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When the Angrezi warble makes sense

columns Updated: Aug 25, 2010 18:31 IST
Amitava Sanyal
Amitava Sanyal
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Peepli live
Indian Ocean and others
T Series, Rs 160
Rating: ***

Udaan
Music: Amit Trivedi
T Series, Rs 160
Rating: ****

This column has long held that the inane smattering of English inserted into so many Hindi songs today is not the result of human intervention. There must be some computer program throwing up the random rhymes. And going by the number of times 'Baby, I love you' or 'Yeah, I want you' is whispered in songs these days, it seems there's just one such poetry generator out there — and that it's created by a sexually deprived teenage nerd.

What shook me out of this dystopic reverie is a couple of spunky film albums.

They were, actually, two songs on the two albums — Motu master on Udaan and Mehngai dayain remix on Peepli Live. The songs have used 'Ind-lish' imaginatively to talk about everyday Indian concerns. And the effect on the albums is chortling humour. If English is to be used in Hindi songs, this is one of the more entertaining ways to go.

In Motu master, the film's co-producer Anurag Kashyap has cooked up a lip-smacking khichdi. Sample some of his words describing the horizontally-challenged filmi character: Mann perplex thi/ Baap complex tha/ Arey radio ke jamaane ka yeh pehla multiplex tha. A few verses down, Kashyap does an Emotional atyachaar all over again: Gusse mein is ka baap/ Parliament gaya/ Bola Nirodh kyun late invent kiya.

The song's choruses — sung by the talented and rather large team of Amit Trivedi regulars Bonnie Chakraborty (name misspelt on the album cover), Raman Mahadevan, Shriram Iyer, Tochi Raina and Amitabh Bhattacharya — are marked with 'Butter chicken, butter chicken', sung to the rhythm of dhum-pichaken, dhum-pichaken.

The album, thankfully, is not just about this track. The other five add up to a well-rounded portfolio.

There's the folksy Naav recorded by the fresh voice of Mohan, the Simon-Garfunkelish harmony of Kahaani done by Joi Barua and Neuman Pinto, and the buoyant stretch Udaan sung in somewhat of an American Country style by Trivedi, Pinto and Barua.

The combination of fresh voices and retro melodies works well for the most part. If nothing else, it underlines the importance of Amit Trivedi as the harbinger of a new sound in Bollywood.

English plays a slightly different role in Peepli Live's Mehngai dayain remix. Swanand Kirkire — best known for writing, composing and singing Bawra man — has twisted the original lyrics written by the Bhadwai Village Mandali with the cheap, accented tripe I was ranting about. But he has done the 'bad' in such a kitschy way that it has become 'good' and somewhat relevant for the multiplexes the film will be shown in.

The very rural imagery of the opening lines — Sakhi saiyan toh khoob hi kamaat hai, mehngai dayain khaye jaat hai — is brought to the city with the following: "Recession it ain't funny/ You can't go shopping honey/ Keep on working, keep on running." If you miss the self-deprecating humour of the usage here, you may get it when they sing, "Inflation, she's a dayain".

The remix and original are led by the wonderful voice of Raghubir Yadav. I wonder why Yadav, who has previously sung for Rudaali, Billu Barber and Dilli 6, doesn't sing much, much more.

Two of the album's four originals are by Indian Ocean. And they pay tribute to the late Asheem Chakravorty, the band's tabla player and vocalist whose last recording, Zindagi se darte ho, is included. The other band song, Des mera, is an old number that Amit Kilam has spiced up with the gubgubi's rhythm.

In Chola mati ke Ram, Naya Theatre's Nageen Tanvir renders hauntingly Gangaram Sakhet's words, rounding up on Ram after paying obeisance to Raavan, Karna, Drona and Bali. Heard together, it's another set of songs that weave a fascinating story.