Saturday, September 13, 2008

Zindagi Mein Koi Aarzoo...

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

Phir dekhiye...


Anonymous said...

This has to be your best...though disagree with a lot of the Bollywood stuff.
AND, here's another addition to the list: Will DC stop selling newspapers (at least occasionally), walk across the corridor, and start writing the stuff he sells?
onodhikar chorcha hoyto, tobuo na kore thakte parlam na...Your colleague from the 17th floor

Compulsive Dreamer said...

Awesome... Awesome!!!!

Vishal | said...

Awesome post, Dipta! Came here from the Blogbharti link to your Mahabharata article (also great!) and glad I stuck around to read more!

You've really hit the nail on the head with Rock On! While everyone else is prattling on and on about how it is or isn't 'true rock' for me the film is about following your heart and living your dreams. It may well have been about four kabaddi players!

Like you I know many people who aren't doing the creative things they excel at (I'm sure everyone knows at least one person like that). As someone who is -- albeit not with the success I'd like :-) -- all one can do is encourage and support them. I've found that most people need someone to tell them that it's okay to have creative urges and to develop them.

Someday, perhaps, like the people in Rock On, they too will fulfill their dreams.

the mad momma said...

well you can start with hoping that your pal the OA gets to come home at 5 and jam. here's incentive - it might make me more sweet tempered :p

Nilendu said...

This - "Oh, he was so brilliant at painting / debates/ writing for school mags and yet he is a lowly Engr / MBA / Banker" is the biggest bullshit on circulation today. As

"One whose hand-writing was so good..."- Oh, give me a break! As Bill Clinton said "this is the biggest fairy-tale of them all". This all comes from our yearning for "good old days". Conjecture from purely anecdotal evidence. I do hope our generation would be just like our parents and would not amuse our kids to pursue professions like "wedding card design"!

Oh, judging by the US market, we should not encourage them to be at IB too!

Get real dude.

udayan said...

Quite corny, too be honest.

People end up doing whatever they are good at, or the least bad at ...

Roger Rabbit said...

Excellent post.
However, I believe one song skipped your memory while trying to select the "greatest guitar song of all times"... maybe you've forgotten "Neele Neele Ambar Par", a song which without a guitar, would be as barren as Singur without the factory.


Dipta Chaudhuri said...

@ Udayan: We don't do things we are 'least worst' at. We do things we can make most money from.
Agree with the corniness ;-)

@ Nilendu: Bugger off!

Bivashkumar said...

Enjoyed the post!

On the adage "follow your dream", I must admit that the movie added some fuel to what had already been sparked off at the Annual Sales & Marketing Conference hosted by our organisation in Kuala Lumpur earlier in April this year. (I am sure you have fond memories of these conferences from your soap 'n oil days!)

On the Awards Nite (no reminders required, I am sure), it was in a moment of inebriated enthusiasm, prodded on by a bunch of equally sober sales & marketing professionals, that a colleague & I mustered up enough courage to pay homage to Creedence Clearwater Revival, by performing a "highball-in-hand" rendition of Proud Mary. They say we were in tune.

What followed may be described as the awakening of the musician in a few of these sales & marketing professionals, which perhaps had fallen prey to what the movie deems responsible for such dreams having lost their way somewhere between the 4pm College Adda sessions and the 4pm Sales Review meetings.

A couple of us began to meet regularly after office (unfortunately, we cannot count ourselves amongst the "Five PM Few" you hope you are acquainted with!) on Friday evenings, and jam for a couple of hours, with the help of a synthesiser, a guitar and four hopelessly out of practice voices. I continue to find comfort in the fact that though we certainly didn't sound like Grammy Award winning material, we began to find new joy in our respective daily rat races.

6 months ago, the thought of performing on stage surrounded by 5,000 watts RMS was something we did in the colloquially "good ol' days" in college. Suddenly, that doesn't seem so long ago, and neither are we so pessimistically dismissive about it ever happening again!

While Rock On brought back fond memories of long hours of after-class practice sessions, the back stage rivalry at college competitions, the twitchy nervousness on stage, and the adrenaline rush of performing to cheering college crowds, it also reminded us not to let go of the little bit we had managed to wrangle back from the past.

Yes, the movie could have been about 4 kabaddi players, and in spirit is not very different from Kabir Khan and his 16 hockeystick-wielding firebrands.

So here's to a good, feel-good movie, which did more for some than it did for others! On a lighter note, while me and my musician colleagues were filing out of the auditorium along with hoards of chatteringly appreciative college-goers, the Mark Knopfler in each of us sprang to the surface as we flung our arms up in despair and wailed...

"Who was the bassist?!"