Saturday, June 27, 2009

Midnight Thoughts: Of Pancham And Michael Jackson

Two of my good friends, after they read the previous two posts that were about my forthcoming book, greeted me with sarcastic comments.

"So you are promoting your book, eh?" said one.

"You should have been a PR person," said the other. When I asked why, he said, "Look at the way you are promoting your book."

I was sort of pissed, to tell you the truth. One, I am not promoting my book -- a book that is yet to see the light of the day even though it has gone to the press. I have only been sharing my thoughts, just as I do about other subjects close to my heart, such as sex, Scotch and Pancham. Two, if I don't promote my own book, then who will? It is a 'prestige issue', after all: you would want it to sell a million copies, won't you?

But I am fully aware that you can't promote your own book. It is outright stupid to even consider doing that. If that was the case, any millionaire who can't write for nuts but who fancies himself as a writer would have been on the bestseller lists. There is only person who can promote a book, and that is the reader. A reader reads it, finds it good, and spreads the word through his or her mouth (or email or SMS). That's how a book sells. Or so I believe.

A good book, according to me, is one that holds you by the balls and doesn't let you move until you've turned all the pages in one sitting and exclaimed, "Wow, now that was something!" But there are also good books that spare your balls but keep tugging at your heart: you read 20 pages one night, and another 20 pages the next, till you have completed the book and exclaimed, "Wow, now that was some story."

As a first-time writer, I don't even know if the book will qualify to be in the 'good' category, leave alone its classification under the balls-grabbing or the heart-tugging variety. So fuck it. I don't even want to talk about it anymore till it is actually published, which is about six weeks from now.

Today I want to talk about Pancham, or R.D. Burman. Today is his birth anniversary. Had he been alive today, he would have been 70. And rocking, or may be not. If he is rocking today -- even today -- that's only because the music of Vinod Chopra's 1942 - A Love Story became a hit barely months after Pancham died. The success of its music made people look back, once again, at the genius of R.D. Burman. But the man himself was no longer alive -- to either celebrate or to give quotes. (Director Priyadarshan told me at a party that RD's swan song was actually Gardish, which happened to be released much before 1942).

It was Pancham's death that slapped home the point among music lovers that India's most talented composer was no more, and thus began the R.D. Burman Movement, which continues even today. Today, even 15 years after his death, it is considered to be fashionable to be an RD clone or an RD fan. But where were these people when R.D. was going through a lean patch? Except Gulzar and Ramesh Behl, they had all written off Pancham and dumped him. Including the namak-haram Dev Anand, whose movies -- the ones directed by him, that is -- sold mainly due to Pancham's music.

I strongly believe in nature's justice. That is why I am not surprised why Subhash Ghai, once upon a time hailed as the 'showman' of Bollywood, is no longer worth even 10 minutes of a journalist's time. Ghai had signed up Pancham for the music of Ram Lakhan, and the trade journals credited R.D. Burman as the music director for this multi-starrer movie. But one fine morning, Ghai dropped Pancham and went on to hire his old buddies, Laxmikant and Pyarelal, to compose the music for Ram Lakhan. Laxmi-Pyare were old buddies of Pancham: they had been assistants to his illustrious father, S.D. Burman. But R.D. could not stomach being dropped so unceremoniously and in the end suffered a heart attack that eventually snuffed the life out of him a few years later.

Today R.D. is king. His music rules. But where were all the lovers of his music when he was down and out? Does one have to die to assure you of his genius? Take the case of Michael Jackson. I would be lying if I say I grew up on Jackson's songs. Actually I did, because his best songs came around the time I was growing up. Only that I didn't quite know that those songs belonged to Jackson: I only knew that Michael Jackson was some big pop star and therefore one of the landmarks of my adolescence. Even my parents knew that there was somebody by the name of Michael Jackson.

Cool, so you are now shedding tears for him and all that. But did you even spare a thought for him while he was attending those hearings in the court as a broken man? At the time you thought, "This man has had a lot of fun in life. He is a celebrity and must be having so much of money. What fun to see him get buggered." Today, just because he has died and will no longer come alive, you are rediscovering his genius. Can you get anymore fake?

True geniuses are never bothered by public reaction -- or the lack of it. They merely leave their genius behind for the rest of the mankind to debate on it for generations to come.


Anonymous said...

You are right. I am tired seeing RIP MJ messages on orkut and facrbook. As if they all cared about the star the world has lost.


Anonymous said...

you sound bitter today?!

Anonymous said...

six weeks waiting for the book ...August first week ?