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)
I am a big fan of Justin Trudoeu Tredaeu Treduae Trudeau. I like Canada. I like Canadians. I also like Punjabi, the language most of the Canadians speak. So, naturally, I was intrigued when I got a mail with the subject “Canada Immigration” from one Suman Jha from Prime Track, an ISO 9001:2008 certified firm specialising in sending people to far out countries. Fairly articulate and persuasive, our man informed me that there was a shortage of skilled manpower in Canada, and the time was right for me to start the process of migrating to Canada without any delay. He also told me that he had profoundly reviewed my profile and that he was very pleased to inform me that my CV had successfully passed through what I am assuming must be their rather stringent first phase of screening process.
This was all fantastic. Only, there was one very minor technical issue. I had not sent him my CV.
So I did what any self respecting man secure with the belief that the best career opportunities were available in Canada with high earning job profiles for foreign skilled workers would do. I ignored his mail.
However, the eloquent Mr. Jha, with his dogged determination and stubborn seduction, would not have taken no for an answer. He sent a few more mails over the next four weeks, reminding me of the interest I had shown, asking me for the details of my documents, and promising me the completion of my documentation under the fast-track services. This was all too good to be true, this outpouring of concern and affection. Unfortunately, random unnecessary work took over my life, and I could not write back to him. Let’s just say the beloved was very much aware of the admirer’s strong overtures, but I had to consciously reject it.
Suman continued to have my best interests in his mind. The natural extension of his love was yet another mail from him.
“It;s a golden opportunity”, he said.
That one sentence did the trick. Guess I was hit somewhere deep inside – the semicolon hitting the colon, as they say – and that was enough to shake me out of my complacence. I was charmed and charged by the radiance of the golden opportunity, ready to immediately take on his offer. I was raring to go. And Canada was waiting.
I wrote a polite response explaining my silence and my readiness, in order. The mail also outlined some very regular practical issues I was facing. But I was sure it was nothing Mr. Jha or Prime Track, an ISO 9001:2008 certified firm, would not have been able to sort.
Surprisingly, my positivity was reciprocated by a very stoic silence. It was as if the fizz had gone from our relationship. It was my turn to follow up.
The professional Mr. Jha had a single-lined response for me. Apt. I deserved it.
He had not asked to me for write my biography. Obviously. I was blinded by the warmth that I had seen, and it had led to some weak moments. He was totally right in chiding me. This is exactly how businesses are conducted. I realised my mistake and apologised profusely to the man who stood between the Rocky Mountains and me.
Sassy Suman was back in the game. He sent me a quick reply asking me for my CV and other documents.
By now I had figured the curt Mr. Jha meant business. I sent my biodata to him almost immediately. I also had some basic queries for him to address. Felt stupid and sorry about sending those inane questions to him, thinking how smart guys like him have to go through such dumb Qs in their line of work. But then I thought Mr. Jha and Prime Track, an ISO 9001:2008 certified firm, must be used to such harmless naiveté of their clients.
He rejected my CV.
Crestfallen, I wrote a rather poignant mail to him. I was hurting. And it didn’t feel good. But despite the grief and the hurt, I maintained my poise and my positivity. I felt like a Himesh Reshammiya heroine. With a smile on my face and a song on my lips, I asked him to reconsider my application.
His response was the complete anti-thesis of the turmoil going in the atriums of my heart. He started using his silence to numb me, and comfortably so. I waited. Twenty-four hours later, I decided to graciously confront him while respecting his point of view.
I knew he would come around. I have lots of money. And come around he did.
THIS was the point where I figured a thing or two about the psychological make of Mr. Jha. He was a man of few words. That’s what he wanted in a man. He didn’t want long treatises. He wanted short jabs. I had to change my strategy to stay ahead in the game. I had to become as succinct as him.
The whole world stood in silence as the mano-a-mano struggle ensued between the two protagonists. And then he spoke. I had nothing but gratitude towards the big man.
Soon enough, I sent him all the documents that were needed. He had given me this extreme resolve to fight, live and survive. The underlying tension had led to this overarching tenacity. I was ready to take on the world!
I knew what I was talking.
It worked. We were now willing to go to the next level. We were exchanging numbers. And I am not just talking account numbers here.
This was not just a mail exchange I was having with the man. This was a life lesson I was learning. We were talking the talk. Kind of.
Just after I hit “send”, I realised that I had ended up sharing some very critical information about myself. And I knew it instantly that it would come back to harm and haunt me.
I had inadvertently revealed that there was somebody else in my life.
Mr. Jha decided we were done. He knew he had to severe all ties with me at one go. Just like that. Or not.
He closed my file, but he opened my life. I am upset, yes, but at the same time, I am content that this experience made me find answers to that one question that has always bothered the mankind.
“Had i asked to you for write your biography?”
(If Close Encounters with Suman Jha is your kind of a thing, you may want to know more about my original heartbreaker, Probaldwip Bakshi.)
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.)
Thankfully, this note is not a commentary on the state of education in our country. I am too lowly a guy to screw around with our education system. Arindam Chaudhuri does a great job of that already. In any case, if somebody like me can construct complete sentences which are comprehensible in nature, guess they have not done too bad a job of educating us.
(Also, I just casually slipped in the 14-lettered ‘comprehensible’ to come across as oh-so-nonchalantly-intelligent and ah-so-indifferently-elegant. I am good. Going forward, I intend to use the word ‘lollapalooza’ somewhere in this note. And a whole load of adverbs once I finally get to understand what they are. Hopefully. Honestly. Lovely.)
But this note is not about my education, or the lack of it. This is about the state of learning and training in Bollywood. And it is a very serious topic. So finger on your lips, class! Hindi Cinema does take its education pretty seriously. Like, critically seriously. Case in point: Maa, main paas ho gaya hoon and the subsequent spillover of pathos, melodrama and the extreme theatrics in white sari. I really fail to understand either the son’s excitement or the mother’s surge of emotions on her goddamn idiot of an offspring securing barely enough marks to just pass the exam. He has not got a first class first, woman, so stop with that quivering of the lips already! It is a third division with KTs, and your son, obviously, never liked his books. Why, he must be one of the dumbest guys in his class. Neither he, nor his scores are either to be excited about or proud of. While you were going all vidhwa and stitching clothes and avoiding getting raped by Thakur, your good-for-nothing son was whiling away his time in random shit. DO YOU GET IT NOW, DO YOU?
But then again, if your mother is Nirupa Roy, I would not blame you for whiling away your time.
And. Moral of the story. Hindi Cinema does take its education pretty seriously. So much so that Sadhna Sargam actually rues the closure of the college in the 1992 fim Jaan Tere Naam. Kal College Band Ho Jaayega is reflective of the collective angst of the young generation pining for quality education, highlighting its hopes, dreams and aspirations. Kal college band ho jaayega, tum apne ghar ko jaaoge. Phi ek ladka ek ladki se juda ho jaayega. Woh mil nahin paayega. If you ever thought this song was a love ballad, I am going to judge you and your insensitivity and shed a tear or two for the young India.
Of course, there are black sheep who rejoice at the thought of the college getting shut, singing and dancing to celebrate the closure. Jeetendra croons Aaj Se College Band Hai in the 1979 film Khandan, and his long-haired friends wearing printed shirts join in the revelry with jolly impulsiveness. Yaaron aao. Khushi Manao. Aaj se college band hai. Aaj se college band hai. Halla gulla. Shor machao. Aaj se college band hai. Aaj se college band hai. For those who want to make this song the anthem of their lives, a word of caution, though. If you do not study, your future generation may end up making Kyonkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Or worse, they may look like Tusshar Kapoor.
Just curious, but didn’t the concept of bunking classes exist in 1979? If the college shutting down for the vacations excited the boys so much, I am sure some of them would have died after having sex for the first time. But Jeetendra and friends still get the grace marks, considering there are some students who don’t even know College kehan hai. SP Balasubramaniam sings for them in the 2001 release Yehi Toh Pyar Hai. College kehan hai jaane na. Class chal rahi jaane na. Kya hai padhai jaane na. Desh mein kya hua jaane na. Jaanat hai soniya soniya kudiyan. Pyaar mein hai khushiyan khushiyan khushiyan. But it isn’t this tandoori-dosa mix – SP singing soniya and kudiya, that is – which makes it such a great college song. What follows the first few lines of the song must be the most amazing, the most enthusiastic, the most energetic, the most cheerful exultation of the youthful spirit EVER in the history of Hindi films. Chiraju Juku Buku Luku Le. Didn’t get it? CHIRAJU JUKU BUKU LUKU LE.
I know you are missing it already.
There are a few truisms attached to all colleges in Hindi cinema. First, girls are meant to be teased. Second, romance is meant to happen. Third, I love the way I randomly use the word Truism without even knowing its usage. So you have chhed-chhad songs ranging from Thoda ruk jayegi toh tera kya jayega (Patanga, 1971. Though it is not picturized inside the college, Vimmi, the heroine, is either going to or coming from one, carrying textbooks) to Haai meri amma (Jaal, 1986) to Khud ko kya samajhti hai, kitna akadti hai (Khiladi, 1992) to Gori gori oh baanki chhori (Shola aur Shabnam, 1992, sung by Govinda, no less) to Shava yeh nakhra gori ka (Suhaag, 1994) and many more that would fit into the same mould. 1990s perhaps represented the golden age of eve-teasing, with every second hero, and even Ronit Roy, Avinash Wadhawan and Harish, going at it. So much so that the 1990 release Dil could boast of two such songs, Khambe jaisi khadi hai ladki hai ya chhadi hai and Aaj na chhodunga tujhe dam dama dam. In completely unrelated news, Ruchika Girhotra got molested in 1990, Priyadarshni Mattu was raped in 1996 and Jessica Lal got killed in 1999. :|
Of course, the boys are allowed to be as crass and vulgar as they would want to be. But the girls have to be the Bhartiya nari everywhere, including colleges. God forbid, if some girl isn’t one, she should be well prepared to hear everybody whisper Dekho Dekho College Mein Ek Ladki Aayi Hai judging her, her attire and her character. This is it, give or take a few Sri Ram Senes. Dekho dekho college mein ek ladki aayi hai. Sharam haya bhi dekh ke issko sharmaayi hai. Or this is how Kumar Sanu and Udit Narayan go on with their tirade, demeaning the poor girl because of her choice of clothing. And I would not mince my words, I am simply appalled at this. I am aghast, disgusted and totally revolted even thinking that there exists a college which has both Kumar Sanu and Udit Narayan on its roster. Sick it is!
The second commonly found college songs are those which commemorate the love discovered in the campus. From the obscure Sunday ko pyaar hua from Kanyadaan (1968) to Jise dekh mera dil dhadka, meri jaan tadapti hai from Phool aur Kaante (1991) to Koi mil gaya and Yeh ladka hai diwana from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) to Gori Gori from Main Hoon Na (2004), these are emotional representations of the beauty of love in varied forms and intensity, despite the big words that I just used. And this love is even more passionate when the plea is to the College Girl. College Girl, I Love You. I love you, love you, love you. I love you, love you, love you. Mere dil mein hai kuch, tere dil mein hai kuch, mujhse nazar mila, oh dilruba. And we aren’t talking just any college girl here. Or wait a second, we are. Erm.
Apparently, being a College Girl is a big thing in Hindi Cinema. There have been three movies by the name of College Girl, made in 1960, 1978 and 1990 respectively. Then there was College Kanya made way back in 1935, starring one Madhuri. And this is where I start seeing my grandfather in an entirely new light. Yours, too. I am including the next two songs only to make you realize that your parents and their parents also went to college. And that they are not as dumb as you think they are. The first song is from the original College Girl of 1960 where Shammi Kapoor cutely explains what life is all about. Yeh Kaalej Ka Zamana. Yeh hasna hasana. Yeh banna banana. Yeh din zindagi ke. Ajab bekhudi ke… Subah sabere cycle ki kataren. Gunchon ki aur kaliyon ki takraaren. Na maathe pe pasina, na dil mein koi seena. Yahi toh hai yahi toh hai yahi toh pyaare jeena. Haha. Your parents and their parents were so dumb!
The second song is an Asha Bhosle number from Adhikar (1954), which has a fairly pertinent question, relevant even in today’s times. BA MA PhD BT BCom BSc. Degree le kar baithe hain sab, karenge kya ab socho ji. Socho ji. Bolo ji. The answer, of course, is simple. Join a call center. Bad working hours, average salary, lousy future prospects, but hey, at least you get to develop an accent. Socho ji.
But back to the College Girl of the 1990s, Amita Nangia stood for the transformed Indian woman. Naye zamane ne karvat badli hai, nayi manzilon ki talaash mein nikli hai. College Girl. College Girl. College Girl. Till she gets raped, that is. And then she puts on her leather pants, wears her favourite Jayaprada wig, shows her cleavage and kills everybody. Not kidding.
Come to think of it, I would not blame the lads for getting so enamoured by the College Ki Beauty. She sure can be ruthless while disturbing the peace of mind of the young men. Which totally justifies the boys’ resolve to get her cheeks burnt. No, really. Burnt. College ki beauty ne, ek sundar baby ne, loota mera chain haai. Aai haai. Yeh hai anaar, aur hum beemar, thoda manane do. Gusse mein gaal, hue hain laal, thoda jalaane do. Haaaaan. Any surprises that the song is from the 1994 film titled Anokha Premyudh?
To be fair to the young men, it isn’t as if they don’t ask the College Ki Ladkiyon to take it easy. Udit Narayan does all that he can to control the womenfolk of his college to go all amorous on him in Yeh Dil Aashiqanaa (2002). Ai meri, natkhati, college ki ladkiyon, ladkiyon. Yun mohabbat se mujhko na dekha karo. Meri chahat meri aarzoo ke liye apni masumiyat ko na rusva karo. I would love to be in that college where the girls let go of their innocence because of their extreme urges to eventually consummate with Udit Narayan. I would be the top scorer there. PS: You had me at natkhati, sir.
Obviously, if you find the girls natkhati, you would want to do Do Dooni Chaar with them. Nostalgia hits Govinda as he talks about that one time, perhaps the only time ever in his life, he went to college in the 1990 film Mahasangram. Ek din college gaya tha, mil gayi ladki hansi. Maine yeh socha kar doon ishara, ladki hansi toh phansi. Phir? Do dooni chaar hua re, pyaar hua pyaar hua re. This song gives you life lessons. If the girl gives you a smile, you have crossed the last mile. Now that there is pyaar, there has to be do dooni chaar. Therefore, always keep your bed-sheets clean.
Educationists talk about how the power of positive thinking can actually give life to one’s dreams. Or at least it does sound like something the educationists would want to talk about. Ronit Roy seems to be knowing them well enough. For this is what he croons in the 1990 release Jaan Tere Naam with his perceptive thoughts, hoping for a Romance Period. Mana ki college mein padhna chahiye, likhna chahiye padhna chahiye, romance ka bhi ek lecture hona chahiye. Jo ho romance period, love and dance period. For the record, he did achieve his dreams fifteen years later when he happily posed against an adiposed Smriti Irani in some K-onslaught on TV. It was period romance at its best.
Similar wishful thinking gets echoed in the 1993 film Santaan where Deepak Tijori and Neelam make a case for College Mein Honi Chahiye Pyaar Ki Padhai while preparing themselves for the Navratri dandia nights. Rumour has it that Falguni Pathak makes a public embarrassment of herself and her panchhida every time she listens to the garba beats of this song. Mera kehna mano mere bhai. College mein honi chahiye pyaar ki paadhai. Charo ore se yahi khabar aayi. College mein honi chahiye pyaar ki padhaai. Let me confess here that I am yet to figure what exactly is pyaar ki padhaai. Unless they are insisting on an interdisciplinary scientific study of human sexuality, including human sexual interests, behavior and function. What a bunch of freaks, I swear.
What do you do when the lecture gets cancelled? Barah Se Class Nahin, you are told. And you get the opportunity to entice your girl with your charisma, sophistication and charm. Here’s how you go about it if you starred in the movie Durga (2002). Barah se class nahin, chalo jaayen ghoome kahin, dhabe pe jayenge, dono khana khayenge. Okay, so let us revisit this situation. Here you are, trying to woo this girl. Fortunately for you, there is no lecture, you get your big chance, and the best you can do is to take her to some dhaba!? Like, really, dude? When you said you had no class, guess you meant your own. You deserve the reply that comes to you. Class nahin barah se toh tere saath kyon main jaaun. Kisi dhaabe pe jaake khana bhi main kyon khaun? Saath kyon chalun. Ho tere saath kyon chalun? Smart girl. Despite the inherent crassness in her voice.
Quite a few of these college songs actually are insightful case-studies in understanding and appreciating the power equation amongst the sexes. Sample this. The boy is being an idiot, as boys typically are. Tu na mili dil padhaai mein laga nahin. Ek bhi din bin tere college gaya nahin. I was so correct about the idiot bit. The girl, not surprisingly, gives him a rather terse and straightforward answer, puncturing his pronounced moronic machismo with élan. Din hain padhne likhne ke tum aahen bhar rahe. Fees maa baap ki barbaad kar rahe. Attagirl! Not bad at all. And then. They all. Fuck it up. By singing, I am just about to give up on my life, In The Morning By The Sea.
The only time I use a rumaal is when I have a runny nose. Precisely why I would never strike lucky. Because rumaal can actually be a metaphor for… OMG, I am actually using the word ‘metaphor’ in a sentence! And now, for the life of me, I cannot remember the point I was about to make on this song from the 1992 film Dulaara. Fuck. The girl loses her rumaal, Kal Kahin College Mein, and she then starts singing about it. Because that’s the normal thing to do, right. Kal kahin college mein mera ek rumaal kho gaya. Jisspe likha tha naam, kisi ka naam saathiya. O bolo bolo ab kya karen, o bolo bolo ab kya karen. In an ideal scenario, I would have asked her to go to the lost-and-found guys, but why be a cheaptard trying to retrieve a used kerchief. When you very well know some other cheaptard would find it, and, hell, sing as loudly about it as you were. Kal wahin college mein mujhe ek rumaal mil gaya. Jisspe likha tha naam, mera naam, saathiya. Toh bolo bolo ab kya karen, ho bolo bolo ab kya karen. You really need an answer to that!? It is a used rumaal which has felt some other human person’s body fluids and mucus, you fool, JUST DON’T TOUCH IT!
Btw, if you thought it was just about some song and dance to make that girl from your class like you, you cannot be farther away from the truth. Contrary to popular beliefs, there is a science attached to this entire process. Get that flowchart right and things would flow the way you would want. Agar Ladki Ka Dil Churana Hai, follow Sonu Nigam’s advice in this strange effeminately-masculine voice that he tried for Tusshar Kapoor – I would not blame Sonu – in the 2003 release Yeh Dil. College mein usse bulana, teacher se nazar bachana, yaaron ko nahin batana gar ladki ka dil churana hai. Haathon mein gulab rakhna, baazu mein kitaab rakhna hai, haazir tum jawaab rakhna gar ladki ka dil churana hai. This is it. Now name your first born after me.
Of course, when there is a college romance, people talk about it. The song Pyaar Ka Chakkar Hai Yeh Hai Na from Saath Saath (1982) contains what may just be the most delightfully cute gossiping around a budding college love story. College ka ek ladka hai aur college ki ek ladki. Nain mile aur unnke dil mein ek chingari bhadki. Pyaar ka chakkar hai yeh hai na. Dekho kisi se na kehna. Listen to the song to appreciate the innocent times gone by. Watch it to see Avtar Gill dancing. Um. Okay, listen to the song to appreciate the innocent times gone by.
Some college romances also end up in marriages. But before that happens, you have the entire population of Great Britain singing the rejected national anthem of UK to wish you. I swear I am not making this up. We Wish You A Great Life. We wish you a great life. A great lahaife. A great lahaife. Confused? This is what follows. I promise you a great life. I want you to be my wife. Life life. Wife wife. Life life. Wife wife. And all this inside a campus. If you don’t believe me, rent the DVD of the 2002 Hrithik Roshan starrer Aap Mujhe Achchhe Lagne Lage. Or, actually, just believe me.
The most honest college song, however, is not based in college. Sung by S Janaki and Munna Aziz in the 1986 Amitabh Bachchan starrer Aakhri Rasta, Pehle Padhai Phir Pyaar Hoga is a great choice for exploring narrative perspectives of the gender divide amongst the semi-urban Indian youth in the 1980s. If you got confused with what I just said, that makes two of us. The woman goes Pehle padhai phir pyaar hoga, pyaar hoga, pyaar hoga. Ek baar nahin, sau baar hoga, haan hoga, haan hoga. But our testosterone-filled protagonist cannot take it no more. Mujhse na intezaar hoga, Mujhse na intezaar hoga. The coy but understanding lady admonishes him with a Chup, aaj ka sabak hum yaad ab karenge. Our hero, and this is what makes him a hero, responds immediately with a rather straight Woh toh theek hai magar, woh kab karenge. Whoa!
Munna Aziz, I want to build a hospital in your name. Lollapalooza.
If you liked what you read, you may also like Of fish fry, kala kutta and rasgulla. 10 Best Hindi Film Songs of All Time. and Dear English in Bollywood… Zindagi bhar rahunga, yours faithfully!