Tagged: ofnofame

Chintan Upadhyay is my friend. And my friend is NOT a murderer.

(Today’s Mumbai Mirror carried a front page story on how artist Chintan Upadhyay, languishing behind bars for almost 15 months now, is going through clinical depression, and that the Thane jail superintendent is now allowing him to paint to counter the same. Chintan has been in prison in connection with the murder of his wife Hema and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani in 2015. Nothing has been proved so far, the main culprit is still at large, the case drags on… and an artist remains in jail since forever. Because he is guilty unless proven innocent.

I have grown up with Chintan Upadhyay. He is my friend. And my friend is not a murderer.)

The year was 1998. Mumbai was still a little bit of Bombay, the fair-haired megapolis accepting us migrant cousins, the mofussil India denizens, with open arms. Chintan Upadhyay and I were amongst the very many who had come to the city to make her our home. Mumbai was beautiful and affectionate, inspiring and challenging. The taller-than-tall apartments wowed us, the shimmering lights of the Crossroads mall and the display windows of Rupam and VAMA showrooms aroused us. We were romancing with the local trains and rented homes in decrepit lower middle class societies, savouring our starvation in late night road side bhurji-pavs amidst the golden-brown haze of the sleeping city, revisiting our tangential dreams. And we knew we were growing up in an environment that we would romanticise about some day.

But I am digressing.

Chintan and I were together at the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. (I was ragged by him the day I had joined college!) He wanted to become a painter. I wanted to be an Art Critic. Neither of us could take the isms and theories that we thought the world, the art world in particular, was drugged with. We wanted to create our own idiom, our own language, our own movement. We did our bit in college, questioning everything around us, celebrating the yellow and the red cards thrown at us. We wanted to change the world. We were rebels without a pause, our shabby kurtas spearheading the mutiny. Baroda gave us the freedom to be. We revelled in it, especially Chintan. Little had I ever imagined that his freedom would be abruptly curtailed some day.

But I am digressing again.

The Faculty taught us to think differently, humouring our attempts to create the revolution. Revolution of another kind was getting simultaneously created by one Dr. Manmohan Singh. The wise man sure was doing his bit to prod and perturb us lesser mortals. While Ganesha was drinking milk straight from the carton, McDonald’s was about to get launched in India. While masjids were getting demolished, what once were the goodies in the foreign-returned-suitcases were now being seen at the local stores. Liberalisation and Globalisation were ceasing to be mere buzz words. We could see the results in the hostel common room with MTV’s funky graphics and Malaika Arora’s legs staring at us, as we discovered a whole new universe, all bright and beautiful.

Before we could realise it, we were in a strange, uncomfortable place. We could no longer figure who or what were we rebelling against. It was an odd conflict brewing in our hearts and our heads. This dispute wasn’t just between ideas and ideals. The fight was amongst our sanskaari past, our hum-le-ke-rahenge-azaadi present and our shiny-disco-ball future. And it was a very very tough fight. Our middleclass idealism was being hit on its backside by this new India we did not know much about. But we realised we wanted to embrace this India. Despite the guilt.

The pride in penury was stupid.

We were the gareeb consumerists, sold to the idea of consumerism, though not having the means to live it. It was during these days in Mumbai that I curated what was Chintan’s first independent exhibition. Titled This Has Been Done Before, the exhibition was our tribute to the Turkish artist Bedri Baykam, making a point against what we thought were the prejudiced norms, aesthetics and points of view in the world of Indian art. The catalogue was complete with a “Common Minimum Programme” for young artists. We had heated debates on what should the communication be. Chintan wanted to be loud and vociferous. I was recommending a more subdued approach. We ended up calling Picasso and Gauguin ‘derivative artists’, and talked against the “biased and old fashioned attitude of the artists and art historians of the present century”.

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This Has Been Done Before catalogue | 1998

This is how my piece began: “What, exactly, is Chintan Upadhyay? A frustrated phallicentric nerd out to prove the sexual connotations and escapades of everything surrounding him? Or a confused, overgrown kid, still in an animated awe of his trinkets and toys, but whispering voices of discontent against the system promoting their production? Is he just another faceless addition to a metropolis, coming to terms with the various layers of personae being gifted to him by the assemblage of cultures in a big city? Or is he simply an artist, sensitive to all things red, blue and green, exploring for an order in disorder despite his own sarcastic sneers against this search?”

chintan 1.pngMulticultural face in a cosmopolitan city (Mumbai) | Acrylic on canvas | 10’ x 6’ | 1998

The exhibition was a failure.

Not Chintan, though. He was sharp enough to realise that all the personas that I had spoken about had to be a subset of this overarching singular persona that he had to become. The Common Minimum Programme was, therefore, out of his life. As were the thoughts of creating an artists’ collective. He had to get there first himself. He had to be in a space where he would be self explanatory and nobody would have to elaborate on “What is Chintan Upadhyay”. He latched on to the right people, allowing them to manufacture him. He figured the importance of marketing, of full page ads in Bombay Times pushing his works. Commemorative Stamps, his 2002 exhibition, flaunting the presence of filmstars and other pretty people at the opening, and a completely new artistic language, was a super hit. A brand was born.

There was no looking back after that. Chintan was always the supremely talented one. He realised it in time that it was not about being just an artist. It was about being a popular and successful artist. The kind that sells. It was about earning and spending and earning some more to spend some more. The Raphaels and Van Goghs and Manets and Monets were meant to be seen in person. The fancy perfumes were meant to be sprayed on. The aircrafts were meant to be flown in. The conflict that was, soon ceased to be. It had been dissolved and resolved.

In the quest to become a consumerist, he became a heavily marketed consumable product himself over the next ten years. We continued to play conscience keepers to each other, although I now suspect our chats, infrequent and few, were more to flaunt and justify our acts and actions than question them. I don’t know how convinced I was of the transformation of the Multicultural face in a cosmopolitan city to the mass produced Chintu, and also those performance art sessions to shock and awe, but I guess he knew what he was doing. Chintan and Hema – another friend from the Faculty of Fine Arts – became the ‘it couple’ of the Mumbai art scene. His ganda bachchas were all over. She was kicking some serious ass as an artist of repute in various exhibitions across the globe. Chintan’s compromises – artistic and otherwise – were worth the heartburn. He had become famous. He had arrived. He had become one with Mumbai.

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But then again, success and fame have their own trappings. The couple learnt it the hard way. After some very petty fights and a very public spat over their divorce proceedings, their love story came to a tragic and abrupt end. Hema was murdered. What followed was a macabre prime time drama that continues to get rolled out. Insinuations, charges and counter charges. Cops playing art critics, reading motives in his doodles and diary entries. And a man in jail for more than a year now, held as a suspect in the double murder of the ex-wife and her lawyer.

I am not here to offer arguments. But I know of Chintan’s expedition from 1992 to 2017. Twenty-five long years, how it all panned out, how our values, successes and failures got defined and redefined. I know of his hopes and desires, fears and apprehensions. I know he is very many things, or that he became very many things that I think he was not. But one thing that I know he certainly is not, and can never be, is a murderer. Not after the prolonged and tedious journey he took from the Borivali shanty to the Juhu house, redefining his art and himself in the process. It was hard earned. He would never ever squander it away.

I understand it sounds simplistic, my conclusion, but I also understand it is the truth. I know the man. I know his life. I don’t care whether the matter is sub-judice or whatever the technical term is which prompts people to not have an opinion on an on-going case. My friend Chintan Upadhyay is NOT a murderer.

I am innocent  I am innocent (I hope you know why) | Performance art | 2013

More than a year of confinement of an artist, of a sensitive, intelligent person is not a done thing. Especially if it is leading to clinical depression. But, apparently, this is how the system works, psychological traumas be damned. The only consolation is that he will come out of this unscathed. He will emerge more insightful a person and more piercing an artist. Loud and vociferous, as he used to be!

I may ask him to go back to the Common Minimum Programme when we meet up. He owes me a chai and a long conversation. And, while we are at it, the bastard also owes me some money back from the college days!

I’m leaving on a jet plane to Canada, and money is not an issue

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.

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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.

 

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“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.

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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.

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The professional Mr. Jha had a single-lined response for me. Apt. I deserved it.

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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.

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Sassy Suman was back in the game. He sent me a quick reply asking me for my CV and other documents.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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I knew what I was talking.

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(And here are the scans of my passport and the BA degree. All legit, of course.)

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.

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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.

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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.

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:|

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.)

It wasn’t liberalisation, it was liberation!

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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 –How MTV changed my life

Celebrating Queen Elizabeth, Cocaine Ke Parathe and Sajid Khan!

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.

Himmatwala New

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 like me 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.

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Guess I am not the only one who gets enamored by the genius of Sajid Khan!

Why Gajendra Chauhan is the greatest FTII Chairman EVER!

“What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence”, said Ludwig Wittgenstein in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. I have NO clue what that means or who Ludwig Wittgenstein was, but this sure makes my discourse esoteric and academic right at the outset! Almost like all the Bombay Velvet reviews. The only difference is that I actually am here to discuss academics today. Specifically, the appointment of Gajendra Chahuan (or Chouhan or Chauan depending on which stage of his numerically challenged life you are talking about) as the Chairman of Film and Television Institute of India.

There have been protests galore against the selection of Mr. Chauhan, the erstwhile Dharmaraja Yudhishthir from BR Chopra’s eponymous TV series Mahabharata, and the entire world seems to have colluded to collide with the coronation of Gajendra. They say that the legacy of the hallowed premises of FTII has to be respected and that he doesn’t have the vision or knowledge of cinema. That he has no experience in the field of academics. That he is the Caesar of C-grade cinema, with the C standing for very many things. That he is a bad actor and a stooge of the ruling political party. That he is an obtuse idiot, a bumbling moron and a blockheaded dimwit. Okay, the last bit was me taking poetic liberty, but, yeah, similar sentiments.

Well. I come to praise Caesar, not to bury him!

According to IMDB, Gajendra Chauhan started his career way back in 1985 with Main Chup Nahin Rahoongi. So 2015 marks his 30th year in Hindi Cinema. That’s a really really long time for a nasal-twanged-single-expressioned-monotoned-jumna-paar-drawl to survive in this very competitive industry. And that, by itself, should be the reason enough for all of us to embrace him with open arms. But let this not be the only reason to be dazed and dazzled by our man. For somebody whose body of work includes watching bodies at work in Vasna, Khuli Khidki, Reshma, Samri and Rupa Rani Ramkali, Chauhan deserves our prostration, obedience and submission, in anywhich order. Find me another actor who can abduct, molest and defile with just his eyes and a lubed mass of thick hair. And the naysayers can die.

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Chauhan says he has been in the field of art for 34 years. That is just him being his regular modest and humble self. On the contrary, it is art that has been in the field of Chauhan for 34 years. From Awara Zindagi to Janam Se Pehle, from Jawani Jaaneman to Pathreela Rasta and from Gumnam Hai Koi to A Sublime Love Story: Barsaat, he has taken the service of every single dead cell generated by him to construct and deconstruct his histrionics. Sample the scene from Bhayaanak Panjaa (1997) in which he is being exorcised. It is sublime pantomime. And I just wanted that to rhyme. The technique of conveying emotions and feelings by the mere physicality of the actions is not something every thespian can master. But one look at Gajendra’s frenzied movement can make you immediately realise the years of hamheadeness that must have gone in perfecting that fall. Legendary.
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The swagger comes naturally to the Chairman sir. And it is not just because he played Inspector Patil in Himmatvar (1996) or Mukesh Mathur in Vishwavidhata (1997) or Virendra Chaudhary in Arjun Devaa (2001) or Naresh Chand in Issi Life Mein…! (2010). These were, of course, author backed roles where he got the opportunity to stretch his awesome campiness to the fullest for those ten minutes that he was on screen. But the style and the charisma of the man is inherent to his schmaltzy Tank-Road-Jeans-Market self.
I didn't choose the thug life

To those questioning his acting abilities, I just have one answer two answers. Jungle Love (1986) and Rupa Rani Ramkali (2001). Ah, those consciously constipated expressions where death becomes him. That fierce fervour, those extreme emotions, the deadly deluge. And the arbitrary alliterations.
Real men don't die Somebody stop me

Haters gonna hate his religious baggage thanks to the Mahabharat connect, but Chauhan never actually has tried overtly exploiting his Pitashri-Matoshri affiliations. Apart from the yet to be released Barbareek aur Mahabharat and Jai Maa Vaishnodevi (1994), mouthing Ayushman bhavah at party meetings and selling some random concoction on teleshopping networks, that is. Of course, the performer in him has been more satisfied with challenging roles like playing Rahul’s father in International Khiladi (1999), Pinky’s dad in Billa no. 786 (2000) and the car salesman in Baghban (2003). And the Ganesh fest dancer in Parwana (2003). Of course.
I can haz FTIIJaanta nahin

And so what if he knows people in the reigning political party! Mr. Chairman has worked hard to be where he is right now. The tonsils are getting their due. And deservedly so.

Okay then

Eventually, the annals of time would judge Gajendra Chauhan on his performance as the FTII Chairman, protesters and wiseguys be damned. If not him, they would find another extremely talented Chauhan, suited perfectly for the job. So yeah. I just hope the hammer is restricted only to his acting skills while I gloat over my punnery.

“What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence”, said Ludwig Wittgenstein in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. I still have NO clue what that means or who Ludwig Wittgenstein was, but he was right. Exactly why you must forget about them protests already. Think of this as a long movie, treat this as a willing suspension of disbelief, and all would be good. Also, please slip in the word ‘pedantic’ somewhere in here to close the intellectual loop. Thank you.

PS: And now, thank me. Here.

Pehle toh kabhi kabhi gham tha… And then came Altaf Raja

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

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)

Dear English in Bollywood… Zindagi bhar rahunga, yours faithfully!

I learnt my English from Hindi films.

Hailing from a middle class Hindi medium school belonging to a middle class Hindi medium town belonging to a middle class Hindi medium India, I always found English to be the alien language that it is. I grew up in an era where knowing English did not mean reading and flaunting a Chetan Bhagat book, but shaking the limbs in our stone-washed jeans to ‘Won’t you take me to Funky Town’, the lone English song that all the cassette players could recognize. We actually felt very cool humming along whatever we could decipher of the song, genuinely believing that we totally had it in us to win over the world, starting with our cousins from Delhi. Wontchu tekmetwo funkeeey taaaaown. Ah, bliss. I can feel equal to all my English medium counterparts all over again right now.

Hindi cinema was what gave fillip to our attempts to empower ourselves with this authority, expertise, knowledge and interest around English. Yes. Had it not been for our exposure to the Hindi film songs in various states of undress, showcasing their wonderful English interiors, we would have never been able to appreciate the nuances of the Queen’s lingo. Or Funky Town.

Bollywood was very quick to recognize the importance of the English language, and it took it upon itself to ensure that the minions had a fair share of the same. Sample Hello Hello Gentleman from the 1948 film Actress. Hello hello gentleman. Milaate kyun nahin humse nain. Tabeeyat kaisi hai, kaisi hai, kaisi hai. Hello Hello Hello Hello Hello. Shamshad Begum and Lata Mangeshkar kill it by exhorting the Indians to be and behave Indians post the British rule. No prizes for guessing the chosen language of communication. Hat to hamne phenk diya, tum phenko necktie. Chala gaya Angrez, keh do inn sab ko good bye. English cheezen kar do ban. Be an Indian if you can. Hello hello gentleman. That’s what I am talking about! Be an Indian if you can, preferably in English.

And we are not just talking pidgin English here. There are quite a few pure English songs which have featured in Hindi films, and some of them may just delight the listeners. Shanta Apte sang Longfellow’s A Psalm of Life in Duniya Na Maane way back in 1937. Iqbal Singh rocked it like Elvis with Beautiful Baby of Broadway in Ek Phool Char Kaante (1960). Usha Uthup became a mini industry singing English songs for the likes of Bindu, Padma Khanna and Aruna Irani. Of course, the vamps/ nightclub dancers sang in English because it underlined on their western and therefore wayward values. Further case in point: Sharon Prabhakar’s My Body Has A Surging Fire from the 1982 release Apmaan. Then there were the Goans, the Anglo Indians, the D’Costas and the D’Mellos with their Christian affiliations, who sang in chaste My Heart Is Beating English if one of them was called Julie (1975). There have also been random entries like I And You Just You And I from the 1985 film Unchi Uraan, and the 80s, for some inexplicable reasons, offered quite a bit of such randomosity. In recent times, long portions of English lyrics, including rap, have made smooth entries into the regular Hindi songs’ space. But rap, by itself, could not quite earn a place of its own in isolation, despite Amitabh Bachchan mouthing the BNB rap way back in the 2005 release Bunty Aur Babli.

Having said all of the above, for the purpose of this research, I have decided to demonstrate only the songs that have appropriated the English language as a home-grown product; as an almost parallel and natural counterpart to Hindi. Er, so I guess we ARE talking pidgin English here. PS: I feel good using the word “research” for my inanities. Just to prove a point, I may faux-quote Ananda Coomaraswamy in my delirious state.

So without further ado, ‘hello friends’!
The biggest contribution of the Britishers was not just the English language, but the niceties that came with the language. Thanking you. With warm regards. Yours Faithfully. Only, the last phrase happens to be an Asha Bhosle-Kishore Kumar song from the 1986 film Begaana. Picturised on Rati Agnihotri and Kumar Gaurav on a surreal set of an over-sized office, complete with a giant typewriter, gigantic envelopes and a gargantuan telephone, the song is an elegant celebration of culture and politeness. Dear Sir, aapko main bahut chaahti hoon. Zindagi bhar rahungi, yours faithfully. The benevolent boss replies with as polite an affirmation of his love. Dear Madam, aapko main bahut chahta hoon. Zindagi bhar rahunga, yours faithfully. Awww. Everybody loves a love story. Especially when it is about a boss sleeping with his secretary.

Ever wondered how they hire such people who agree to stay yours faithfully all their lives? Simple. They conduct a Love Interview as they did in the Suneil Shetty-Shilpa Shirodkar starrer Raghuveer (1995). Kal ka kya program hai? Kuch zaroori kaam hai. Phir miloge kab? Jab waqt milega tab. Kab aur kehan kitne baje milna hai kaho sanam? Love interview. Love interview. Poornima, Kumar Sanu and the divine chorus girls give this love interview all that they have. I would not be surprised if this song was the only sex Sanu got in a long time.

Contrary to popular beliefs, it is not just chemistry that gets two people together. A lot of it is also mathematics. Knowing the general lack of love in our lives, I am absolutely certain half of you would not know what Tum Into Main, Main Into Tum is equal to? If you don’t know the answer, ask Sridevi and Jeetendra, who croon this Asha-Kishore number from the 1987 film Majaal, teaching us a few key lessons of life. Tum into main. Main into tum. Equal to pyaar ke sau saal. Reh ke juda, hum kuch nahin. Mil jaayen toh bemisaal. Shehzada, khwabon ka tu shehzada.

What do you do when you fall in love? You fall in love with Love Letter. Or so would SP Balasubramaniam and Asha Bhosle have us believe in Dev Anand’s 1993 release Pyaar Ka Tarana. Love letter love letter love letter. Tujhko pyaara, mujhko pyaara love letter. Issko pyaara, ussko pyaara, humko pyaara, sabko pyaara love letter. Love letter love letter love letter. I can quite understand the excitement since I suspect that by the 90s when he got into his 90s, the only love letters Dev Saab was getting were the ones he was writing to himself. Jissko mil jaaye love letter, woh kehlata hai lucky lover. Tum issko daak se bhejoge ya karoge hand deliver? Zara kar lo intezaar. You keepaan guessing dear. For those not in the know, this film saw the debut of Mink Singh. There is a joke hidden in that somewhere, I promise you.

Look I have been waiting for you for a long time. Please tell me whether you love me or not. As far as I am concerned, I can tell you that I love you very much, yes my darling… I love you. If you are head over heels in love and totally smitten, this is how you should go about expressing your feelings. The only pre-condition is that you need to get Shabbir Kumar to sing Dil Dil Dil from the 1986 film Pyaar Ho Gaya for you. In theory, the song is in Hindi, with the regular samplings of dil, pyaar, neel gagan, takreeban, tanhai, pagla kahin ka and a count from dus, bees, tees, chalis to sau, but in its heart, the song is in pure-bred English. As far as I am concerned, I can tell you that the Hindi is just a façade.

Next time you hear Remo Fernandes ruing about the music scene in India, just utter seven golden words to him. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. He would be transmogrified into something else in no time. This is why. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. You are my sajni. I am your diwana. You are my diwani. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. I am your sajni. You are my diwana. I am your diwani. Let’s sing together. Let’s dance together. Let’s sing together. Let’s dance together. Impressed already? Well, Indeevar, the lyricist, does not just stop at this. He converts this Kamal Sadanah-Ritu Shivpuri song from the 1995 release Rock Dancer into high art with what follows. Yeh toh kaho darling love hua kab se? Dekha tumhen jab se. Yeh toh kaho darling, love karoge kab tak? Sooraj mein fire hai jab tak. Aa ha. Honth tere laal hai. Aa ha. Kaale tere baal hai. Aa ha. Teri kya chaal hai. Aa ha. Tera kya face hai. Aa ha. Tera kya grace hai. Is my future bright? Yes darling, alright! Waah, kya scene hai. I saw ‘grace’ somewhere in the lyrics. That’s the word I was looking for. Indeed.

Here’s a little tip for all you boys in love. Don’t refer to your girl as ‘baby’. Ever. Because if you do, Sapna Mukherjee is going to hunt you down and subject you to this loud appeal of hers from the 1989 film Kahan Hai Kanoon. Don’t Call Me Baby. No, sir. If you thought ‘baby’ was a term of endearment, you couldn’t have been any farther away from the truth. Don’t call me baby. Don’t call me baby. Jawaan ho gayi main, jawaan ho gayi. Baby ab main rahi kahan, ang ang ho gaya jawan. Mere labon par angaare, mere seene mein toofan. Don’t call me baby. Don’t call me baby. Smoldering embers on her lips. Violent tempests in her tits. Fair enough.

Roses are red. Violets are blue. You love me. I love you. This was the first exposure to real poetry that I had had, with all my notebooks littered with lines like these for girlfriends that did not exist. It was fun while it lasted. Which must have been all my school and college life. Guess the lyricist Madan Pal was my pal, because that’s how his song from the 1994 release Zaalim starts. But before you even begin castigating him or the Kimono-wearing extras prancing in this song with a “You shut up, Gutt lost!”, you would find Alisha Chenoy ready with an innocent apology on behalf of Pal. Aayi Yai Ya, Sorry Sorry. Koi jo maange dil, inkaar karti hoon jaanam. Meri kitaab mein tasveer teri rahti hai. Aayi yai ya, sorry sorry. This song succinctly teaches you that most relationship spats give an opportunity to resolve conflicts. And make slutty baby-girl sounds. I know you are khafa. Darling main kya karun. You know that I love you. Tum pe hi main marun. Main gar jo kho gayi. Phir na milungi main. You will then search for me. Phir na rahoongi main. Aaaaaah!

Alisha, of course, must be honored by the Linguistic Society of India for her contribution to the languages. Because nobody else could have done as much justice to the extreme lyrics of LML Baba LML from Hathkadi (1995). LML baba LML. LML baba LML. Hone de baba LML. Shaam subah LML. Saaton din LML. Sunday to Monday LML. Monday to Sunday LML. LML? LML? Kya hota hain LML? Let’s make love, baybee. Don’t be shy, baybee. It took the genius and talent of an Anu Malik to come up with the well thought-through and right retort to Alisha’s LML. GTH baba GTH. Hone de baba GTH. Shaam savare DTH. Saaton din GTH. Sunday to Monday GTH. Monday to Sunday GTH. GTH? GTH? Kya hota hai GTH? Go to hell, baybee. Go to hell, baybee. When Ananda Coomaraswamy said ‘the man incapable of contemplation cannot be an artist, but only a skillful workman’, Anu Malik sure was watching him.

If you found GTH offensive, trust me, it was all in jest. Boys do this to their girls. What is important to know is that whatever name-calling the boys may do, eventually, girls are john-um. Tina tin tinna tin. Tina tin tinna tin. Read on. You Are Paglam. You are chiklam. You are jhagram. You are lafdam. You are bigdam. You are chidiyam. You are budiyam. You are motiyam. You are bambam. You are chitkam. You are pampam. You are tikdam. You are chakram. You are nakhram. But you are johnam. Ha ha ha ha ha. Haaaaaan. Gali Gali mein paani hai. Tu ladki deewani hai. Tu hai four twenty. Tu hai khatre ki ghanti. Tu kab de jaaye dhokha. Nahin teri guarantee. Tina tin tinna tin. Tina tin tinna tin. This Bappi Lahiri-Vinod Rathod song from the 1994 movie Juaari gains even more significance when you realize that it was picturized on Armaan Kohli. The Arman Kohli. But let’s not be very loud about it, else his father would relaunch him as a hero all over again.

Enough sparring. Need some love back in our lives. In any case, Where Is The Time To Hate, especially when there is so little time to love. I have included this song from the 1992 film Saatwan Aasman only for the rather perverse pleasure that I get listening to Udit Narayan sing in English along with Preeti Uttam. Where is the time to hate, when there is so little time to love. Come on let’s sing sing sing. Come on let’s dance dance dance. Come on have fun fun fun. Meri jaan.

Since I am being allowed to indulge, here’s Kumar Sanu singing Oh Laila Hum Tumpe, Dil Jaan Se Marta Hai in the 1994 release Chhoti Bahoo. Oh laila hum tum pe dil jaan se marta hai. Ban ke aashiq hum peechhe peechhe phirta hai. So far, so natural. Nadeem-Shravan, Sameer and Sanu being their regular frustrating selves. And then, BAM, the angrez in Sanu takes over. Oh laila I want to marry you. Oh laila I want to marry you. I can so visualize Sanu contorting his face, raising his eyebrows, shutting his eyes, flaring his nostrils, dancing his fingers, moving his limbs, smiling into oblivion… uhm, I think I should shut up before I make this uncomfortable and weird for myself.

Not that there haven’t been any cute songs with a smattering of English in Hindi films. Anand Prayag and Jerry Adolfe do a sweet job in the Kalyanji-Ananji number Pretty Pretty Priya from the 1970 film Priya. She’s very pretty. She’s very pretty. She’s very very very very pretty. Pretty pretty Priya. Jalal Agha and friends sing this for Tanuja. And they are so totally correct. She really is very very very very pretty. :)

We Are Made For Each Other, Suno Ai Jaane Jigar from the 1991 release Love must be the most philanthropic love song ever. Because the love in this SP-Chitra song is not only restricted to the girl and the guy, but is distributed equally amongst Garden saris, Vimal suitings, Colgate toothpaste, Old Spice aftershaves and Nivea creams. Trust me, I am not making this up. We are made for each other. Suno ai jaane jigar. Ki pehen ke sajoongi main. Garden ki sari balam. Tere pyaar mein pehnoonga. Suiting Vimal ki sanam. Hamein ban ke deewana dekhega zamana jane jaana. We are made for each other. Suno ai jaane jigar. Dekh dekh ek dooje ko muskarayenge. Colgate se phir hamare daant chamchamayenge. Jab subah ko milegi, gul se bulbul chehek ke. Hum mehekte phirenge Old Spice ki mehek se. Nivea laga ke hum. Kya lagenge socho sanam. Hamein ban ke deewana dekhega zamana jaane jaana. We are made for each other. Suno ai jaane jigar. My faith in humanity just got restored.

PS: WHAT do you mean I am crying!? There is just something in my eyes.

Don’t get bogged down by the passion and the power of love that you have been witnessing so far. Falling in love is actually a Step By Step process. Really. Amit Kumar and Asha Bhosle sum it up in the 1989 film Dost. Ek hum hue jaaneman kis tarah. Ho tan mein jaan, jaan mein tan jis tarah. First step. Haath mile. Second step. Aankh mili. Third step. Dil mile. Fourth step. Pyaar hua. Step by step. If you miss any of the above mentioned steps, it is not love.

Technically speaking, this next song should not be in the list because it is from the dubbed 1977 film Meethi Meethi Baatein. But that cannot take away the learning that this song imparts to the listeners. Hello. Hellooo. Hello My Dear Wrong Number. Hai iswar sundar toh kya ho tum? Kisliye milte nahin phir hum? Tadpaaye kyun ai sanam? Tu mujhe mukh dikhla de. Hellooo. Hello my dear wrong number. Hai machal gaye tum sun ke sargam. Aayenge saamne tere na balam. Na mera mukh chand sa, na nazar matwaali hai. Hello. Hello my dear, wrong number. If you wanted to master telephone etiquette, this is the song for you.

Okay. Pop Quiz now. Guess the lines that come before and after these: Mehsoos karoon mehfooz teri baahon mein. Main naaz karoon chale saath tu jab raahon mein. Don’t let the mehsoos and mehfooz fool you. We are not talking Mughal-e-Azam here, though I would not blame you if you already are conjuring images of Hasrat Jaipuri. Try shifting focus to Kimi Katkar in a Spiderman costume and Govinda in Bridget Jones undies. The year is 1988. The film is Dariya Dil. And the song is Tu Mera Superman. Tu mera superman, main teri lady. Ho gaya hai apna pyaar already. Very intense, very Justice-League-meets-Avengers lyrics, if you get the drift. If you don’t, you aren’t missing much.

Talking of Superman, here’s another flying object which continues to be an inspiration. Love Bird Kehte Hain Mujhko. Said Shadaab Khan in the 1997 anti-hero film Raja Ki Ayegi Baraat. There were many reasons why the debut film of Rani Mukherji sank without a trace. But this Vijay Benedict song surely wasn’t one of them. Love bird kehte hain mujhko. Baga ding dong dig dung. Love bird kehte hain mujhko. Har ik ladki lovely lovely. Beautiful aur crazy crazy. Mujhse bole touch me touch me. Touch me touch me. Such has been the impact of this song that there are men all over the world who consider it the theme song of their lives. And this when they haven’t even heard the song.

Deewanon ka ghar hai romance road par. Parwanon ka daftar hai romance road par. Hoti hai aankh micholi romance road par. Hai sab ki tabiyat doli romance road par.
Yeah, we get it, but I think we have been far too long on the Romance Road. Need to switch to other spaces now. Like national integration. Contemporary poet and philosopher Bali Brahmbhatt hits the nail totally on the head in this Dharmendra and Aditya Panscholi starrer, Mafia (1996). Money doesn’t matter on romance road. You gotta deal with the subject of humanity. Rule out insanity. This is reality. In all sincerity. To the Hindu, the Muslim, the Sikh, Isaai. Don’t say bye bye. Say bhai bhai. On ro ro ro ro romance road. On romance road. What intensity. And what a message.

Dil tujhe de chuke tujhpe jaan denge. Hum tere vaaste har imtehaan denge. I am sure most of you are thinking this to be another love ballad. And this is why Arnab Goswami yells at you every night at nine. Because the definition of My First Love can be different for a few people. Not all young men of the country are just your regular deewana-parwaana-mastaana variety, only concerned about the frivolous things in life like girls. Dil tujhe de chuke tujhpe jaan denge. Hum tere vaaste har imtehaan denge. My First Love. My nation. Nation nation. Great nation. The song from the 1995 film Param Vir Chakra has been picturized on three cadets dancing on the stage at some Army festival. Seriously. If General VK Singh grew up on songs like these, I would not judge him any more for being seen with Ramdev at public rallies.

From a pure sociological point of view, English has always had this elitism attached to it. It has been the first language of capitalism and authority, especially in the context of the third world countries. Expectedly, the working knowledge of English elevates you to a more powerful, smarter position. And then you practice the smarts at red light areas. Anjaan pens How Are You Munnibai for the 1983 film Laalach, and Mahendra Kapoor sings it for Pran. How are you, how are you, Munnibai, how are you? Don’t tell lie. Don’t feel shy. Tell me why. You like I. I like your kotha. I like your kotha. How are you, how are you, Munnibai how are you? Don’t know who I should feel sorrier for, Pran, Mahendra Kapoor or Munnibai. :|

Our acknowledgment and celebration of English language in Hindi cinema cannot be complete without talking about the mammoth contribution of Professor Bappi Lahiri. His definition of Rock Dancer (1995) can make the most sincere and the most severe rock aficionados leave rock forever to join the Bappi cult. Ladies and gentlemen. Rock dancer kya hota hai, zara dekhen. R se hota hai rhythm. O se orchestra. C se hota hai concert. K se keyboard. D se hota hai drummer. A se audience. N se number. C se chorus. E se intertainment. R se? Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock. Dil ka cheque advance kar. Pyaar ka fee-nance kar. Mere sang sang dance kar. Aaja tu romance kar. Rock is love. Love is rock. Oh my love. Rock Rock Rock. Aaja aaja come here. Dil ki rail line hai clear. Tu mujhe sabse dear. Rehna bas mere near. Rock is love. Love is rock. Oh my love. Rock Rock Rock. Sometimes I wonder why we remember Bappi da only for being this lard of gold. He is much more than that. B se hota hai…

However, Bappi da’s tribute to the Rock Dancer pales in front of his elegy for Bruce Lee in the 1980 film Morchha. Why Bruce Lee? Because he was a great guy. And that was reason enough for everybody to joyously go Let’s Dance For The Great Guy Bruce Lee. Our man even got a firang voice, Annette, to sing with him to make the song sound authentic and legitimate in English. It totally worked. For Bappi, that is. We all know Bruce Lee is no more with us. But he will be alive in our hearts for many years. He was a tough guy. He taught us a new wave. Let’s give a hand for the departed soul. Come onnnn! Morcha. Morcha. Morcha. Morchaaaaaaa. Morcha. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. Zulmo sitam ki, maane na dhamki. Aisa bane aadmi. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. I am sure even Bruce Lee smiles whenever he gets to watch this song on YouTube. And I am sure even Bruce Lee wishes for a better print.

If you thought these English-Hindi conglomerations were just about song and dance, you would be amazed to know their expanse. There are philosophical lessons, there are temporal encroachments affecting perceptions of time and there are spaces and times being combined into the same continuum, creating new spatial dimensions in the process. HA, fooled you! That was me being metaphysical by combining random lines from Wikipedia. But then again, I have reasons to get into this mode, considering the next few songs are going to challenge most of you with their takes on the space-time equilibria.

The first song is from the 1997 release Humko Ishq Ne Mara. That Was Yesterday. That was yesterday. Humse hum pyaar karte the, iqraar karte the. That was yesterday. That was yesterday. Iss dil ko behlaate the. Saare naaz uthate the. Humse milne aate the, jaate the. That was yesterday. That was yesterday. So we have a girl singing what she used do to herself ‘that was yesterday’, harmonized by a male voice. Whatever. Your turn now, Stephen Hawking!
The next one is from the 1980 release Aakhri Insaaf. The director of the film was one Kalidas. Enough said. Yaaroon-oo-oo-on. Who Has Seen Tomorrow? Kal kisne dekha hai. Kal ko goli tomorrow. Yaaroon-oo-oo-on. Who has seen tomorrow? Pertinent question. A logical postulation that evades resolution. So no answers. Yet. Kalidas, FTW!
Starting with the title of the film itself, Waqt Se Pehle (1984) combines the intricacies of Gulzar with the idiosyncrasies of Gulzar, although he isn’t even associated with the movie. Find it out for yourself by listening to Nitin Mukesh and Preeti Sagar sing in their mother tongue. Make Memories. Make memories. Make memories. Make memories. Let them make your heart throb. In pleasure and in pain. Then live and relive by them forever. In sunshine and in rain. Make memories. Make memories. Deepak Chopra™ would be proud of this™.

This is the last song. There is no descriptor to it. Oh my dear one, go now! Will you go just now?

If you liked what you read, you may also like Getting educated at Bollywood: Woh toh theek hai magar woh kab karenge! and Of fish fry, kala kutta and rasgulla. 10 Best Hindi Film Songs of All Time.

Select YouTube links: Longfellow’s A Psalm of Life, Beautiful Baby of Broadway, My Heart Is Beating, BNB Rap, Hello Hello Gentleman, Yours faithfully, Love Interview, Tum Into Main, Main Into Tum, Love Letter, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni, Don’t Call Me Baby, Aayi Yai Ya, Sorry Sorry, LML Baba LML, You Are Paglam, Pretty Pretty Priya, Step By Step, Tu Mera Superman, Love Bird Kehte Hain Mujhko, My First Love, Let’s Dance For The Great Guy Bruce Lee

Also, for those interested: Funky Town :)