I am writing to you not because you happen to be a friend or because your name starts with an 'S' (women who have mattered to me always have names -- I don't know why -- that start with an 'S'). I am not writing to you because you happen to good-looking, who stands out in a crowd, nor because you have a brilliant mind. Maybe I am writing to you because of all these too, who knows.
But why I am writing to you at this hour, it is half-past midnight, is because I want to share something. Something which only you will understand because you belong to my generation. You belong to the generation of Sholay. You belong to the generation of Julie. You belong to the generation when romance was walking in the rain on the streets of Bombay and singing, Rimjhim Gire Saawan...
Such a clean song, Rimjhim Gire Saawan. Unfortunately, or rather very fortunately, there cannot be another rain song like that. A middle-class man and an upper-middle-class but traditional woman, hopping over puddles and escaping the drizzle -- the landmarks of Bombay flashing past as this song -- a gem from R.D. Burman, sung by Lata -- plays in the background. You know, I prefer this version over the one sung by Kishore; even though Kishore, to me, is God.
You know S, expressing my thoughts in words is not only my bread and butter, but also something that I should keep practising, considering that it is the sole tool that can make my dreams come true. Yet, there are times like these when words fail me, when I have so much to share that I don't know where to begin, what to write. Because these are things to be felt.
Words fail me when I watch My heart is beating on You Tube. All I can do is copy the URL and send it to people who are online and who might understand. There is nothing I can say. What can I say about Om Prakash? All I can wonder is why do people like Om Prakash have to leave this world? Seen him in Chupke Chupke? He is the real force behind the movie. It's a movie that you might have watched 24 times, and yet when you watch it the 25th time, you still wonder what's going to happen next.
Do watch My heart is beating... What a song, what an accurate portrayal of an Anglo-Indian family. Watch Om Prakash, the alcohol-loving engine-driver who was also a doting father. When I first saw Julie, I cried when Om Prakash died. But when Om Prakash really died a few years ago, I did not cry. You don't cry when a Om Prakash or a Ashok Kumar dies. You refuse to acknowledge they are no more. You have the luxury of that denial because they've left a body of work you can always return too.
Kishore Kumar, my favourite singer, is dead. R.D. Burman, my favourite composer, is dead. Sahir Ludhianvi, my favourite lyricist, is dead. But what an immortal song they've left behind! -- Tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi, yunhee nahin dil lubhata koi, jaane tu ya janena (tranlastion: Whether you know it or not, we do have a connection from the past, or else why should I like you?) The song is from Aa Gale Lag Jaa, and is sung in three different situations. I like all three versions, but the one I like best is the shortest one, that comes in the end, literally, because as soon as it ends, 'The End' comes on the screen. And in this version, it is not Shashi Kapoor, the hero, who sings it but Shatrughan Sinha, who plays a small role. Listen to Kishore's voice, and you will fall in love with him, S.
But who am I to tell you about Kishore's voice? Have you not heard Aanewala Pal from Gol Maal? And have you ever wondered, why we never tire of Gol Maal? I think the directors of those days were more sensitive. And they were dedicated. Moreover, they did not work at the point of this dangerous weapon called hype. Hype fucks up everything, I tell you. Hype can draw 20,000 people to the theatres on day one, but can it make a movie last 20 years? Hype kills the craft. It is like going to bed with a woman who has very high expecations from you. No matter how much skilled a lover you are, you always wilt under expectations. Doctors call it performance anxiety. Whereas, when you go to bed with a woman who has never had sex or has not had sex in a long, long time, she is happy with whatever you give her and you find your flag suddenly flying high. The idea is to give the people what they want, and not to rouse their expectations through hype and then falling flat. Do you get what I mean, S? Am sure you do, that is why I am writing to you.
You know, I liked Rang De Basanti. I watched the movie in a theatre in Trivandrum, on the opening day. The movie haunted me for days: it stayed with me. But it is not the kind of movie I would like to watch again and again. But Gol Maal I would. Amar Akbar Anthony I would. Similarly, I like the songs from Life in a Metro or Honeymoon Travels. They are nice songs. So good. But if I was exiled to an island, and was given the choice of taking only one music CD with me, I would take the combo of Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin/Yaadon Ki Baaraat.
Have you ever wondered why their songs are still so fresh? So sparkling fresh? They were made more than thirty years ago, when you and I were possibly roaming around naked in the house, unaware of the social requirement that genitals are meant to be hidden. Today, you will find picturisation of these songs inane when you watch Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin. But the songs themselves? Chand mera dil, chandni ho tum, chand se hai door, chandni kahaan... At school, when I was in class three or four, we had a teacher, Mrs Nath, who sang this song beautifully during one of the free periods. Mrs Nath, at the time, must have been nearly forty-five. Ideally, she should have sung something from the Rafi-Shankar-Jaikishan era. But she chose this song. It was the magic of R.D., darling. It was the magic of R.D.
It was also R.D. who made the song you were mentioning the other day, Ghum hai kisi ke pyaar mein... Wow, what a song that is. I've seen that song a countless times on Chitrahaar, but I never thought of its as 'wow' till you reminded me of it the other day. Fuck, I had forgotten about it! You know, that song is from Rampur Ka Laxman, and picturised on Randhir Kapoor and Rekha. Now that's one thing about Randhir Kapoor. People may debate about his acting skills, though in my opinion he wasn't such a bad actor. He was good, actually, if not brilliant. Oh what the hell, he was actually brilliant, considering that he did not have the looks or the voice or the style that an actor was supposed to have at the time, and yet he pulled off some great movies. But why I consider him lucky is that he got some of the best songs R.D. Burman and Kishore Kumar made together. Really, the best songs. Be they the songs of Jawaani Diwani or Biwi O Biwi. S, I beg you to listen to the songs of Biwi O Biwi, especially Waqt se pehle and Meri bulbul.
When the Express office shifted from Mount Road to Ambattur, these two songs set my mood for the long journey from T. Nagar. I listened to them on my earphones, because my driver, Suresh, would play Tamil songs on the car stereo. There were days when he played Hindi songs too because he liked certain Hindi songs. He was, for example, a great fan on the song, Kitne bhi tu karle sitam... from Sanam Teri Kasam. He once asked me, while the song was playing, "Sir, nalla voice. Who is the singer?" Asha Bhosle, I told him. He liked another song, "Humen aur jeene ki chaahat na hoti..." from Agar Tum Na Hote, a song that got Kishore Kumar a Filmfare award. Sadly, he never asked me who the singer or the composer was.
The fact that Suresh, a lower middle-class Tamil boy barely twenty-three years old, liked these songs: that speaks volumes about the music created by R.D. And mind you, he didn't play these songs to please me. Whenever he had to please me, he would play two Tamil songs which he knew I liked: Raja Raja Cholanna and Guruvayurappa, both Illayaraja's compositions and both equally mind-blowing. He, himself, was crazy about Kitne bhi tu karle sitam... Ah, the magic of R.D.
Every child grows up with lullabies and songs, but there comes a time when he or she actually registers the tune of a song and then goes on to remember it for the rest of his or her life. That becomes the 'first song' of your life. Going by what my parents say, my 'first song' was Kanchi re kanchi re from Hare Rama Hare Krishna. According to them, that's the first song I danced to as an infant. But I think my 'first song' was the title song of Yaadon Ki Baraat. I was barely four years old then, and we had gone to some town near Calcutta to attend the wedding of a colleague of my father. My father himself was twenty-nine or thirty then.
I hardly have any memories of that trip to Calcutta, but I remember that particular night somewhat vividly: a lot of men, including my father, stood by the roadside, perhaps taking a smoke break while the wedding was being conducted in one of the homes. My father doesn't smoke or drink (shame, his son is now exactly the opposite), but he stood there on the pavement along with the other men and me. One man, wearing a white kurta and pyjama, sat on the pavement like they sit by the beach when they are defecating. He was smoking a cigarette and singing, "Yaadon ki baaraat nikli hai aaj dilke dwaare..." -- The procession of memories is flowing out of the heart. The song stuck. That was the beginning of my musical journey, S. Come home someday, and you will see what a dictator I am when it comes to being a DJ. I wouldn't bother whether you've eaten or not, but I will make sure you've listened to all the songs I want you to listen.
That's one thing I noticed about myself, S. People, when they get drunk in the company of a woman, usually paw or prey. I only plead. Plead them to listen to the procession of my memories -- my yaadon ki baaraat.
So come home someday. But wait a minute, won't you like to take a look at the picture below? I stole it from the internet. It is worth watching. It belongs to the era when singers and musicians were not jealous of each other. I think it belongs to the late 1940s or, at the most, early 1950s. The camaraderie lasted well into the 1970s, which was our decade, and therefore the magic. By the 1990s, it had become a dog-eat-dog world, S. That's how it is even today. Now look carefully at the picture. It is a rare one. I can spot at least four great singers: there is Rafi right in the middle and right above his right shoulder is Talat Mehmood. The man on extreme right is Mukesh, and right above Mukesh is Kishore Kumar. S, do you see even a hint of arrogance in any of their faces? They all look dashing, but arrogant? I suspect there are many more well-known names in this group picture, but I am afraid I can't recognise them. Though I suspect that the man standing, second from left, is C Ramachandra. Look at it carefully, S. You won't see such pictures often.