Throughout the promotion for Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle kept talking about Bollywood’s (and thus India’s) love of the disco. And while its absolutely true that disco has had a long and storied life in Bollywood music as does rock, latin, hiphop and (God help us all) rap, I kept wanting to yell out, “Nahin! Yeh jhoot hai!”
How strange, I thought to myself. Why do I object to his stating a fact? Perhaps it’s only a fraction of a larger fact, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It was then I realized that what was really bothering me was that a canon of sorts was being created in front of me: that of Bollywood Disco, Beloved. Whereas any and every child who emerged unscathed from the enervating 80s with their long line of revenge dramas, rape fantasies, dastardly crime villains who wanted to see India go boom for the sheer pleasure of it and other good stuff, knows that the only thing that kept Bollywood afloat and safe from sinking into a pit of toxic bile was the discovery of synthpop.
Yes, synthpop – that peppy genre of music created by musicians drunk on the possibilities of electronic music, relics of which are now drunkenly sung in karaoke bars around the world for a bit of a friendly giggle. Our savior.
I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve seen more than my fair share of 80s movies (I’m not sure but I think it may count as time served in the karma stakes) because our neighborhood cable-wallah prided himself on being very up to date in the piracy department, but there is hardly a movie in that lot that I would willingly watch again. Well, maybe if you broke out the drinkies. But the music has stayed with me.
At odd times in my life, I would find myself humming a song and realize with a shock that it was a Mithun Chakraborty number I’d probably heard once before. Do not judge me! You have done the same, I’m sure! You probably had a gold lame outfit to go with it too. [Digression: You know, someone really should dress up as Mithun in Disco Dancer or Wardaat this Halloween. It'd be a great conversation piece. Send pictures if you do!]
Thinking it over, I feel the person who really epitomizes the synthpop movement in Bollywood, even though she first appeared on the scene towards the end of the (original) arc, is Madhuri Dixit. Or perhaps her late arrival is precisely why she stands out for me because that fits in more with my movie watching age and by then the music directors had a better handle on what they were doing. For example:
Tamma Tamma (Thanedaar) – These days the kids all want video games and glitzy gadgets and whatnot. All that we wanted as children was the ability to dance like Madhuri in this song. In stiletto heels, bitches! Sadly, we ended up dancing like Sanjay Dutt instead. Bring on the Wii.
Dil to Dil Hai (Zindagi Ek Jua) – You know Madhuri is magic because she’s poured into the Bollywood version of tasseled pasties with excellent WonderBra support, topped with an electric blue origami project snugly nestled in her hair (and this is the classiest outfit in the whole film) and she still makes it all work. Even the Parkinsons-inspired dance moves. Which are murder on your neck muscles and general equilibrium in case you were thinking of trying it out.
Main Teri Mohabbat Mein (Tridev) – Sure, Sangeeta Bijlani and Sonam made off with all the more glitzy songs apart from the utterly 80s fabulous Gajar ne Kiya hai Ishaara (turbans! shiny satins! bare bellies! harem pants! villain lair! dastardly villain group song! cages! danger! I’m exclamation-point-ed-out!). But Mads got to explore Sunny Deol’s softer side – remember those days?
O Meri Jaan (Kishen Kanhaiyya) – Okay, this is a terrible song. It really doesn’t belong on any list anywhere. But it makes me laugh. And laugh. And laugh. And…
Idlee Doo (Khel) – Perhaps this was meant to be Madhuri’s Hawa Hawaii moment… except the movie it appeared in was anything but iconic. Plus, let’s face it, there’s a certain level of zany silliness that only Sridevi can pull off. Props for trying, I guess.
Hona Hi Tha (Sailaab) – Everyone remembers the Humko Aajkal Hai song from this movie to the exclusion of everything else. And rightly so, because it’s the best thing about it, frankly. But there’s also this strange song in which Mads is just incredibly pretty.
Pyar Ke Mod Pe (Parinda) – I could spend all day on Youtube if this keeps on, but I couldn’t wrap up without a nod to R.D. Burman, the man who made all of it possible. It’s a bit of a stretch, this one, but I like it and Tumse Milke usually gets all the love.
I bet everyone has plenty more to suggest.