Monthly Archives: May 2012

Himesh Reshammiya 2.0

I was surfing through the tripe that Times of India chooses to call news one of these days, when I read that an actress had signed out of a film that was being produced by Himesh Reshammiya. I was shocked. Himesh Reshammiya? A producer?? What had happened to the world?
Even though Himesh Reshammiyya is going through some bad times, I will not deny that I was a fan. I genuinely liked his songs in Aashiq Banaya Aapne, Aksar, and those other early films that he gave the music for.

Even though people laugh at him today, Himesh was the first and only cross-national singing superstar. Others had their own segments – Udit Narayan and Kumar Sanu on the rural market or Shaan/KK on the urban market. Himesh was the only artiste whose songs could be heard in the swankiest clubs and also the loudest autos. And though this survey wasn’t exactly done by Ernst & Young, his songs played in the background for almost all MMS clips that were made in India in the last few years. In the truest sense, the voice of our maddening nation. Himesh was the only rockstar to have existed in India.

It was hard to crack the formula that made his songs work. Was it the fast pace of all the songs? Was it the theme of the unfaithful girl, and the honest lover, a theme most Indian men like to live in? Or was it that someone who was not originally a star, had climbed the ladder and was splashed all over the television? No one really nose what the formula was, but it worked.

In an interview on Koffee with Karan, the lyricist Javed Akhtar had this interesting story to reveal about Himesh. When a lyricist wrote the lyrics for a song, Himesh asked him to leave the punchline for him to write. According to him, the punchline was the most catchy, and it is what makes a song.
If you look at his songs, you will realise that most of his songs have punchlines that are repeated, and have easy lyrics, which can be sung by one and all.

Aashiq banaya, aashiq banaya, aashiq banaya aapne.

Shakalaka lakalaka lakalaka lakalaka Shakalaka Boom Boom

I love you O Sayyonee, I love you O Sayyonee, I love you O Sayyonee, Koi Shaq? (What’s up?)

In interviews, Himesh revealed that he has a bank of about 3000 tunes with him, and all he needs to do is churn them out, and he would never run out of hits. “Ever morning when I brush my teeth, I compose a tune,” said the man.

However, Himesh was never able to crack the cream of the market. He made music for films starring Emraan Hashmi, Akshay Kumar, or himself. People like the Chopras, the Johars, the Akhtars, never used his music for their films.

When he himself came on Karan Johar’s show, he expressed his desire to create tunes for A-list films and stars. I was a little scared that he might be alienating his target audience.
As if on cue, Himesh went ahead and got himself a makeover.

Change, they say, is good. But why would you want to change something that works perfectly?

It was doomed from the beginning, I tell you, this makeover ka chakkar. All those who have seen the trailer of Bin Bulaye Baraati would agree with me that sometimes, you just know something is not going to work out when you see it for the first time.

And I’d blame the all-homogenising, all-encompassing nature of the ‘market’ for what was being done to Himesh.

Earlier, he was a rolly-polly, bearded guy. None of the six-pack bullshit that every other actor seems to have. Indians have paunches, they relate to people with paunches. Himesh was the guy who looked uncomfortable and jittery when he was in front of the camera, but once the song began, he was the Main Man. Capable of squeezing emotions out you didn’t know existed in the first place out of you. The bearly beard which invoked the animalistic emotions in one and all. Tears, blood and sweat went into each of the songs. And the cap.

Whose brainwave was it to ask him to get rid of the cap? Are you shitting me? Himesh without the cap is like Che Guevera without his eyes.

Suddenly, there was this suave Himesh Reshammiya on our TV screens. The transformation left him nowhere. Neither was he suave enough for the classes, nor recognisable enough for the masses. A deep connection was left a void vacuum.
His songs, which always had killer punchlines that were catchy and easy to remember, became a mish-mash of a million things, changed beyond recognition.

I think he was going through a dilemma, trying to please everyone. What’s cool for one will never be cool for the other. And anyway, the definition of cool is as vague as Wasim Akram’s commentary. However, there are a few broad pointers that can tell you if you are doing something cool or not. For Himesh’s benefit, I have chosen to present some of those below:

But now, enough is enough, Himesh. Here is something you should know.

If you fit into the conventional, you would be Nadeem-Shravan. We have others, you know.
If we wanted just romantic songs, there is Enrique, who has been constipating on top of the charts for a few years now. If we wanted party songs, there is a lot of bull coming in from this Pitbull fellow. If we wanted peppy Hindi numbers, there are a million music directors. What we truly need is gut-wrenching songs of pain.

Songs of betrayed lovers, and unrequited love, in a country with a sex ratio of 850/1000. We need someone to invoke our banal instincts, our innermost pains. We need you to be you.

To quote another guy who had long hair and sang a bit through his nose, “Come as you are. As you were. As I want you to be.”

IPL and the Shit by the Pool Theory

The recent sting operation by India TV exposed five cricketers who were caught asking for money to bowl no-balls. It’s not as if the earth stopped moving after watching the video (Skip the bullshit, the real action starts at 8:08)

Before anything else, let me make it clear that I don’t take sting operations very seriously. It’s a cheap trick to play, and there is no guarantee that the person is speaking the truth in the first place. Now, if you take Shakti Kapoor, who has spent 15 years of his life playing lecherous characters, get him drunk, and put a hot woman in front of him, obviously he’ll say that the entire industry engages in casting couch. What did they expect? He’ll say “Nahi, beti. Aise kaam nahi karte. Ghar jaake so jao!” ?? In fact, my respect grew for Shakti Kapoor because he didn’t pounce on the girl right away.

Now, if Shalabh Srivastav has to convince the ‘stinger’ to get some money, he has to act cool and nonchalant about it, saying that everyone does it. I am not saying that the IPL is clean as Chidambaram’s chit, just that you can’t take someone’s words seriously when they’re trying to impress someone else.

Looking back, have the owners made an ‘ass’ of themselves??

And also, the IPL was never known to be a fully transparent organisation. Since its inception, unlisted companies with shady backgrounds have been a part of it. Take for example the case of Modi’s kin having stakes in many of the franchises. Or the rules being bent for RCB to buy Chris Gayle in the middle of the 4th season, where he went on to slam his team into the finals. Or how the BCCI is the only organisation where politicians from every major political party work together for the betterment of the game. Or simply how Laxman Sivaramakrishnan is allowed to commentate when he clearly is less interesting than a Class 8 Chemistry teacher.

When the IPL became the money-spinning monster that it is now, many of the veteran sages of the game (Shastri, Gavaskar) had said that the league would primarily benefit domestic players. One cannot deny that salaries have shot up. While a domestic player would earn 450 rupees per day in the 90s, he earns 35,000 per day of a domestic test match. Compare that to the $4.13 billion it earns (figures of 2010) yearly, and it is chickenfeed. The BCCI shares 26% of its profits with the players, the major chunk of it goes to its bigger stars.

Now, to come to the Shit by the Pool theory. Suppose you went to swim in a pool. After a lap, you stop to take rest and notice that there is some pigeon droppings by the side of the pool. Do you feel happy that the shit is not inside the pool you’re swimming in? Or would you assume that there might be lots of shit in the pool too?

Everyone knows that the IPL is a murky field. If India TV wanted to do some serious journalism, they should have asked how people like Vilasrao Deshmukh and Arun Jaitley have such a strong hold over the BCCI? How can the owner of one of the teams be the President of the BCCI? Why does the BCCI not open its accounts for scrutiny under the RTI? Give us that, and then we’ll bother. What’s the point of faaltu mein ruining the careers of five players we haven’t even heard of?

Slowly but surely, this news will pass. Sidhu will say something like “Oye, Guru! Pride is like an underwear. Once there are holes, you cannot wear it.” The Sports Minister will make a little fuss about it. India TV will play the video till the 2014 General Elections.

By the way, aaj kiska match hai?

Castles in the Air India

For the shitty condition that Air India is in at the moment, not many would know that it has a unique history. It all began in 1932 with JRD Tata flying a plane from Karachi to Bombay. Called Tata Airlines, the whole company consisted of two planes, a pilot, and two mechanics.

After Independance, the Indian government bought a majority stake in the Airlines, and it became Air India. By then, JRD should have said Tata to all his dreams of a world-class airliner. The condition it is in, and the reasons for it being in the news these days, are tragic to the extent of being comical.

In April 2007, Air India hired 186 foreign pilots. There are only 36 of them left, and one of them left because he one day walked into the cockpit, to find that the pilots had put newspapers on the windows to block extra light from coming into the cockpit. In February this year, a senior ‘flight inspector’ was suspended for being drunk while on duty. In 2010, one of the pilots was going to the washroom and left the plane in the hands of the co-pilot. While adjusting his seat, the co-pilot knocked off the controls, and the plane sank 7000 feet into the ground, and then was rescued by the pilot.

Here’s the bit that is not funny. In May 2010, a plane crashed in Mangalore, killing 158 people. Since the 2007 merger between Air India and Indian Airlines, it has been a Godawful mess. While airlines have been taking a beating worldwide, Air India is suffering from its worst phase in its 79 year old history. Losses of more than 7,000 crores expected in this year, strikes by pilots causing losses of 100 crores a week, more than 100 flights – most of them international routes – grounded due to the issues not being sorted out. That’s why I laughed when Vijay Mallya asked the government to bail out Kingfisher Airlines. The government can’t manage their own airlines. Ghanta, they’ll bail you out, brada!

The common logic that everything the government owns by default sucks, is not always true. Airlines of other countries, take Singapore Airlines, is among the best in the world. When Indonesia’s state controlled airlines, ‘Garuda’ was in a deep mess, experts from the aviation industry were called in to stem the rot. But then, this is India, man. Who gives a fuck?

In an industry where customer service is of prime importance and customer is king, the mascot of Air India himself is called Maharaja! When Gustav Baldauf, an Austrian with 25 years was made the Chief Operating Officer of the sick airlines, many eyebrows were raised. In an interview to a newspaper, he complained against too much government interference, and within months, he was served a notice for ‘indiscipline’ and fired. His crime? He had suggested that industry professionals be given top positions to revive the fortunes of the airlines.

In the present system, the Airlines is headed by an officer from the Indian Administrative Service. It baffles me how someone who has cleared an examination could be at the helm of a company that requires decades of experience. To top it all, the airline is a victim to our touring mantris. Like our Honourable President, who spent a cool 205 crores on foreign tours. When criticised for taking her family and relatives on the tours, Ms. Patil said that it is the ‘duty of all the citizens to respect the post of the President.’

Which brings us to the important question, does the government still need to run a state-controlled airline in today’s age? In an interview with Karan Thapar last week, the Aviation Minister Ajit Singh himself agreed that the age of state owned airlines is gone. Immediately after that, in the unfathomable way that only a minister can speak, he ruled out any chance of privatisation of the company.

According to an article by Tehelka, the percentage of Indians who use airlines is 2%. 50% of Indian air traffic is between Mumbai and Delhi. It is not as if the whole country is going to choke and die if the government deregulates the airlines.

Why then, is there this stubbornness to consider privatisation? Unless some drastic steps are taken, the airline is going to bleed itself to death anyway. What is the point of a bailout, where the government has to work to pay off the 40,000 crores of debt that the airline is reeling under? In a country where basics like education, healthcare, and infrastructure are in a pitiable condition, what is the need to pump so much money into a company, that has only a 17% market share in the industry, which is used by less than 2% of the country’s population?

The telecom industry has shown that privatisation in the Indian markets is not necessarily a bad thing, as the Indian consumer is always looking for better services at cheaper prices. But then, there is always the question of the babu. The babu flies in the Air India. How will the babu take any steps against it?

The Maharaja meanwhile, much like the airline, continues to stand with his hand on his chest, and his head bowed. Ready to serve. Ready to bow.