Why poor copies of great originals rankle

Much like the oft-repeated points in the remix debate, the powers that be invariably end up blaming the public for accepting the new version.

 |  4-minute read |   11-04-2020
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In days such as these where the entire world is in a lockdown mode, films fans and aficionados turn to old favourites for a comforting feeling. The familiarity of the images and sounds brings to minds memories of another day when the world was not besieged by a pandemic. Amid such emotions, the news of the song ‘Masakali’ from Delhi-6 getting a makeover might feel like nothing less than a body blow. The remix called ‘Masakali 2.0’ was slammed by the original composer AR Rahman, and the Oscar and Grammy-winning musician’s anguish was echoed by scores of fans.

Remix phenomenon

The soundtrack of Delhi-6 (2009) is considered one of Rahman’s best works in the new millennium and penned by Prasoon Joshi with Mohit Chauhan’s vocals, the wildly popular ‘Masakali’ went on to become the anthem of the nation. As expected, the development once again brought to the fore the debate about remixes and such, besides getting legions of Rahman’s admires to come up with a slew of lists of songs created by the ‘Mozart of Madras’ that should never be remixed.

main_masakali_youtub_041120095654.jpegThe wildly popular Masakali went on to become the anthem of the nation. (Photo: YouTube Screengrab)

The world has come a long way from the early 1990s where the concept of remix made popular by the likes of DJs such as Bally Sagoo whose version of the RD Burman composition ‘Chura Liya’ started a new trend. For a generation that was coming of age, RD was someone from their parents’ era and for them, Sagoo’s version was inviting enough to also explore original yesteryears’ gems. On the other hand, it made the likes of Asha Bhosle, the singer of the original composition, who also married RD Burman, see red enough to come out with an album of her reinterpretation of RD’s hits. More often than not, it’s the producers who insist on a peppy track (read remix) to help boost the sales, and as a result, you usually see a remix over the end credits even in ‘song less’ films.

Mediocre practice

Remixes and reinterpretations indeed help connect with the audiences without as much effort, Rahman rejigged his ‘Humma Humma’ from Bombay (1995) as ‘The Humma Song’ in Ok Jaanu (2017). In Slumdog Millionaire, the album that won Rahman an Academy Award, the track ‘Ringa Ringa’ was pitched as a tribute to the famous Laxmikant-Pyarelal song ‘Choli Ke Peeche’ from Khalnayak (1993).

main_humma_041120100642.jpgRahman rejigged the original Humma from Bombay as ‘The Humma Song’ in Ok Jaanu. (Photo: YouTube Screengrab)

Much like the oft-repeated points in the remix debate, the powers that be invariably end up blaming the public for accepting the new version. Many of them insist that if the audiences were to reject the remixes enough then the trend would die. However, this is as far from reality as it could get. The sheer level of mediocrity in the film and music industry is continually fuelling this trend and unless the head of the snake is cut, this practice is not going to end. A large part of this custom is aided by the industry, and dare one say by the same people who now find the shoe on the other foot.

Same old story

One of Asha Bhosle’s grouse with the ‘Chura Liya’ remix was how the younger lot felt it was Sagoo’s and not RD’s song. Something similar happened in the late 1990s when Rahman came out with his album ‘Vande Mataram’, which commemorated the 50th year of India’s independence. For years after that many children blurted Rahman’s ‘Maa Tujhe Salaam’ written by the lyricist Mehboob the moment they were asked to recite India’s National Song. This is typically followed by a blank reaction when quizzed about Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay.

In an interview, AR Rahman expressed his displeasure about the ‘Masakali’ remix, and that what hurt most was how the original composers were not even credited. He asked fans to enjoy the original instead. In the same album, Delhi-6, Rahman added a hip-hop twist to an original Chhattisgarhi folk song to come with his ‘Sasural Genda Phool’. The song’s details included a courtesy credit to Raghuvir Yadav, a Chhattisgarhi himself, who was said to have introduced the song to the Delhi-6 team. While the entire world knows of Rahman’s ‘Sasural Genda Phool’, how many know of the 1970s song ‘Saas Gari Deve, Nanad Muhaan Leve’ with the refrain ‘Karaar Gonda Phool’ said to be written by the late Chhattisgarhi poet Gangaram Shivarey and set to music by the late Bhulwaram Yadav?

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: How Bhumika nails the ultimate seductress in Imtiaz Ali’s She

Writer

Gautam Chintamani Gautam Chintamani @gchintamani

Cinephile, observer of society and technology and author of the of Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna.

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