I don’t watch television. It started about half a decade back and with time, I lost interest in it altogether. Gradually, this aversion to the idiocy that most of our electronic media transmits with unrelenting vengeance grew to encompass movies too. Given the junk that Bombay has been passing off as “entertainment”, I soon started to look at it all as little more than chewing gum for the eyes. Not that I never indulged myself in its indolent decadence. But each time, I came away reassured that the only way television could be educating would be if every time someone switched the set on, I went into the other room and read a book.
A week or so back, I happened to make a trip to Dalhousie, one of the very few hill stations I have come across that still retains vestiges of its colonial past. It is a quaint little town, almost caught in a time-warp, with its hillsides strewn with lovely bungalows and mist-laden pathways. It was raining torrentially when I arrived but by the time the afternoon gave way to the evening, the skies had cleared. And despite my repugnance for all the tourists who can never seem to get enough of the hills, I had to admit that the vista was captivating. The firmament was cleansed of the dust and as far as the eye could see, nature seemed to be spilling its exquisite bounties in abundance. The greens of the flora, the azure-blue sky, the milky-white wafting mists-together, they dwarfed the ugliness that we tend to pass off as civilization and served as a poignant reminder of the fact that the simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Tender as the mood was, I succumbed to the easy temptation of lethargy and upon reaching my room, turned on the television set. And the visage I encountered shocked me no less than accidently pouring a mug of cold water onto yourself while enjoying a splendidly warm bath in the winters.
It was a music channel I had tuned into and the song I had the misfortune of listening to went .."He’s a good looking ullu ka pattha..” !! I mean, we all know, thanks in no small measure to the genius of Anu Malik, that Indian cinema faces an acute paucity of talent but this seems to have taken absurdity to unimaginable depths!
I am no prude and have enjoyed my share of the ridiculous. I will not, out of sheer self-respect, mention the gems that once found a tune on my lips. But I can admit that the rhythms accompanying most of Govinda’s onscreen inanities did lend a lilt to my moments of senile indulgence-the last being this particularly outlandish song from Partner called "Kehndi paun, kehndi paen"!
However, momentary insanity apart, Bombay really seems to have lost it. Consider the songs in the era of India’s new-found independence. They were masterpieces, lyrically and visually. There wasn’t the slightest hint of any indecency, vulgarity or inanity. They were perfect accompaniments to the story and encapsulated the pathos of the story in hauntingly beautiful melodies.
And consider how much it has degenerated since. Ishq, that beautiful Urdu word which has no equivalent in the English language, has been derided without remorse in the last decade. Urmila gyrated to “Kambakth Ishq”, Aishwarya almost had us convinced that life was tough because of “Ishq Kameena” and to be honest, I am really apprehensive what the next female icon would have to call it to cement her status!
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lay just a little strain on your memory and you will realise that beyond being the land of Ghalib and Tagore, we are also the people responsible for subjecting the world(and ourselves) to classics such as “Teri nani mari to main kya karoon, Andey ka fundaa, What is your style number/what is mobile number, Sarkailo khatiya jaada lage, Aa aa ee, uu uu ooo...” And the list is endless!
Agreed, there are exceptions to the rule. There are a few songs that have aesthetic appeal even in these times. But exceptions don’t always justify the rule. And given the pace with which we are descending into this maddening chaos where every second channel has a contest featuring every possible format (crooning grannies, dancing toddlers, battles of has-beens et al), the mind shudders to imagine where we will be in the coming few years.
For the moment though, it seems to be a menace that everyone loves to hate but can’t seem to live without.
P.S.- For the uninitiated:
Ullu-ka-pattha = son of an owl
Anu Malik = “inspired” lyricist and musician from India; unfortunately, his inspirations are often misconstrued as plagiarism
Govinda = yellow shirts with red pants, need I say more?
Ishq = an abstruse and enigmatic Urdu word; conveys more emotion than liking/admiration/infatuation but less than love
Kambakth Ishq = goddamned Ishq
Ishq Kameena = Ishq-the-wretched
Urmila and Aishwarya = popular Indian actresses who reached their cinematic pinnacles at the time these songs, respectively, were released
Teri nani mari to main kya karoon = “what can i do if your maternal grandmother died?”
Andey ka fundaa = “the enigma of an egg”
What is your style number/what is mobile number = c’mon, this one is in simple English!
Sarkailo khatiya jaada lage = “move the bedstead, I’m feeling cold”
Aa aa ee, uu uu ooo = here, I GIVE UP!!