Long before the film actually released, I knew that the film would be crappy. Just another pink, velvetty stepping stone into whatever SRK is planning to make of his career in the coming years.
And how did I know?
From the music.
The first song that was aired was the Punjabi number Challa. Sung by Rabbi Shergill, the voice seemed out of sync with Shah Rukh, who has been steadily serenading beauties with the voices of Udit Narayan and Kumar Sanu.
The music seemed to pique my interest for a bit, and then slid down into disappointment.
And moreover, the song featured SRK doing what I call the Guitar Bullshit.
For decades, Bollywood has fooled us into believing that heroes can play the guitar. Pull off legendary riffs, pick out heartwrenching ballads by the ear, and strum along to anthems.
Shah Rukh, of course, is no stranger to music bullshit, having earlier done the Violin Bullshit, Flute Bullshit, and Drums bullshit.
So anyway, I went on to the rest of the songs, and one of the tunes seemed to grasp my attention for more than a few seconds. But then quickly slipped out like sand. Not one of the songs seemed to capture my attention.
Now, let me introduce my theory. It called ‘Rahman Knows’.
Rahman, whom many Indians worship as a living God, knows when the film is going to be good. He recognises the value of a well written script, and has a fair understanding of the film maker’s abilities.
It’s only a theory. But the sheer facts and numbers that back the theory can be quite surprising.
Over the years, Rahman has produced music that has been in line with the kind of film that is being made.
Rahman’s music for Hindi films can be broadly classified into four categories.
THE EPIC: In this category, it is a sureshot winner. The director is good, the actors are good, there is a good story, and the music, like the scale, is epic.
There are numerous instances of this. The theme as the last day of cricket unfolds, the track that plays when the minister is being killed, and the grandeur of the Mughal kingdom – the music walks hand in hand with the film, producing a profound effect, that only elevates the film to a different experience altogether.
THE INTENSE: Here, the story is intense. It is not your average soppy Hindi romance. The film might not be an epic hit, but it definitely has a story to tell. Rahman’s music for these films has also been like the films.
The music is not epic, but it is intense and soul-stirring. The heart thumping beats in Dil Se, or the smooth, tragic tunes of 1947 Earth. Or that bit of music, the theme of Bombay that is uplifting and depressing at the same time, Rahman’s music has been on par with the films, and the canvas that they were trying to paint.
THE AVERAGERS: These were films that treaded the line between sensible and your average idiotic Hindi film. These films had their moments, kept you involved, but were not something you would devote time to, after returning home.
If you look at Rahman’s music for these films, it will be like the films themselves. There will be a few good tracks, neither epic, nor intense. Just songs that occupy the large space between great and average. Songs that you would hum for a while, and then relegate to the back of your mind.
Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Ghajini, Pukar, Saathiya – the examples are endless.
And finally, comes the last category.
THE BULLSHITTERS: These are the kind of films that are made to squeeze out the superstardom from actors. The stories aren’t much to write home about, and the films are driven more by the status of the leads at the time, rather than the story of the film.
When these films are offered to him, Rahman knows. He happily signs on the dotted line, and makes the music.
And the music, is like the film. A shadow of what it could have been. Songs that will play on MTV for a few days, and 9XM for a few more, and then will live the rest of their lives on Youtube, that old age home where songs spend their twilight years.
Examples of this, again, are aplenty. The songs in Blue, then the most expensive film – starring Sanjay Dutt as a deep sea diver, but visibly pregnant by 7 months – are a grim reminder of what happens if you try to fuck with Rahman.
Then, there is Yuvvraj. And Kisna.
So when I saw the trailers of JTHJ, Shah Rukh holding the guitar and strumming away on the wrong chords, about Challa or whatever, I stood up, and stretched out my hands.
I took a deep breath, ran my hands through my hair like the man himself, and muttered.
Fuck you, I’m not watching your film.
Your film of eternal love and pain.
I shall partake not of your cup of love,
So no matter how much you cry,
No matter how much you ham.
I’ll sit at home and eat bread,
Jab Tak Hai Jam.
Jab Tak Hai Jam.