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HomeFeaturesBrandmaThe fake ‘Rohan Rathore’ rumours around 'Emptiness', millennials' go-to breakup song

The fake ‘Rohan Rathore’ rumours around ‘Emptiness’, millennials’ go-to breakup song

It wasn't only the cheesy lyrics of the ballad that struck a chord with listeners. The popular legend of one Rohan Rathore gave the song a human touch, making the video an instant hit. 

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New Delhi: Heartbreak songs have a charm that leaves a lasting impression on the listener. But what if the song had a legend behind it of a love-stuck, heartbroken man who wrote it before his death?

‘Emptiness’ by Gajendra Verma was the hottest heartbreak song in 2008. Every teenager had it playing on loop all day long.

The song was one of the few non-Bollywood numbers of the time to go viral. It wasn’t an era when mobile data was cheap, and iPods were still in vogue. The song, uploaded on YouTube, was illegally downloaded by teens who then shared it with their friends in pen drives, to be heard on computers and basic phones.

It wasn’t only the cheesy lyrics of the ballad that struck a chord with listeners — it had a backstory that added to its charm and gave the song a human touch, making the video an instant hit.

Everyone has heard a different rumour surrounding ‘Emptiness’, but they all revolve around a protagonist named Rohan Rathore, an engineering student who wrote it for his crush and then died. However, the reason behind his death varied.

“I heard that Rohan Rathore wrote the song for his deceased girlfriend,” recalled Meenal Gupta, a chartered accountancy student in Jaipur. But Hano, who works for a not-for-profit in New Delhi, had heard another rumour — that Rathore had died after he was dumped by his girlfriend.

Meanwhile, Pallavi Naswa, a writer in Mumbai, said that she was told that Rathore had died of cancer shortly after he wrote the letter, which was turned into a song.

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More theories

There are other angles too. One goes that Rathore was an IIT-Guwahati student who suffered from cancer. He wrote the song for a girlfriend who spurned him, leading to his death.

Whatever the version you had heard, the backstory was instrumental in bringing out the flavour and angst of lines like “Tune mere jaana, kabhi nahi Jaana, Ishq mera dard mera, haye. (My darling, you never understood my love or my pain).”

“The backstory mystified me more than the song itself. It became a hot topic of discussion during lunch breaks. For a period of time, boys had stopped making Beyblades from aluminium foil wrapped around their lunch, and talked about this song and the heartbreaking story of its composer instead”, said Prateek Dadheech, a Mumbai-based writer.

“There was no way of fact-checking back then. But I was totally convinced that Rohan Rathore, a bright young student going through a heartbreak, was driven to write this song, and then he succumbed to cancer,” added Dadheech.

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Where did the rumour originate?

Years later, Dadheech, like many others, learned that the story behind ‘Emptiness’ was a hoax. Rohan Rathore didn’t exist, and the song was sung by Gajendra Verma.

Released when Verma was 21-years-old, it was written by his friend, Aseem Ahmed Abbassi.

Verma in the past has categorically denied allegations that he cooked up the Rohan Rathore story as a marketing stunt.

According to a report, Verma believed the song leaked when he had sent it to some (unspecified) people for feedback. “Why would I publicise my song using someone else’s name? I feel really bad when I see someone else’s name on my song. I don’t even know how Rohan Rathore’s name got attached to it. I know that the voice is mine.” he said.

ThePrint tried to reach Verma via his social media handles and PR representatives, but there was no response by the time this report was published.

But the story was the unique selling point of the song, and many listeners felt betrayed when they learned that the legend was a lie. “When I discovered the story was fake, I felt like my childhood had ended. I tirelessly went through YouTube comments where people didn’t want to believe that Rohan doesn’t exist,” said Dadheech.

“I think we all felt how cult members must feel when their leader is exposed. There was a sense of betrayal… a feeling of emptiness,” he added.

(Edited by Manoj Ramachandran)

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