While Bappi Lahiri would continue to be celebrated for his very strong imprint on the musical legacy of India, his larger contribution in the social space remains as melodic and charming, if not more, with its own pronounced rhythm and bass. Because despite seemingly being a 1970s and 1980s music icon, Bappi Da inadvertently became the new India story for the generation that came into its own in the 1990s.
With the advent of Liberalisation and Globalisation, the changes that us 90s kids were witnessing were sudden and far too many, and my generation was scrambling for home grown icons that we could take pride in, and call our own. Somebody associated with beats of disco that were moving towards obsolescence already, some very brazen ctrl-c-ctrl-v accusations, and a pronounced regional accent in the Queen’s language perhaps was not what the doctor would have prescribed.
Only, in Bappi Lahiri, we did not just get an icon, but a superhero!
For this long haired short man flaunting the entire Kalyan Jewellers bridal collection, and then some, around his neck typified the spirit of the nation that we were to become, his capitalist-bull-in-a-socialist-china-shop personage breaking all the stereotypes that could have been. He embraced his obstinate confidence, he cradled his true blue rockstar credentials, he snuggled to his blings and glares, and in the process, he gave a big, big bear hug to us, to the India that was emerging. Highlighting that it was okay to believe in one’s supreme awesomeness, and that’s how any success story must begin. That we were no less than the others, that we were a strong, parallel force, complete with this luminescent luster that was both inside and outside of us, that even if we were questioned/ challenged/ ridiculed, we had reasons to be assured and optimistic, that we were ready to take on the world at our own terms.
Bappi Da’s public persona gave us the confidence to redefine cool, and create the idea of the lassi-in-a-can India that was blatant and unabashed and cheeky, ready to take off, and take on, and how! The man was Made in India much before aatmnirbhar became a part of our social lexicon. He gave us both coolth and comfort. And that’s essentially because he never tried too hard. The gold chains were naturally designed to be around him. The fancy sunglasses were mandatorily destined to cover his face. The self-comparison with some of the biggest international popstars was, therefore, the immediate and natural consequence. So what if he took inspirations ranging from Beethoven’s Fur Elise to UB40 to Modern Talking, he made them his own. He made them ours. This was him sticking it to the man, everything else be damned, and we loved it. The wheel, of course, turned a rather skewed full circle when he sued Dr. Dre for lifting one of his songs, Kaliyon Ka Chaman, and triumphed! We smiled. We chuckled. We laughed. We had arrived. We had won. The Kohinoor may still adorn the crown, we had managed our reparations.
Superhero. Bona fide superhero.
In my 10 years at MTV between 2000 and 2010, the decade that MTV was needed in India to shape and shake perceptions, Bappi Da and his personality consistently hovered around in our promos, shows, interstitials, powerpoints, the works. Hell, he literally hung out in all our acts and actions! But it wasn’t his musical presence that we are referring to. Newer sounds had emerged in both the mainstream Hindi film and Indipop spaces, and he did not really latch on to either. It was his radiant, care-a-damn presence, reflective, again, of the times we were living in. That assured rockstarness. The joie de vivre. He wasn’t willing to leave us. We weren’t willing to leave him.
I don’t think we would ever be willing to leave him.
Thank you for making us what we are, sir! Pyaar kabhi kam nahin karna.
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 –
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.)
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!.