A bit of THIS and A bit THAT....Kuch Khatha, Kuch Meetha, Thoda Naram, Thoda Garam!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A few moments with Gulzar....

'Lyrics Today Aren't Poetry, Just Bad Prose' SAIBAL CHATTERJEE interviews Gulzar in Outlook India

It was India's very first sound film, Alam Ara, that established the song-n-dance convention in our cinema.

"We're so stuck with the hero-heroine kind of cinema that it's impossible for us to get out of the mindset."

Seventy-five years on, how would you assess the state of film lyrics?
It would be unfair to judge film songs in isolation. Lyrics can be only as good as the film, the script and the music they're written for. If the quality of the film and its music is poor, the lyrics too are bound to deteriorate.... The lyrics should not only reflect the spirit of a film, but also capture the essence of the time and place it's set in. If some of today's songs seem laboured, it's because of a huge disconnect between lyric writing and poetry. Words are rustled up to fit pre-composed tunes. The beat is important, not the words.

When exactly did this decline begin?

The slide started when dance became gymnastics and songs turned into a meaningless stringing together of words. Today's lyrics aren't poetry. They aren't even prose. They are bad prose. The attempts at rhyming are painfully laboured. In the past, a Hindi film lyricist had 70-75 words to play around with. Today he has no more than 30 or 35. Their vocabulary is very limited. Today's cinema has no gentle dissolves, no flashbacks. It's cut-to-cut. Images and sounds are thrown at you one after the other. In song sequences, the movements usually have no connection with the words. Words are just an excuse to hang a tune on.

Is that a reason why our film songs are predominantly about a single emotion—romantic love? Elements like anger, cynicism and social satire are virtually absent...
Well, most of our films are love stories. We don't tell stories about older people. Our stories are usually about boys and girls falling in love. If I tell somebody I'm doing a film with A.K. Hangal and Dr Shreeram Lagoo, the first question I'd be asked is: "Hero aur heroine kaun hai?" We are so stuck with this kind of cinema, it seems impossible for us to get out of this mindset.

So, is the situation unlikely to change ever?

Some contemporary filmmakers are bucking the trend. Nagesh Kukunoor's Iqbal does not have a heroine. Rang de Basanti isn't a typical boy-meets-girl story either. The songs in these films, especially in the latter, reflect this departure quite distinctly.

How would you describe the love songs you've penned over the years?
I've often tried to inject Sufism into purportedly romantic songs. Take Chhaiyyan Chhaiyyan as an example. It has the influence of Bulle Shah and Baba Farid, the great Sufi poet-singers of Punjab. In Saathiya, too, I wrote Mera yaar mila de saiyyan, which isn't a typical romantic number though it's essentially a love song. My songs aren't exactly romantic; they are often pastoral vignettes of life in Punjab, redolent with nostalgia and a sense of loss. I'm talking about songs like Chappa Chappa charkha chale and Chhod aaye hum, woh galiyaan from Maachis.

With someone like A.R. Rahman, I can work on the words and imagery strictly in relation to scenes and visuals.

In that sense your romantic songs are probably closer in spirit to the outpourings of the great Romantics of English poetry like John Keats and P.B. Shelley...

I'm not sure of that, but yes, it is important for our film lyrics to keep evolving. The imagery of Krishna serenading Radha, trying to wake her up, teasing her as she sits on a branch or trying to break her earthen pot as she heads for the well, used to work once. It can't work anymore, yet our lyrics are stuck in that imagery drawn from our folklore and mythology. Life has changed, the images in our songs haven't.

Your own lyrics have always had a degree of playfulness about them. Would you agree were I to say it has only increased in recent times?

You don't have to wear heavy glasses to write film lyrics. Beeti na beetayi raina in Parichay was a classical bandish that conveyed the pain of separation. It worked wonderfully well in the '70s. Today's Hindi cinema has no room for such songs. If we think old classical poetry will still work, we'd be deluding ourselves. Do we still wear the kurtas or pants we wore in the '60s? To survive, you have to move with the times. You have to think of images relevant to the contemporary environment. In Satya, I wrote sara din sadkon pe khaali rickshey sa peechhe peechhe chalta hai to refer to a lover pursuing her beloved. I couldn't have used the traditional Radha-Krishna imagery here. It would've been completely out of place.

Does your being a director help?

It certainly does. When I write lyrics, I know what will work. In Satya, only Goli maar bheje mein bheja shor karta hai would have been apt. I could not have written Dil-e-naadaan tujhe hua kya hai. Similarly, when I wrote Chhadi re chhadi kaise gale mein padi in Mausam, I knew nothing else would work.

Film songs made pre-Independence often exuded a strong nationalistic fervour, but that changed once India attained freedom and cinema became a medium of sheer entertainment. Would you agree?

Yes, indeed. Songs like Door hato ae duniyawaalon Hindustan hamara hai or the use of Vande Mataram in numerous lyrics was the norm in pre-Independence Hindi cinema. Bhajans sung by fakirs were also popular. These songs commented upon life; the wandering minstrel was like a sutradhar or chorus throwing light on the drama. That has been a tradition. I used a blind man in Kitaab to sing a similar song. In Aap Ki Kasam, Rajesh Khanna, in the garb of an old man, sings Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain jo mukaam, woh phir nahin aate. This convention springs from India's age-old katha tradition that rests on a solo narration of the Ramayana or Mahabharat. In post-Independence films, songs that reflected disillusionment were also common. The songs of Dharti Ke Lal, which brought together the talents of Ali Sardar Jafri, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas and Ravi Shankar, did that.

Who, to your mind, are the greatest Hindi film lyricists of all time?

Shailendra was the best. He knew the medium and he knew poetry. He would write Mera joota hai Japani to go with the image of a tramp but would invest the song with many layers of meaning. He could turn a film song into a piece of literature. Sahir Ludhianvi was another great. For him words always came before the tune. Who else but he could write Pedon ki shaakhon pe khili khili chandni?

And among contemporary lyricists...

There are quite a few, but how much difference they'll make will depend on how long they can last. Remember Yogesh, the poet who wrote Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye, saanjh ki dulhan badan churaye, chupke se aaye in Anand, and other lovely lyrics for Salil Chowdhury? He vanished all too soon.Prasoon Joshi uses language very skilfully. His lyrics for Rang de Basanti are a classic case of songs matching the film and its characters perfectly. Another lyricist I'd like to hear more of is Nida Fazli. He is a wonderful poet.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down

Came across this quote so thought of posting it here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Takla Hatela ya Lamba Khamba?

Read this very interesting article re: how the underworld has rechristened Bollywood. In an attempt to confuse anti-piracy cells in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Dubai, Malaysia and Bangkok, 'bhais' have come up with new nicknames for actors and actresses, based largely on recent roles or makeovers.

Here's the list decoded/unearthed by the Police

The Men

- Chyawanprash: Amitabh Bachchan (after the brand he endorses)
- Takla Hatela: Salman Khan (recently went bald)
- Jhakaas Mamu: Anil Kapoor (his favourite word is jhakaas)
- Chhe Ungli ka Kamaal: Hrithik Roshan
- Chikna Kaana: Saif Ali Khan
- Neta ka abhineta or Political hero: Riteish Deshmukh
- Jawani ka Viagra: Aamir Khan (looks young for his age)
- Junior Daadhi: Abhishek Bachchan (thanks to his ever-present stubble)
- Booddha Hakla: Shah Rukh Khan (K…k…k…Kiran?)
- Kavla hakla: Shahid Kapur (the aspiring SRK)
- Satkela AK-47 or Munnabhai: Sunjay Dutt
- Kala Ghoda: Ajay Devgan
- Dhai Kilo ka Hero: Sunny Deol (‘dhai kilo’ dialogue in Damini)
- Charsi Punter: Fardeen Khan
- Bawa Model: John Abraham (he’s half Parsi)
- Chumma Jumma: Emraan Hashmi (Mr Lucky Lips)
- Pakaau hero: Akshaye Khanna
- Garam Masala: Akshay Kumar (his latest comedy)
- Anna: Suniel Shetty
- Circuit House: Arshad Warsi
- Paaji ka bachhda: Bobby Deol
- Hatela Nana: Nana Patekar

The Women

- Black Beauty: Bipasha Basu
- Kajrawali: Aishwarya Rai
- Chhipkali: Urmila Matondkar
- Item bomb: Mallika Sherawat
- Boodhi Ghodi Lal Lagam: Rekha (never say die)
- Carrom Board: Priyanka Chopra (eh?)
- MMS item: Kareena Kapoor
- Shaani Batli: Rani Mukerji
- Dimple: Preity Zinta
- Lamba Khamba: Shilpa Shetty
- Khallaas Baby: Isha Koppikar
- Mota rola: Manisha Koirala
- Universe ka Pataka: Sushmita Sen

Gangster M.D

I knew Munnbhai M.B.B.S was being remade as a Hollywood movie; its been in the news for a while now, but this is fresh news - Chris Tucker has officially been signed now. Is this the start of a new trend? Are we going to see more stars (Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie) act in remakes of Devdas and other mushy love stories, have songs and dances, blind mothers/sisters and corrupt politicians & villians in white suits!!

Read the news here -

Chris Tucker ("Rush Hour") is set to star in a Hollywood remake of Bollywood hit "Munnabhai MBBS" says The Associated Press.

The remake's director, Mira Nair ("Vanity Fair", "Monsoon Wedding"), told the Mumbai Mirror about Tucker's casting and said filming would begin on the retitled "Gangster M.D." after Tucker finishes making "Rush Hour 3."

Munnabhai MBBS tells the story of a mafia leader who pretends to be a doctor whenever his parents visit him from their village. But when his cover is blown, he decides to better himself by trying to become a doctor -- which he hopes will also prove himself to the woman he loves and her father, a hospital superintendent.

Nair said she may cast some actors from the Bollywood original, and is on the lookout for an Indian woman to star opposite Tucker.

Or from the main link here at 'Dark Horizons'