The last quarter of 1982 was extremely exciting in the history of India primarily for two reasons. The Asian Games came back to New Delhi after a gap of three decades. We realised that we were capable of rising above mediocrity as a nation and make our mark as a progressive and progressing country. Confident landmarks like Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Indraprastha Indoor Stadium and Khel Gaon got added to the Mughal-Lutyen landscape of the capital city, and became a part of the collective national modernisation dream almost overnight. We understood the power and impact of live TV, with the athletic pixels beaming across the country through seedha prasaran on Doordarshan. Offering solidarity to the cause, the TV screens started transforming from black & white to coloured, showcasing the buoyant hues of the tricolor like never before. Ath Swagatam Shubh Swagatam, we sang on 19th November at the Opening Ceremony, welcoming and celebrating the world and India, and I also suspect, the first mega-public appearance of Amitabh Bachchan after the Coolie accident.
The other big event in the life of India was the release of Disco Dancer.
B Subhash’s Disco Dancer is the rags to riches story of Jimmy (Mithun Chakraborty playing Mithun Chakraborty) who braves acute poverty to become India’s best disco dancer. Fighting the whims and fancies of his punishing fate and inner demons, Jimmy goes on to ace the coveted International Disco Competition, bringing joy, pride and honour to the nation and her people, one pelvic thrust at a time.
There is enough in Jimmy’s stimulating and sterling biography to shake, rattle and roll the viewers. As a kid, he is falsely accused of stealing by PN Oberoi, the evil rich businessman. His mother takes the blame and goes to jail. The mother-child combine is taunted and tormented with the cries of maa-chor-beta-chor (which, for the record, does not sound like what it is meant to sound like), and they leave Mumbai to settle in Goa. Jimmy grows up to sing and dance at local weddings, while Oberoi’s son Sam becomes the country’s most popular disco dancer, and a pompous ass with ill-fitting moustache and trousers. His manager David Brown leaves him because of his wayward ways, discovers Jimmy, and soon enough, Sam is dethroned. Side note: Om Puri playing a character called David Brown is why a lot people from the 1980s still have trust issues.
The now-famous Jimmy exposes Oberoi at a party, and also falls in love with his daughter. Outblinged and outsmarted, Oberoi gets his men to electrocute Jimmy through his guitar, but kills his mother instead. Jimmy gets Guitarphobia, developing cold feet at the Competition, unable to dance. That’s when Rajesh Khanna in a career defining special appearance as Raju Bhaiyya hams what looks like an entire episode of Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi to motivate Jimmy, asking him to “Gaaaaa!”. The film is still called Disco Dancer. “GAAAAA!”, he beseeches and screeches. Jimmy gets his mojo. Oberoi’s goons kill Raju Bhaiyya to make him ham some more. Our hero kills them back. Oberoi gets electrocuted.
And they all lived happily ever after.
This may sound very simplistic and formulaic, thanks to my ha-ha-ha retrospective gaze, but for the 1980s cine-goers, nothing could be farther from the truth. Disco Dancer is not a film. It is a state of mind. This journey of the lowbrow to the high street is an electrifying – in more ways than one – celebration of the absurd and the awe-inspiring, the real and the surreal, the sounds and the silence. Disco Dancer is definitely not a film. It is the overwhelmingly viscous space between the trash and the transcendental.
The audiences, while rooting for the classic good-versus-bad tale, also played cheerleaders to what they thought was the emerging, new India. Where the macho hero could be a dancer, wear shiny clothes on stage and lungis at home, shake his limbs without any love-interest around for most part of the film, be surrounded by fangirls, and still have his mother feed him food with her own hand. This was a protagonist hitherto unseen. Not a brawny rebel, but an artiste, a performer. Who could fail and clam up and cry, but finally emerge victorious. Because maa ka aashirvaad. That a primarily western and alien concept like disco could be mainstreamized, with quintessentially Indian storytelling and a central character that never would exist in real life is what got the audiences to the theatres. Then you had the emotions, struggles, failure, success, vengeance, love and drama. Also, Jesus Christ and Krishna. Plus, a mandatory Rahim Chacha, thank you.
Disco dancing became us.
While there was not much to talk about the country’s economy, militancy was rearing its head in Punjab, mills in Mumbai were coming to a standstill, and the honourable Prime Minister was publicly throwing out her widowed daughter in law from her home, we were still dancing. Maruti Suzuki was on the threshold of giving the middle-class-middle-brow India wheels that they had never imagined, Amitabh Bachchan was gearing himself to get back to the studios after a long stay at the hospitals, Chambal dacoits had started wilfully surrendering, Kaur Singh and Satpal were trouncing their opponents at the Asian Games in Boxing and Wrestling respectively, Jimmy was crushing the disco kings and queens from Afreeka and Paris. Things were beginning to look up. Toh jhoomo, toh naacho, aao mere saath naacho gaao. We had reasons to believe. Backed by Bappi Lahiri’s music. And moustachioed men wearing ballerina dresses complete with tutus.
The Buggles may claim that Radio Killed the Video Star, but Auva Auva belonged to Bappi Lahiri and Usha Uthup. Jesus by Tielman Brothers could become the ballad of Krishna, and Jesus did not really mind it seeing the perfect fit. The ultimate winner of the film, though, was the title song, I’m A Disco Dancer. The song starts with Mithun jumping on the stage, and then freezes on a screaming woman’s face for almost 5 seconds. That, in a nutshell, sums up the impact of the film on its audiences. Hypnotic and frenzied. It wasn’t as if Mithun Chakraborty’s histrionics or Bappi Lahiri’s music had any novelty value. Ravikant Nagaich had previously gifted Surakksha, Sahhas and Wardaat to the audiences. But Disco Dancer turned out special because of its very universal, very identifiable theme. The synthetic saga of tribulations and triumphs scored because of its straightforward simplism. And not just in India. It was the first Indian film to pocket 100 crores worldwide, with Goron Ki Na Kaalon Ki becoming an unlikely anthem across countries!
The impact of Disco Dancer was pretty much like the Asian Games. It made us feel all good and gooey till the next big jamboree. The beats were lost to the Madrasi eyesores featuring Jeetendra, and then to the Nadeem Shravan onslaught. Mithun went on to do Ooty films. The buzz around Kaur Sing and Satpal was forgotten already.
But what a thrilling high it was when it lasted! It was quite the time to disco.
(first published on Arré)
Sajid Khan is an intelligent man.
Not everybody will agree with the statement, I know, and you will throw Himmatwala and Hamshakals at me. And you will not miss. Having said that, while I am still not sermonising that he is more sinned against than sinning, I don’t think half the world has seen either of the two movies. I have, and I have suffered them. BUT I also have picked up gems from both that are quintessentially Sajid Khan. Quirky, funny and fun. Wonder how many of us are aware of the random tribute – in black & white, no less – he has given to Alfred Hitchcock in Himmatwala, with Mahesh Manjrekar duplicating Marion Crane from the famous shower scene of Psycho! Of course, I yearned for more, and, of course, I felt disappointed. However, my faith in the man stays. He is not an auteur, and I don’t think he aspires to become one either. But he certainly gets humor better than most of his contemporaries. (I’m looking at you, Rohit Shetty.) The problem, and I say it only from a regular viewer’s perspective, is that he doesn’t know where and when to stop.
The nostalgic eighties/ nineties cheese make the cinema of Sajid Khan, coupled with a micro-focus on the audiences who get his references. Getting Shabbir Kumar to sing I Don’t Know What To Do in Houseful 2 was a masterstroke. It may not have been even registered by half the world, but for legions of Shabbir Kumar fans, it was an emotional reunion with the hamming hummer. Way different from, say, an Altaf Raja being experimented with, and made a mess of, in Ghanchakkar or Hunterrr. This was unadulterated Shabbir Kumar for the unadulterated Shabbir Kumar fans. And getting Ranjeet to play Papa Ranjeet, again, in Housefull 2, was, well, a very Papa Ranjeet thing to do. Only Sajid could get Ranjeet to give a homage to Ranjeet! And I am still not talking about the random Jeevan, Shatrughan Sinha, Sanjeev Kumar, Rajesh Khanna moments that he inserts (I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it is done unknowingly!) in scenes and scenarios which also double up as his narratives.
But Sajid is not just about nostalgia or talking only to the hardcore fans of nostalgia. He also gives the identifiable Tom & Jerry cartoonish coloration to his characters and situations to appeal to the sensibilities of the newer, younger viewers. (Who, I suspect, are sometimes as young as five. Days, that is.) Crocodiles and pythons attack the crotches of his heroes, diapers fly, and cute slap-fests, including one with a monkey, are integral parts of his movie-making. Some people find these funny, others find these unfunny. But the theatres get the laughs, sometimes louder than normal. Purpose served. Then there are the cringeworthy prejudices, some subtle and some not-so-subtle. The bimbetteness of the womenfolk is glorified, the lecherousness of the mankind is glamorised. Oh, and an occasional repulsive appearance of a dwarf maid cavorting with Mithun Chakraborty also makes inroads. But I would still refrain from donning the judicial robes here. History will evaluate and appraise Sajid Khan – and David Dhawan plus a few more directors for that matter – for the kind of films that they have made and the kind of laughter their humor has elicited. But they sure will make it to History, even if as post-scripts. Purpose served.
Last, Sajid Khan knows how to get his audiences to have some random, mindless fun with confusions and conundrums galore in all his outings. Yes, these are random, and yes, they are mindless. But, hell, some of us enter that big dark room to let go! The climax of Housefull had Queen Elizabeth talking in Marathi and yelling the “Jai Maharashtra” war cry, arbit Russian folk dancers forming the backdrop in a strictly British set up, Boman Irani LOLing and saying “Tu toh homos hai” to Arjun Rampal and a roomfull of Brits laughing uproariously and behaving demented because of a Nitrous oxide leak. Do the math already.
The Sajid Khan formula – if there is one – doesn’t always work, of course. It did not, for sure, in the Saif Ali Khan-Riteish Deshmukh starrer Hamshakals. It was a universally panned film, and for all the right reasons. As his loyalist, I felt cheated when I saw the film. While I had not gone expecting any high art, my biggest grouse was that Sajid Khan failed his audiences as Sajid Khan, the director. The film was loud, alright, but not ludicrous. And THAT was its failing. It isn’t easy making his kind of movies, and I am sure Sajid figured it himself while making Hamshakals. I hope his next one, whenever it happens, gives him back to us. Meanwhile, Sajid-Farhad tried being him in Housefull 3, and, well, didn’t really succeed. “Sirf bhaunkne se koi kutta kameena nahin ho jaata“, Papa Ranjeet had predicted in Housefull 2. And rightly so, despite my disagreement with the kutta-kameena analogy.
Hamshakals had one redeeming thing, though. The Cocaine Ke Paraathe song. It is as moronic as it can get and it is not funny when seen in isolation. But it was the high point of the film. Vintage Sajid Khan. Ridiculous to the core, and giving you those laughter trips you know you would eventually feel extremely guilty about. You can switch directly to 2:08 if you do not want to see the set up.
And why am I remembering the man now? The entire #BREXIT noise took me to the climax scene of Housefull 2, obviously! (Stupid Brits, no, really.) And I actually came across an article on drug laced parathas being sold in Chandigarh. Like, for real.
Guess I am not the only one who gets enamored by the genius of Sajid Khan!
These are bad times.
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.
Thank you for taking the panga, sir!
(Originally published on firstpost.com)
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.) 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.)
While the world and its cousins were all talking about the sad news of Rajesh Khanna’s demise, Yahoo also ran this rather random, and well, poignant news report on actor Satish Kaul that I am sure most of us would have missed.
For those who don’t know, Mr. Kaul was the A-grade actor in B-grade films like Kabrastan and Khooni Mahal and the B-grade actor in A-grade films like Karma and Ram Lakhan. His duet with Rama Vij in Bahu Beta aur Maa is a great lesson for the film actors of generations-to-come on how to emote through an entire love song while suffering from acute constipation, mouthing lines like Dhaga ragon ka sui mein piro ke button laga doon oh meri sajni oh soniyoe.
Amongst his more popular roles, he played one of the dead sons of Dilip Kumar in Karma. Apt. Also, his dead brother in the film was Shashi Puri, another actor born to fill the pages of a respected forum like ‘I love trashy hindi movies’, but we shall reserve that for some other time.
Mr. Kaul was found rather dashing in gaudy costumes, and he played Madhusudan, Yuvraj Anandsen, Yuvraj Ajay, Yuvraj Vajramukti, Suryamal and many more such characters that would continuously wet Ramanand Sagar’s ornamented underpants in serials like Vikram aur Betaal and Dada Dadi Ki Kahaniyan on Doordarshan. From what I remember, he also played the bit role of the over-the-top filmstar in Aziz Mirza’s TV serial Manoranjan, again, on DD.
Apparently, Mr. Kaul, after working in 60-odd Hindi and Punjabi films (Amongst other movies, he was also the hero of Munda Naram Te Kudi Garam. Respect.) and running a film school (the ad on OLX mentions he has done close to 300 films, btw), is now going through some very rough times. And since he has no place or family to go back home to, he just got himself and all his trophies collected over the years from organizations like City Club, Jalandhar and Agarwaal Mahasabha, Bulandshahar, checked into some Red Cross Senior Citizens’ Home in Ludhiana. Quite a moving story, this, because it really is painful to see old actors, dyed hair, wrinkled skin, rusted trophies, et al, trying to live what was but no longer is. No matter howmuchever bad they were as actors.
BUT this is where the Yahoo report turns rather arbitrary and funny and actually starts begging for a place of its own in any forum dedicated to all things trashy.
I quote from the report: “But the question is what’s the reason behind this situation? Copyright! Our country is quite very lenient on copyright laws, and hence, it leads to this. Injustice, right? So what’s the solution? A strong copyright law that gives due admiration to all”.
Okay. That helped.
PS: Whoever has given the VO in this report, you are my dream girl. I would love to give you due admiration some time. Quite very lenient I am. Promise.
If you are here hoping to start a discussion on the 10 Best Hindi Film Songs of All Time, you may want to stop reading, like, now.
Hindi cinema has had so many gems that the biggest and the brightest experts on movies and music would find it tough to create a list of even the 100 best, leave alone the 10 Best Hindi Songs of all time. The expanse is awfully wide, ranging from K L Saigal to Amit Trivedi and everybody else in between. And I sure am not the right person to generate the list. Not because I am not capable, but because it may just be sacrilegious to take one song and leave another considering the number of great songs that we have had. And, also because I am not capable.
But here I am. Still hitting the imaginary keys of the imaginary typewriter, and feeling adequately writerish, if there ever was such a word. Here’s why. I may not be good enough to pick up the 10 Best Songs, but hey, I sure am bad enough to pick up the 10 Worst Hindi Film Songs of All Time. True story.
When I say bad songs, I don’t quite have songs like Choli ke peechhe kya hai, Sarkaye liyo khatiya jaada lage or Chadh gaya oopar re in my mind. Choli ke peechhe is not exactly high art, but it did serve the purpose of being this raunchy raw number in a situation that required a raunchy raw number, and being judgmental about that would mean being silly. But more importantly, I do not want to take the moral high ground here and castigate racy songs just because they are, well, racy. Also, fyi, the answer is boobs.
I have also let go of the South Indian entries rehashed in Hindi. So Telephone dhun mein hansne waali, Melbourne machhli machalne waali would not find a place in my list despite the lyricist PK Mishra’s greatness staring at us. In fact, my entire list can be made out of the contribution from Robot and Indian, but that would be kind of playing favorites.
Have consciously avoided Hindi film songs in English, because it is grossly unfair to their Hindi counterparts, and these songs really don’t need my certification, in any case. Here’s why. My heart is beating. Keeps on repeating. I am waiting for you. My love encloses. A plot of roses. And when shall be then. Our next meeting. Cause love you know. That time is fleeting. Time is fleeting. Time is fleeting. Now picture somebody called Lakshmi singing those lines while being directed by one K S Sethumadhavan. If you still don’t understand where I am coming from, I wanna chiggie wiggie witcha boy.
You would also not find any of those hybrid songs like ILU ILU, Lazy lamhen and Zara zara touch me. They are neither here, nor there. Certainly not here.
Last, I have not taken songs that were meant to be funny intentionally. This would mean no C.A.T cat, cat mane billi or Shaam dhale khidki tale tum seeti bajana chhod do or Main Laila Laila chillaunga kurta phaad ke.
The lyrics and the songs of each era reflect the socio-cultural scenario they have emerged from, deserving their place of honour or dishonour under the sun. I am no expert at judging the creations of others but I certainly am an expert at making these cover-your-ass statements like I just did. So. Here I go. In no particular order.
1. Hato Hato Doctoron Ki Toli Aayi. If you ever thought Who let the dogs out was the first song to get inspired by the barking dog/s, don’t ever say this to Rajesh Roshan. Everybody from the Roshan clan would laugh uproariously, mock at you and then do wild high fives (Insert Hrithik Roshan high-six joke here) after hearing you. This song talks about a doctoron ki toli, and the incredible acts of this she-dog Tommy. Tommy is the name of a bitch. Yes. Now let me not spoil your fun. Here are the lyrics penned by Indeevar: Hato hato doctoron ki toli aayi, toli aayi. Compounder saath mein Tommy laayi, Tommy laayi. Bow. Bow Wow. Bow. Bow Wow. Baat jo bigdi hai ban jaayegi. Saath mein beautiful nurse laayi. I have not had the chance to see this dog or the song, but it is from the 1991 film Karz Chukana Hai, starring Govinda. Okay. Case closed. Also, the inspiration for this song, if at all, is the Patti Page number How much is that doggie in the window.
2. Ek Rasgulla Kahin Phat Gaya Re. To be fair, there are too many Govinda songs that can make it to the list and it is very strenuous to decide on the best worst Govinda song/s. He is the one who has mouthed immortal lines like Tujhko mirchi lagi toh main kya karun, Meri pant bhi sexy and Main tujhko bhaga laya hoon tere ghar se, tere baap ke dar se. But this song from the 1990 film Izzatdaar is special because it has been picturized on Madhuri Dixit along with Govinda. The actors are in a state of inebriation a la Jai Jai Shiv Shankar, and this is the high point of their musical conversation: Sun oh mister. Oh mister. Sun oh mister. Oh mister. Mister. Oh mister. Ek taaza khabar. Mmmmmmm. Ek rasgulla kahin phat gaya re. Re baba re. Phat ke jalebi se lipat gaya re. I could not figure who has written these lyrics but whoever could imagine an exploding rasgulla tightly hugging a jalebi after getting torn off, I would want to get pregnant with your child.
3. Angoor Ka Dana Hoon. Sui Na Chubha Dena. That’s a fair ask. Because no self respecting angoor ka daana would want to be pin-pricked by a needle. This is why: Angoor ka daana hoon. Sui na chubha dena. Sui jo chubhayi toh ras tapkega. Jo ras tapkega toh… Kiss. Miss. Kissmiss. Kissmiss ban jaaungi. Roughly translated, this is how the song goes: “I am a grape, a fruiting berry of the deciduous woody vines of the botanical genus described as Vitis”. Ha, fooled you, that’s Wikipedia talking! But seriously, I don’t think the song can be explained. It has to be absorbed somewhere deep down inside. If you cannot understand the lyrics, you don’t understand literature. Go drown. Thank you, Kavita Krishnamurthy. Thank you Sawan Kumar Tak. Kiss. Miss. Kissmiss.
4. Main Toh Preetam Ko Kar Rahi Thi Ta Ta Re. The year was 1997. The film was Gudgudee. The actor was Pratibha Sinha. Check out the first two lines of the song: Main toh Preetam ko kar rahi thi ta ta re. Ki kaale kutte ne mujhe kaata re. What an agonizing situation to be in, poor girl. Bidding adieu to your loved one and being bitten by a black dog. Naturally, you expect her poignant tale of woes to continue in the next two lines of the song. And continue it does: Kaale kutte ne mujhe kaata re. Jab Preetam ko kar rahi thi ta ta re. So if you missed her heart-rending state of affairs in the earlier take, you certainly would get it now with that tear-jerking play of words. Oh, that bloody dog, the slayer of love. Btw, we had saved the best for the last. The director of this film was Basu Chatterjee. The Basu Chatterjee.
PS: Pratibha Sinha’s other claim to fame is this exceptional song exploring temporal spaces from the movie Military Raaj titled Kabhi hafte mein do hafte mein tu mil ja mujhko raste mein. Also, some people remember her for her tits.
5. I One Love Four You Three. This song has Mithun Chakraborty teaming up with Harish, telling us how professing one’s affection with an ‘I love you’ is passé. Harish, for those not in the know, is the only actor in the country who can pass off both as a South Indian bhelwala and a North Indian bhelwala with equal effortlessness. He also had played the heroine in Karishma Kapoor’s debut film Prem Qaidi. The song is reflective of the societal milieu of the post-liberalization 1990s. And this when I don’t even know what that last sentence meant. I One. Love Four. You Three. Bolo one four three. Yaani I love you. Bolo one four three. I love you hua purana. Yeh naya hai zamana. Nayi nayi baat karo. Jab bhi mulaqaat karo. Hoor ho ya pari. I One. Love Four. You Three. Bolo one four three. Yaani I love you. Bolo one four three. Yes. Indeed. Mithun Chakraborty, Harish, Mohammed Aziz, Udit Narayan, Jatin, Lalit, Arshad Khan, Salim Akhtar… they don’t make them like you anymore, comrades. One Four Three all.
6. Kya Gaadi Hai. Kya Number Hai. Or this is how Jackie Shroff describes his ladylove Sangeeta Bijlani in the 1991 film Lakshmanrekha. The cringing candescence of this Amit Kumar song lights up my dull and dark days even now. Kya gaadi hai. Kya number hai. Kya body hai. Kya bumper hai. Oopar se dekho. Neeche se dekho. Aage se dekho. Peechhe se dekho. Kahin se dekho ji. Haai kya baat hai. Haai kya baat hai. If this isn’t subtle, what is? But please don’t try this at home.
Special mention to this other Jackie Shroff number Back Maarti Hai Front Maarti Hai. Jackie plays a Police Officer in this 1992 film of the same name. And he sings this song for Karishma Kapoor: Back maarti hai. Fur-runt maarti hai. Dekho yeh ladki current maarti hai. Ladki samajh ke issko na chhoona. Yeh kaali nagin ka hai namoona. Dant maarti hai yeh dunk maarti hai. Dekho yeh ladki current maarti hai. Everytime this song gets played on radio or TV, a girl gets molested and goes to a Police Officer. Or sometimes the girl goes to the Police Officer and gets molested. Which other film would have an impact like this!
7. You Are My Chicken Fry. You Are My Fish Fry. While it is an unhappy sight, I can so visualize Bappi Lahiri moving around with spring in his steps and in his gold crusted Spongebob boxers after conjuring this song up. Chicken Fry was Bappi da’s eureka moment. (Okay, the sight just became unhappier, bathtub et al.) Not every day does such brilliance strike the human race: You are my chicken fry. You are my fish fry. Kabhi na kehna kudiye bye bye bye. Wow. Only the cruellest and the most heartless kudiye can reject such a passionate and warm plea. Therefore, the good girl replies, in affirmation: You are my samosa. You are my masala dosa. Main na kahungi mundya bye bye bye. Moral of the story: Angoor ka dana hoon deserves the Nobel prize for Literature.
8. It’s 6 AM. I Love You Mom. Annu Malik hit the creative goldmine with this song from the 2003 film Khushi. Sung by Sonu Nigam and picturized on Fardeen Khan in his shorts, the song can inspire you for life. It’s 6 am. I love you, mom. I’ll have some cornflakes. Mujhe milega dum. I’ll have good shower. And a shave. Listen to music. It’s gotta be late. Put on my jeans. And Provogue shirt. Ladki dhoondoonga. With short short skirts. Mere dil mein phool khil rahe hain. Chaand tare din mein khil rahe hain. Pyaar hone ko hai. Dil khone ko hai. O ho O ho O. Good morning, India. This is it. I love you mom. Mujhe milega dum. I’m this cokehead. Must go to bed. What khushi!
9. Din Mein Leti Hai. I had consciously decided to avoid the double entendre songs or songs that were conceived with the premise that they had to be crass and vulgar to titillate and shock. Plenty examples. Saat saheliyan khadi khadi, Main maalgaadi tu dhakka laga, Kal saiyyan ne aisi bowling kari, Khada hai khada hai khada hai dar pe tera ashique khada hai or Bhaag DK Bose and Oonche se ooncha banda potty par baithe nanga from recent times. But I have still kept this one song from the 1994 film Amanat in my list for the sheer audacity of its creators – Bappi Lahiri, Kumar Sanu, Anwar Sagar, Illa Arun, Alka Yagnik – to believe that they could get away with something like this. They did. Din mein leti hai. Raat mein leti hai. Subah ko leti hai. Shaam ko leti hai. Kya bura hai. Usska naam leti hai. Arre bol bol kiska? Apne saajan ka. Apne baalam ka. Apne preetam ka. Apne jaanam ka.
PS: Ila Arun, how do you sing with that machine running?
10. Mister Prime Minister. Hey you. And you and you. Oll of you. Come here. Come hither. Brother and sister. And there. There miss. And this mister. Come whun come all. To know the how and see the who. Of this. Mister Prime Minister. Event of the times. Cold and sinister. Angel of a man. Not a fixter. Not a smooth operator. Then in down like a gutter. This Misther Prime Minister. Bappi Lahiri and Dev Anand joined forces to create this geriatric gobbledygook in the 2005 release called, uhm, Mr. Prime Minister. I give up.
And here’s the list of the also-rans.
1. Ladki Nahin Hai Tu Lakdi Ka Khamba Hai. The entire decade of 1980s belonged to Jeetendra with films like Maqsad, Tohfa, Sarfarosh, Mawaali, Haisiyat, Hoshiyar, Haqeeqat, Sanjog, Majaal and many more, touching the deepest depths of daftness, showcasing some of the most absurd songs of Hindi cinema ever produced, complete with flying colors, dancing matkas and Jayaprada in a petticoat. (One sec. Haan, hello. Kaun? Oh, Amar Singh ji? Haan sir, would send you the link asap.) Amongst all those charming numbers, our vote goes to this song from Himmatwala: Aiiiiiii. Ladki nahin hai tu lakdi ka khamba hai. Bakbak mat kar naak tera lamba hai. Aa aa. Idhar tu aa aa. Aiiiiiii. Ja. Aa gaya kehan se tu bada hi nikamma hai. Ja ke chhup ja tu wahan jahan teri amma hai. Ja ja. Arre tu ja ja. It takes the creative skills of somebody as intense as Indeevar to manufacture lyrical banter of this stature. Also, lamba naak instead of lambi naak? That was sheer genius, sir.
2. Bingo Bingo Bingo Main Hoon Bingo. Indian Cinema has showcased some great friends and friendship over the last 100 years. Jai Veeru. Ram Balram. Bharat Bhushan. (Okay, I made the last one up.) But nobody can beat the friendship between Bingo and Ringo in the 1985 release Ma Kasam. Amjad Khan and Mithun Chakraborty light up the screen in this Bappi Lahiri-Farooq Qaiser song of friendship, courage and valour. And they have Kalpana Iyer aka Pappi Sundaram for company. Bingo Bingo Bingo, main hoon Bingo. Ringo Ringo Ringo, main hoon Ringo. Haan haan main Pappi Sundaram. Sambhal ke rakhna har kadam. Karenge chhutti, Ma kasam. Ma kasam. Ma kasam. Enough said.
3. Main Ladki Po Po Po. As if romancing with Suneil Shetty in Hera Pheri wasn’t bad enough for Tabbu, she was also made to sing these awesome lines: Main ladki PO PO PO. Tu ladka PO PO PO. Hum dono mile PO PO PO. Ab aage hoga kya? Only a lyricist of Sameer’s calibre could ask such an existential question with such simplicity and also provide the answer through Suneil Shetty: Kuch nahin hoga kuch nahin hoga. Hum dono mein bas yeh hoga. PO PO PO. PO PO PO. PO PO PO. PO PO PO. PO PO PO. PO PO PO. PO PO… I swear I am not making up the number of POPOPOs in this song. Honest. And to add insult to injury, Shetty actually slaps Tabbu and then kicks her ass, literally, while rejecting her overtures in the middle of the song. What the PO.
4. Mere Baap Ki Beti Meko Bhai Bolti, Mere Baap Ki Biwi Meko Beta Bolti. Like Govinda, there are too many Salman Khan songs that can make it to the list. But I have chosen this one because of the ease with which it exposes the underbelly and the complexities of the great Indian family, and at the same time, highlights the hopes and aspirations of the common man. If that common man is Salman Khan, that is. Mere baap ki beti meko bhai bolti. Mere baap ki biwi meko beta bolti. Meri maa ka bhai meko bhaanja bolta. Mere bhai ki beti meko chacha bolti. Ooparwaale, tune, mujhko sab kuchh diya. Ab dede husband kehne waali sundar biwi. Never again has the great Indian joint family been represented in Hindi cinema like this. Must be a really good joint.
If you are not convinced with this selection, try this other Salman Khan song called Main Toh Mere Papa Ki Carbon Copy from the 2002 film Yeh Hai Jalwa: Nahin fax, nahin xerox, nahin telex ya computer ki floppy. Main to mere Papa ki carbon copy. And if you are still not convinced, well, let me not tell you mere baap ka beta tujhe kya bolta.
5. Do Me A Favor, Let’s Play Holi. To give Anu Malik the credit, he has had the distinction of making songs with lyrics as bizarre as Ek garam chai ki pyaali ho, Oonchi hai building lift teri band ha or Aaila re ladki badi mast mast fairly hummable. But that is still no defence for a song as moronic as this: Do me a favor let’s play holi. Rangon mein hai pyaar ki boli. Mere peechhe peechhe peechhe kyon aaye. Mera jiya jiya kyon dhadkaaye. Ja re ja don’t touch my choli. Uff yeh Holi. Haai yeh Holi. While Sameer has been credited with writing the lyrics of this song, one is more than sure this mukhda was penned by Mr. Malik considering the enthusiasm and passion with which he has sung the song, feeling the extent, intensity and power of pure love. Yes, Indian Aesthetics aficionados, THIS is shringar rasa for you, thank you.
Talking of purity and passion, Himesh Reshammiya’s Tandoori Nights deserves a place in here. If these nights of the roasted variety do not move you, you were born to Androids. Tak tana na na tandoori nights. Tandoori nights. Tandoori nights. Tak tana na na tandoori nights. Tandoori nights. Tandoori nights. Sama sharabi. Dono jahan sharabi. Rut rawan sharabi, dildar ve. Hawa sharabi. Teri ada sharabi. Yeh fiza sharabi, dildar ve. Tanha tanha hai dil. Tanha tandoori nights. If loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. Rabba. Rabba. Meri jaan jale. Jale. Jale. Jale…
Compare these to the Qamar Jalalabadi song from the 1959 film Do Ustad, Ric Ric Tic Tic.The song goes Ric Ric Tic Tic Boom Boom Tic. Tere mere do dil ho gaye ik. Dil mein mere kar reha hai kaun aaj picnic. Funny, yes. Mildly inane, yes. But not Kiss Miss by a long shot. Or Po Po Po.
The reason why I mention Qamar Jalalabadi is that while Qamar Saab has given us songs like Aaiye meherbaan, baithiye jaanejaan and Ek pardesi mera dil le gaya, he can also take the credit for writing quite a few ‘non-regular’ songs in Hindi films, from Mera naam Chin Chin Chu to Worli ka naka aaka ka baaka on a regular basis. But he still never did compromise on the poetry despite the difference in tonality. Dum Dum Diga Diga. Mausam bhiga bhiga. Bin piye main toh gira. Main toh gira. Main toh gira. Haai allah. Surat aapki subhan allah. Cheesy. But still classy.
God bless this man. Pappi Sundaram to him. : )
(Originally posted on missmalini.com) | If you liked this note, you may also like The Gods Must Be trashy, Getting educated at Bollywood: Woh toh theek hai magar woh kab karenge! and Dear English in Bollywood… Zindagi bhar rahunga, yours faithfully!.