It wasn’t liberalisation, it was liberation!
The summer months are always kind of muggy in Patna. In the early 1990s, they appeared sultrier than normal. The days would be hot and the nights would be dry. There was only so much one could do. And that ‘so much’ was never much, with those prolonged hours of nothingness blankly staring at us. Don’t know if the irregular load-shedding and the dark absence of electricity were the reason behind the dreariness. Or if one could point towards the abrupt kal shaam chhe baje phir mulakaat hogi endings of Doordarshan as the cause. Or whether the limited stock of antaakshari songs (despite the unending stock of holidaying cousins to play them with) was the prime suspect. OR perhaps it was just the mid-teen angst.
But the insipid monotony was real. And there was only so much one could do.
Those were also the days when Aamir Khan was doing snake movies, Rishi Kapoor was wearing his last set of sweaters around trees, Jackie Shroff was giving solo box office hits, and Vinod Khanna was cracking dudhu jokes looking at women in Farishtay.
Yes. There really was only so much one could do.
Or actually, there was. Buzz words like liberalisation and globalisation were just beginning to hover around, and private TV channels were soon to be an everyday fix as a positive fallout of the policy changes. Cable TV was slowly becoming the fashionable thing to do in small town India, a perfect middle class counter point to the safari-suit-and-pomeranian superiority practiced by the elite. My professor parents, of course, thanks to their world view and wisdom nurtured by Brahmanical leanings, had a strong point of view on cable TV or any other form of unsupervised entertainment. EXACTLY the reason why I readily agreed when Ramkailas ji, my trusted aide, and the family Man Friday, recommended that we steal the cable connection since the wires went through our garden.
Till then, our experience in thieving was restricted to pocketing raw mangoes of the awesomely juicy Maldah variety from the neighbours’ yard. So I was not too sure. Having said that, the lure of breaking the boredom and seeing content outside of the staid DD programming was too much of a temptation. The programming options were way too many, beyond the Krishi Darshans and Chitrahaars of the world. There was finesse and flair one wasn’t used to seeing on television. Plus, there was MTV. That thing that was meant to morally corrupt the youth of the nation.
I was ready to be corrupted.
All it took was a pair of garden cutters and some ingenuity, and we were a cable TV household between 10pm and 5am, every day. Opening gates to a world unseen. The firang accent, the cool graphics, the smart promos, the interesting shows… they were all from a distant land. There was Star Plus with its Crystal Maze, Donahue, Oprah and, oh, those kissing cousins in The Bold and The Beautiful. Or the cigarette smoking Tara in the eponymous series on Zee TV, and even the obnoxious Mohan Kapoor on the channel’s Saanp Seedhi, and also Rajat Sharma, giving birth to a different breed of journalism in Aap Ki Adalat. This was all different. New. And real.
And then there was, of course, MTV. All different. New. And surreal.
With its funky graphics, bizarre spots and fast pace. Smelling like teen spirit. With Michael Jackson and Madonna. With Guns N’ Roses, a paradoxical co-existence that could well define MTV. With Right Said Fred declaring his sexiness and Phil Collins his inability to dance. With Pearl Jam, Megadeth, Metallica and innumerous such bands that us small-towners had no knowledge or clue about. I saw images I never thought existed. I saw people I never could be. I saw love. I saw debauchery. I saw a display of colours, commotion and camaraderie. It was culturally alien, unfathomable at times. But it was all eerily eye opening. I could never be them, I knew. And yet, I wanted to know more about them. Every day.
I saw possibilities. And I am not just talking television. I am talking life.
For that Hindi medium boy from Bihar struggling with Itihaas, Bhugol and Nagrik Shastra in school, it was almost like him creating his own itihaas every night. By unshackling himself from all that was around him. By thinking beyond the books and the course material. By taking those fantastic flights to nowhere. I never did stop thinking in Hindi. I did not develop an accent. I never could appreciate Pearl Jam, Megadeth or Metallica. I did not try becoming a different person with brand new reference points. Only, my perspectives changed. I started seeing things differently. I did not know where did I want to go, but I knew what it would be like.
We were caught soon enough by Papa. He said all that we had to do was ask. He was, obviously, very upset. Major mud on our face. But I wasn’t complaining. It was worth the trip. It was not as if it suddenly changed my persona or that I could see doors opening for me. But this entire visual experience, day on day, made me realise that there were so many doors that existed.
It was not just economic liberalisation at work. Or just liberalisation. It was liberation!
It changed my outlook. It made me more confident. It made me more audacious. It allowed me to dream differently. That gawky teenager, son of academicians, started looking beyond Engineering and Medicine as a career. As did many of us from similar backgrounds. Everything in the world, hitherto unseen, was now around us. And everything was achievable. We did not have to travel to foreign lands to broaden our horizons. The world had come to us. Very soon, the world literally was around us in the supermarkets. In form of Camay soaps and Hershey’s chocolates. As brand new malls and multiplexes. In the queues at McDonald’s. Buzzing in pagers and mobile phones. Surprisingly, none of it made me feel poor and deprived at any point of time. It kept egging me to have a deeper resolve to become better off. Read rich.
In retrospect, that was the bawdiest, and yet the most important, contribution of liberalisation to the small town India, and not just me. We stopped feeling guilty about earning and spending monies, something that Papa would have so not approved. We were okay to let go of our middleclassery. Of course, that came with its own set of struggles. Mumbai, the city I had chosen to move to, gave me its perfumed indifference, showing me my place in the 8:11 local. I gave it my unadulterated confidence. Very soon, we reached a compromise, and the city was home.
Fate brought me to MTV in 2000. And MTV gave me the confidence to change MTV. It had made me embrace its globalness, I made it embrace my Indianness, being a part of the team that made it desicool. I worked with them for ten long years. Fancy designation, et al. Little did MTV know about the role it had played in my life. Even when it was on mute. :)
Meanwhile, we got Ramkailas ji a job as a peon in Delhi. His family continued to be in a remote village in Bihar. We sponsored the education of his son who is now sixteen. The boy uses a smart phone and knows how to Whatsapp. I suspect he also knows how to order mangoes online. Only, he aspires to follow the career path of his father. Become a peon.
Twenty-five years later, I wait for another round of liberalisation.
– first published in Indian Express Sunday edition Eye as a part of their special issue on 25 years of economic reforms –
Getting educated at Bollywood: Woh toh theek hai magar woh kab karenge!?
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!