When I took up the case of the 9 year old Jiya Dhulgaj and her struggle to get admission in an English medium school in Kalina/ Vakola with Mr. Vinod Tawde, our honourable Minister for Schools, the last thing I was expecting was this to become a mini-movement of sorts, eventually helping me discover a wee bit more about the world and her people. :)
I met up with Jiya last September at my old workplace, where her mother Hina was responsible for cleaning the women’s rooms. Saw this puny little thing hiding behind her mom, and what a charming, endearing and bright number she turned out to be! I spoke with her parents about her studies, and was overwhelmed seeing their resolve and focus to get the child a good education. Karamjit and Hina, janitors with a monthly income of 15k between the two of them, informed me that the girl was staying at her granny’s place in Nalasopara, and not with them at Vakola, only because she had got admission at an English medium school there. The medium of education defined evolution/ development to them, and I could kind of figure why. They wanted her to become a doctor. While they were happy with the arrangement, they sincerely wished if the girl could get admitted somewhere in Vakola or Kalina itself. I was told that no English medium school in the said areas was willing to consider her case for reasons best known to them.
Armed with the rhetoric of Right to Education, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, and the government’s spotlight on the girl child, I thought it would be easy for me to get Jiya the admission. Especially if I was leading this, going to schools and meeting up with the principals/ administrators, flaunting my visiting card and education. I could not have been farther from the truth! Between her parents and me, we went to almost ALL the English medium schools of Vakola, Kalina and the nearby areas. Some of them were established schools, and some aided government schools. This was December, 2015.
Cut to July 2016, and I had a slate of continued failures staring at me. I’m sure the schools had their own reasons and compulsions, but it was frustrating to see the way things were. I even wrote to a former MP and a few other people in the public domain, but that didn’t really work. So I tweeted to Mr. Tawde.
While the honourable Minister never did revert to me, despite the reminders, my tweets to him went viral, courtesy the behemoth that social media can be. Very soon, my friend and storyteller extraordinaire, Varun Grover took it upon himself to take this forward. His post on Facebook on the plight of Jiya was circulated widely across social media, and in no time, I had people from all over the world writing to me to help.
My inbox was full of kind men and women giving details of the contacts they knew. Some people like Sneha Ullal Goel, the Managing Editor of Elle Decor India, physically went to one of the schools we were pursuing to get the admission done. Anvi Mehta, Puja Pednekar and Richa Khare, journalists from DNA, HT and Hindu, went beyond their journalistic duties to actually become a part of the process, helping us with leads. Of course, their respective publications also gave the issue the space it deserved in their papers.
And then I got a tweet from Ms. Poonam Mahajan. Member of Parliament from Mumbai North Central. She wanted to see us.
We were at Ms. Mahajan’s office at the appointed hour the next day. Seven months of continued rejection despite our best efforts had already frustrated me, so if I were to be honest, I was not really looking at anything beyond sympathy coming from her office. I was soon made to eat my words!
Poonam Mahajan is a rockstar! End of story.
She sat us down and spent almost an hour talking to us and the child. Not just about the admission, but about things around and about us. I later figured that she was not really well, and that she had come to her office only to see us. She was humble, she was humane and she was human. No airs about anything, and with a discussion-range moving from schools to books to Pokémon Go, and everything in between! She was all that a leader must be. She told us in clear terms that she would not do any sifarish to get the girl admitted. That her office would only talk to the schools and see if an interview could be possible. And if they don’t have space, she would not be able to do anything about it this year. No false assurances, no random pledges, no nothing. But a whole lot of positivity. Hell, that’s how I want my MP! Her able team reflected the boss’ enthusiasm, and was extremely proactive in taking things forward.
Very soon, the interviews were fixed with a few schools. The child was refused admission in the first school that we went to. Fair enough. But the second school accepted her after a one-on-one. Today was Jiya’s first day at Mary Immaculate Girls’ High School, Kalina. :)
And THIS is how a little underprivileged girl brought people from varied walks of life together and created a vibe so strong and positive that this happy ending became a foregone conclusion. Thank you, all you lovely people on Twitter, Facebook and in life. Beyond all the outrage and fights and debates and discussions, beyond all the jhagdas and ladaais, there is so much love around us. I hope and pray all of us get lots of that. It is beautiful.
Also, Mr. Tawde, a reply would not have been a bad idea. Lekin koi nahin. You must have had your own rationale. Here’s lots of love for you, sir. From all of us. If at any point of time you want to discuss educational reforms so that there are no more such cases, talk to social media. You will be surprised to see how constructive the space can be.
I know, right :)
Sajid Khan is an intelligent man.
Not everybody will agree with the statement, I know, and you will throw Himmatwala and Hamshakals at me. And you will not miss. Having said that, while I am still not sermonising that he is more sinned against than sinning, I don’t think half the world has seen either of the two movies. I have, and I have suffered them. BUT I also have picked up gems from both that are quintessentially Sajid Khan. Quirky, funny and fun. Wonder how many of us are aware of the random tribute – in black & white, no less – he has given to Alfred Hitchcock in Himmatwala, with Mahesh Manjrekar duplicating Marion Crane from the famous shower scene of Psycho! Of course, I yearned for more, and, of course, I felt disappointed. However, my faith in the man stays. He is not an auteur, and I don’t think he aspires to become one either. But he certainly gets humor better than most of his contemporaries. (I’m looking at you, Rohit Shetty.) The problem, and I say it only from a regular viewer’s perspective, is that he doesn’t know where and when to stop.
The nostalgic eighties/ nineties cheese make the cinema of Sajid Khan, coupled with a micro-focus on the audiences who get his references. Getting Shabbir Kumar to sing I Don’t Know What To Do in Houseful 2 was a masterstroke. It may not have been even registered by half the world, but for legions of Shabbir Kumar fans, it was an emotional reunion with the hamming hummer. Way different from, say, an Altaf Raja being experimented with, and made a mess of, in Ghanchakkar or Hunterrr. This was unadulterated Shabbir Kumar for the unadulterated Shabbir Kumar fans. And getting Ranjeet to play Papa Ranjeet, again, in Housefull 2, was, well, a very Papa Ranjeet thing to do. Only Sajid could get Ranjeet to give a homage to Ranjeet! And I am still not talking about the random Jeevan, Shatrughan Sinha, Sanjeev Kumar, Rajesh Khanna moments that he inserts (I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it is done unknowingly!) in scenes and scenarios which also double up as his narratives.
But Sajid is not just about nostalgia or talking only to the hardcore fans of nostalgia. He also gives the identifiable Tom & Jerry cartoonish coloration to his characters and situations to appeal to the sensibilities of the newer, younger viewers. (Who, I suspect, are sometimes as young as five. Days, that is.) Crocodiles and pythons attack the crotches of his heroes, diapers fly, and cute slap-fests, including one with a monkey, are integral parts of his movie-making. Some people find these funny, others find these unfunny. But the theatres get the laughs, sometimes louder than normal. Purpose served. Then there are the cringeworthy prejudices, some subtle and some not-so-subtle. The bimbetteness of the womenfolk is glorified, the lecherousness of the mankind is glamorised. Oh, and an occasional repulsive appearance of a dwarf maid cavorting with Mithun Chakraborty also makes inroads. But I would still refrain from donning the judicial robes here. History will evaluate and appraise Sajid Khan – and David Dhawan plus a few more directors for that matter – for the kind of films that they have made and the kind of laughter their humor has elicited. But they sure will make it to History, even if as post-scripts. Purpose served.
Last, Sajid Khan knows how to get his audiences to have some random, mindless fun with confusions and conundrums galore in all his outings. Yes, these are random, and yes, they are mindless. But, hell, some of us enter that big dark room to let go! The climax of Housefull had Queen Elizabeth talking in Marathi and yelling the “Jai Maharashtra” war cry, arbit Russian folk dancers forming the backdrop in a strictly British set up, Boman Irani LOLing and saying “Tu toh homos hai” to Arjun Rampal and a roomfull of Brits laughing uproariously and behaving demented because of a Nitrous oxide leak. Do the math already.
The Sajid Khan formula – if there is one – doesn’t always work, of course. It did not, for sure, in the Saif Ali Khan-Riteish Deshmukh starrer Hamshakals. It was a universally panned film, and for all the right reasons. As his loyalist, I felt cheated when I saw the film. While I had not gone expecting any high art, my biggest grouse was that Sajid Khan failed his audiences as Sajid Khan, the director. The film was loud, alright, but not ludicrous. And THAT was its failing. It isn’t easy making his kind of movies, and I am sure Sajid figured it himself while making Hamshakals. I hope his next one, whenever it happens, gives him back to us. Meanwhile, Sajid-Farhad tried being him in Housefull 3, and, well, didn’t really succeed. “Sirf bhaunkne se koi kutta kameena nahin ho jaata“, Papa Ranjeet had predicted in Housefull 2. And rightly so, despite my disagreement with the kutta-kameena analogy.
Hamshakals had one redeeming thing, though. The Cocaine Ke Paraathe song. It is as moronic as it can get and it is not funny when seen in isolation. But it was the high point of the film. Vintage Sajid Khan. Ridiculous to the core, and giving you those laughter trips you know you would eventually feel extremely guilty about. You can switch directly to 2:08 if you do not want to see the set up.
And why am I remembering the man now? The entire #BREXIT noise took me to the climax scene of Housefull 2, obviously! (Stupid Brits, no, really.) And I actually came across an article on drug laced parathas being sold in Chandigarh. Like, for real.
Guess I am not the only one who gets enamored by the genius of Sajid Khan!
From my FB wall. Got some varied reactions to this one. :)
It isn’t the super-singer with his studded jacket hand-horning away to the 31st night stardom OR the Honey-laced Bhangra regurgitation and the repulsively captivating resultant haze thereafter OR the Gurgaon Chapter of Pheromones Inc. flaunting their Lajpat Nagar jackets and Tank Road denims, getting their marauding machismo to pose for the camera OR the plain loud and happy Punjabi-Bihari Being Human Jaat-ness of the moment which typifies Delhi for me in this picture.
Delhi is this lady in blue, first row, third from left, holding what looks like her grand-daughter next to the invisible speaker stacks which must be the size of Qutab Minar. Swaying her arms. Swinging her body. Her physicality isn’t important. Her essense is. That aunty. Is. Delhi Aunty. That aunty is all what Delhi is.
Ecstatic. Blissful. Loud. Unaware. Unapologetic. Orgasmic. And happy.
The only thing missing are the leopard prints. I am assuming the hair is peroxide-painted or henna-dyed already. And that the girl in red would soon get married and get her honeymoon pics clicked in Pattaya wearing those choodas. And that the uncle behind them comes up with exactly the same expression in all his pictures.
The Kejriwals, odd-evens and other such unfortunate incidents would continue to happen to Delhi. As would some sweeping generalisations like I just did. But as would the ladies’ sangeets, the jagraatas and the trips to Sarojini Market.
A happy new year to you, too. See you soon at the Mata Ki Chowky. :)
I rarely get mails which offer me jobs. In fact, I rarely get mails. Solitary reaper, et al. Which explains why I got so enamored and impacted by this mail forwarded to me by one Probaldwip Bakshi from SREI BNP Paribas, offering me a job as “Assistant Manager – ARM – Opportunity Management” at Durgapur. The mail was accompanied by the scanned copy of the offer letter and the renumeration package. For my perusal. (I didn’t really have to write the last sentence, but I don’t always get to use the word “perusal”, and I think I have a secret crush on the word. So yeah. For my perusal.) I was also told that the hard copy of the offer letter along with the joining kit would be handed over to me on the day I would join them.
Now, I have always had a fixation for joining kits. I rarely get joining kits. Plus, “Assistant Manager – ARM – Opportunity Management” sounded like my kind of thing. But most importantly, who can say no to working with Probaldwip Bakshi! Naturally, I lapped it all up, and sent a merry reply confirming my acceptance.
Mr. Bakshi, the OPM – SH (WB), sent me a short and curt reply, establishing the working relationship and expectations. That’s the kind of boss I have always wanted. Quick on the uptake and sort of British. Succinct and successful. I could only thank my gods for the good fortune. More so, because I rarely get replies.
I sent an immediate mail back to Mr. Bakshi, offering him my undying support in this momentous journey we were about to take together. I also had a few routine questions and clarifications pertaining to the job.
And just when I had started thinking how I would play Tonto to this amazing Lone Ranger, I got a note from Chandrima Dutta, asking me to stop all communication on this subject. Just like that. No, really!
Crestfallen and dejected, I tried figuring this sudden change of behavior towards me. We were on a happy Paribas ride not very long time back, all of us, and now this! My innocent mind could not fathom why would something so bitter and brutal reach my inbox. And while I have always followed the peaceful path displayed by Dr. Martin Luther King, I could not control myself from questioning the logic behind Ms. Dutta’s mail.
Ah, Human Resource people, why art thee so cold, callous and cruel! Not only did Ms. Dutta decide to not write back to me and answer my good-natured, noble-intentioned questions, she also used her continued silence as her strongest weapon to shut me up and crush my child-like enthusiasm. This painful placidity, this sullen stoicism was too much to take for the very emotional me. My plan to make a difference to the world was savagely sabotaged by the world.
I decided to not take up the job. :|
This hasn’t quite been the best experience of my life, but I still believe in the goodness of mankind. I believe in angels, something good in everything I see. I believe in quoting from an ABBA song and not giving them any credit for the same. I believe in honest people getting what they deserve, what is rightfully theirs.
Only, I rarely get mails which offer me jobs. :(
(I later gathered that the email ID of the guy they were trying to write to was vaibhav.vshl@****.com. Clearly, his favorite actor is Ajay Dvgn. His Action Jackson affiliations notwithstanding, I’m sure he makes a better candidate than me, and would do very well at the awesome organisation that SREI BNP Paribas is, blending in with the lovely people in there. All’s well that ends well.)
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.)
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 :)