Bahoo. Oh laila hum tum pe dil jaan se marta hai. Ban ke aashiq hum peechhe peechhe phirta hai. So far, so natural. Nadeem-Shravan, Sameer and Sanu being their regular frustrating selves. And then, BAM, the angrez in Sanu takes over. Oh laila I want to marry you. Oh laila I want to marry you. I can so visualize Sanu contorting his face, raising his eyebrows, shutting his eyes, flaring his nostrils, dancing his fingers, moving his limbs, smiling into oblivion… uhm, I think I should shut up before I make this uncomfortable and weird for myself.
Not that there haven’t been any cute songs with a smattering of English in Hindi films. Anand Prayag and Jerry Adolfe do a sweet job in the Kalyanji-Ananji number Pretty Pretty Priya from the 1970 film Priya. She’s very pretty. She’s very pretty. She’s very very very very pretty. Pretty pretty Priya. Jalal Agha and friends sing this for Tanuja. And they are so totally correct. She really is very very very very pretty. :)
We Are Made For Each Other, Suno Ai Jaane Jigar from the 1991 release Love must be the most philanthropic love song ever. Because the love in this SP-Chitra song is not only restricted to the girl and the guy, but is distributed equally amongst Garden saris, Vimal suitings, Colgate toothpaste, Old Spice aftershaves and Nivea creams. Trust me, I am not making this up. We are made for each other. Suno ai jaane jigar. Ki pehen ke sajoongi main. Garden ki sari balam. Tere pyaar mein pehnoonga. Suiting Vimal ki sanam. Hamein ban ke deewana dekhega zamana jane jaana. We are made for each other. Suno ai jaane jigar. Dekh dekh ek dooje ko muskarayenge. Colgate se phir hamare daant chamchamayenge. Jab subah ko milegi, gul se bulbul chehek ke. Hum mehekte phirenge Old Spice ki mehek se. Nivea laga ke hum. Kya lagenge socho sanam. Hamein ban ke deewana dekhega zamana jaane jaana. We are made for each other. Suno ai jaane jigar. My faith in humanity just got restored.
PS: WHAT do you mean I am crying!? There is just something in my eyes.
Don’t get bogged down by the passion and the power of love that you have been witnessing so far. Falling in love is actually a Step By Step process. Really. Amit Kumar and Asha Bhosle sum it up in the 1989 film Dost. Ek hum hue jaaneman kis tarah. Ho tan mein jaan, jaan mein tan jis tarah. First step. Haath mile. Second step. Aankh mili. Third step. Dil mile. Fourth step. Pyaar hua. Step by step. If you miss any of the above mentioned steps, it is not love.
Technically speaking, this next song should not be in the list because it is from the dubbed 1977 film Meethi Meethi Baatein. But that cannot take away the learning that this song imparts to the listeners. Hello. Hellooo. Hello My Dear Wrong Number.Hai iswar sundar toh kya ho tum? Kisliye milte nahin phir hum? Tadpaaye kyun ai sanam? Tu mujhe mukh dikhla de. Hellooo. Hello my dear wrong number. Hai machal gaye tum sun ke sargam. Aayenge saamne tere na balam. Na mera mukh chand sa, na nazar matwaali hai. Hello. Hello my dear, wrong number. If you wanted to master telephone etiquette, this is the song for you.
Okay. Pop Quiz now. Guess the lines that come before and after these: Mehsoos karoon mehfooz teri baahon mein. Main naaz karoon chale saath tu jab raahon mein. Don’t let the mehsoos and mehfooz fool you. We are not talking Mughal-e-Azam here, though I would not blame you if you already are conjuring images of Hasrat Jaipuri. Try shifting focus to Kimi Katkar in a Spiderman costume and Govinda in Bridget Jones undies. The year is 1988. The film is Dariya Dil. And the song is Tu Mera Superman. Tu mera superman, main teri lady. Ho gaya hai apna pyaar already. Very intense, very Justice-League-meets-Avengers lyrics, if you get the drift. If you don’t, you aren’t missing much.
Talking of Superman, here’s another flying object which continues to be an inspiration. Love Bird Kehte Hain Mujhko. Said Shadaab Khan in the 1997 anti-hero film Raja Ki Ayegi Baraat. There were many reasons why the debut film of Rani Mukherji sank without a trace. But this Vijay Benedict song surely wasn’t one of them. Love bird kehte hain mujhko. Baga ding dong dig dung. Love bird kehte hain mujhko. Har ik ladki lovely lovely. Beautiful aur crazy crazy. Mujhse bole touch me touch me. Touch me touch me. Such has been the impact of this song that there are men all over the world who consider it the theme song of their lives. And this when they haven’t even heard the song.
Deewanon ka ghar hai romance road par. Parwanon ka daftar hai romance road par. Hoti hai aankh micholi romance road par. Hai sab ki tabiyat doli romance road par. Yeah, we get it, but I think we have been far too long on the Romance Road. Need to switch to other spaces now. Like national integration. Contemporary poet and philosopher Bali Brahmbhatt hits the nail totally on the head in this Dharmendra and Aditya Panscholi starrer, Mafia (1996). Money doesn’t matter on romance road. You gotta deal with the subject of humanity. Rule out insanity. This is reality. In all sincerity. To the Hindu, the Muslim, the Sikh, Isaai. Don’t say bye bye. Say bhai bhai. On ro ro ro ro romance road. On romance road. What intensity. And what a message.
Dil tujhe de chuke tujhpe jaan denge. Hum tere vaaste har imtehaan denge. I am sure most of you are thinking this to be another love ballad. And this is why Arnab Goswami yells at you every night at nine. Because the definition of My First Love can be different for a few people. Not all young men of the country are just your regular deewana-parwaana-mastaana variety, only concerned about the frivolous things in life like girls. Dil tujhe de chuke tujhpe jaan denge. Hum tere vaaste har imtehaan denge. My First Love. My nation. Nation nation. Great nation. The song from the 1995 film Param Vir Chakra has been picturized on three cadets dancing on the stage at some Army festival. Seriously. If General VK Singh grew up on songs like these, I would not judge him any more for being seen with Ramdev at public rallies.
From a pure sociological point of view, English has always had this elitism attached to it. It has been the first language of capitalism and authority, especially in the context of the third world countries. Expectedly, the working knowledge of English elevates you to a more powerful, smarter position. And then you practice the smarts at red light areas. Anjaan pens How Are You Munnibai for the 1983 film Laalach, and Mahendra Kapoor sings it for Pran. How are you, how are you, Munnibai, how are you? Don’t tell lie. Don’t feel shy. Tell me why. You like I. I like your kotha. I like your kotha. How are you, how are you, Munnibai how are you? Don’t know who I should feel sorrier for, Pran, Mahendra Kapoor or Munnibai. :|
Our acknowledgment and celebration of English language in Hindi cinema cannot be complete without talking about the mammoth contribution of Professor Bappi Lahiri. His definition of Rock Dancer (1995) can make the most sincere and the most severe rock aficionados leave rock forever to join the Bappi cult. Ladies and gentlemen. Rock dancer kya hota hai, zara dekhen. R se hota hai rhythm. O se orchestra. C se hota hai concert. K se keyboard. D se hota hai drummer. A se audience. N se number. C se chorus. E se intertainment. R se? Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock. Dil ka cheque advance kar. Pyaar ka fee-nance kar. Mere sang sang dance kar. Aaja tu romance kar. Rock is love. Love is rock. Oh my love. Rock Rock Rock. Aaja aaja come here. Dil ki rail line hai clear. Tu mujhe sabse dear. Rehna bas mere near. Rock is love. Love is rock. Oh my love. Rock Rock Rock. Sometimes I wonder why we remember Bappi da only for being this lard of gold. He is much more than that. B se hota hai…
However, Bappi da’s tribute to the Rock Dancer pales in front of his elegy for Bruce Lee in the 1980 film Morchha. Why Bruce Lee? Because he was a great guy. And that was reason enough for everybody to joyously go Let’s Dance For The Great Guy Bruce Lee. Our man even got a firang voice, Annette, to sing with him to make the song sound authentic and legitimate in English. It totally worked. For Bappi, that is. We all know Bruce Lee is no more with us. But he will be alive in our hearts for many years. He was a tough guy. He taught us a new wave. Let’s give a hand for the departed soul. Come onnnn! Morcha. Morcha. Morcha. Morchaaaaaaa. Morcha. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. Zulmo sitam ki, maane na dhamki. Aisa bane aadmi. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. I am sure even Bruce Lee smiles whenever he gets to watch this song on YouTube. And I am sure even Bruce Lee wishes for a better print.
If you thought these English-Hindi conglomerations were just about song and dance, you would be amazed to know their expanse. There are philosophical lessons, there are temporal encroachments affecting perceptions of time and there are spaces and times being combined into the same continuum, creating new spatial dimensions in the process. HA, fooled you! That was me being metaphysical by combining random lines from Wikipedia. But then again, I have reasons to get into this mode, considering the next few songs are going to challenge most of you with their takes on the space-time equilibria. I always wanted to use the word ‘equilibria’ some day. Always.
The first song is from the 1997 release Humko Ishq Ne Mara. That Was Yesterday.That was yesterday.Humse hum pyaar karte the, iqraar karte the. That was yesterday. That was yesterday. Iss dil ko behlaate the. Saare naaz uthate the. Humse milne aate the, jaate the. That was yesterday. That was yesterday. So we have a girl singing what she used do to herself ‘that was yesterday’, harmonized by a male voice. Whatever. Your turn now, Stephen Hawking!
The next one is from the 1980 release Aakhri Insaaf. The director of the film was one Kalidas. Enough said. Yaaroon-oo-oo-on. Who Has Seen Tomorrow? Kal kisne dekha hai. Kal ko goli tomorrow. Yaaroon-oo-oo-on. Who has seen tomorrow? Pertinent question. A logical postulation that evades resolution. So no answers. Yet. Kalidas, FTW!
Starting with the title of the film itself, Waqt Se Pehle (1984) combines the intricacies of Gulzar with the idiosyncrasies of Gulzar, although he isn’t even associated with the movie. Find it out for yourself by listening to Nitin Mukesh and Preeti Sagar sing in their mother tongue. Make Memories.Make memories. Make memories. Make memories. Let them make your heart throb. In pleasure and in pain. Then live and relive by them forever. In sunshine and in rain. Make memories. Make memories. Deepak Chopra™ would be proud of this™.
This is the last song. There is no descriptor to it. Oh my dear one, go now! Will you go just now?