Saw two things last week - an attempt to recreate Magick and an eclectic list. I am no rock fan, though I pretend sometimes! I don’t know Led Zepp from Pink Floyd. I felt very happy after seeing the Beatles’ Abbey Road studios only to be told that the Fab Four is not rock – damn!
But then, Rock On is not about rock. Neither are the 100 Greatest Guitar songs a monopoly of rock music. Rock On is about having a dream big enough to come back to it. And Bollywood music probably has a hundred great guitar performances – if not songs – that look like the real thing. Well, almost!
As I listed down the best Bollywood guitar songs, it became apparent that the guitar is never used to ‘play’ songs. It’s only there for the tashan! And I contemplated Rock On and unfulfilled promises, I was reminded of too many doctors and engineers who never did the things they were really fantastically good at.
Dev Anand stood in a fishing village and lip-synced one of Bollywood’s greatest songs. Hemant Kumar sang “Yeh raat yeh chandni” (Jaal) and Dev brushed fingers against a guitar, holding it like a Spartan holding a battering ram. The fakeness is in-your-face but with a song like that, any kind of guitar playing passes muster.
PKP was my classmate for twelve years. As a hobby and in art class, he produced stunning masterpieces – experimenting with form and medium. Those days, people who cracked JEE were not allowed to think of alternate careers. So, PKP is now a respected doctor, saving lives in Calcutta. Does a paintbrush still beckon him sometimes?
Zeenat Aman wore a gown with a slit from her toes to eternity as she serenaded Vijay Arora with a guitar she balanced between her legs. “Chura liya hain” remains one of the cult classics and nobody is really bothered that she never really ‘played’ the guitar. She and Asha Bhonsle played to the gallery!
YD’s handwriting was so good that I often got him to inscribe my name on new books. His design of his sister’s wedding card (preserved after 20 years) is a lesson in simplicity and imagination. He manages process quality in Indianapolis. When he looks at hideously designed books, does he itch to make them better?
Naseer Hussain had tons of guitar songs with Ranbir’s father leading the charge and Imran’s grand-uncle bringing up the rear. The world would have been a much worse place if the first bars of Humne tumko dekhaaa / Tumne humko dekhaaa did not end with Aisssaaayyy as Rishi orchestrated his ankle-length muffler and the guitar.
When BC sang the Gupi Gayin songs, we sounded like the original. In school concerts, his mellifluous voice was the saving grace. Always ready to sing risqué spoofs at picnics, he was a hit. He is now completing a doctorate at IIT Bombay. Would he ever walk up to Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and ask for an audition?
Rishi Kapoor started off with mouth organs, graduated to dafflis, dabbled in guitars in Naseer Hussain films and beyond. In one of his best songs, he serenaded Mona D’Silva with a borrowed guitar. And to think, he did not even know her name. Only that she had eyes like the ocean (Saagar jaisi aankhon wali...).
AL had a snooker table in his drawing room. He also had an unfinished novel. A tale of pirates and MBAs, written in an easy-going style. An apparently slice-of-life story but with its twist, it resembled nothing written till date. When will he take time off from corporate banking and let David Godwin find him?
For three decades, Amitabh Bachchan pulverized villains, listened to his mother and scolded God to save the world. In the chaos, he forgot to play too much music (except an occasional mouth-organ) but made up for it when he burst on to Waterloo Station in Captain Sparrow gear and a double-necked guitar... Jhoom Barabar Jhoom!
UC is articulate (when he wants to). He is intelligent (even when he tries not to). If he got bothered about it, his interest, knowledge and analysis of cricket could have left Harsha Bhogle without a job. He whiles away time in investment banking. Will he ever call up ESPN and ask for a shot?
And that leaves us with the greatest guitar song of all times – Slash and Jimi Hendrix notwithstanding. A riff powerful enough to bring back memories of a past life. A story good enough to be reincarnated again and again. And lyrics that tell us about a beauty who was also a beast – Ek Haseena Thi...
But some of us take the plunge as well. PV, for example, chucked his post-MBA job and started composing full time. Ringtones, remixes, ad jingles, TV serials... even a bespoke song for my wife on our first anniversary! If we agree to think a little beyond Bollywood, this guy would have a chartbusting rock album.
With Rock On, Bollywood finally played the guitar the way it is supposed to be played. But as a film, it can only be called successful when a few real people switch off their computers at five and go home to jam with old friends. I am praying that I know some of these people.
Wishful thinking? But...
Aankhon mein jiske koi khwaab hain / Khush hain wohi jo thoda betaab hain
Zindagi mein koi aarzoo kijiye / Phir dekhiye...
Honton pe jiske koi toh geet hain / Woh haare bhi toh uski jeet hain
Dil mein jo geet hain gunguna lijiye / Phir dekhiye...
Khwaab buniye zaraa / Geet suniye zaraa