The pangs of the 21-day coronavirus lockdown were starting to get to me, my privileged self aching to go out and meet friends, and then the most wonderful thing happened. Masakali 2.0, which is somehow categorised as a song and not a biohazard, was released on YouTube. Can you imagine walking into bars with this abomination playing full blast?
The remix, released by T-Series and re-created by Tanishk Bagchi, is a techno version of the 2009 hit from the film Delhi 6 composed by A.R. Rahman, written by Prasoon Joshi and sung by Mohit Chauhan.
And the remix seems to have gotten under the generally calm and composed Rahman’s skin, who admonished the song subtly but sternly on Twitter Wednesday. “Enjoy the original,” he said.
— A.R.Rahman (@arrahman) April 8, 2020
Abhinav Bhardwaj, an advertising professional and musician, sums up the after taste of the song perfectly: “It makes me want to bite the head off a Masakali like how Ozzy Osbourne did to a bat on stage.”
But let’s be objective here, the track does have some virtues. For instance, it is helping the Jaipur Police ensure no one comes out of the house during the lockdown.
No honour among thieves
If you read Rahman’s not-so-subtle jibe, one thing will stand out, he mentioned that the original Masakali was “properly commissioned”, which makes me suspicious about the ways in which it’s re-production must’ve been made, probably without keeping the original composer in the loop.
But in the name of remixes, many artists have shamelessly copied original work. Remember Pritam?
Another case in point is the recent Badshah controversy around his song Genda Phool. The rapper allegedly picked up lyrics from a Bengali folk song Boroloker Biti Lo written by Ratan Kahar in the 1970s without crediting him. The singer later clarified he had done ‘due diligence’ before releasing the song and that ‘traditional songs’ were open for creative renditions.
While Badshah sings songs about being filthy rich from fancy cars, the Bengali writer in question struggles to make ends meet. Badshah later transferred Rs 5 lakh to Kahar’s account — a pittance if you ask me — to the original lyricist’s account.
Stuck in a rut
None of the songs that have come out in the last half a decade have been anywhere close to the kind of music the Hindi film industry was producing earlier. Everyone seems to be following the same formula — a sappy number from Arijit Singh, hyper objectification of women in an item number, and a badly remixed old song. Bollywood music seems to stuck in a rut.
While some remixed compositions were smashing hits in the 90s, the new age of remixes probably began when the remixed rendition of Bachna Ae Haseeno was released — 2008. After that, it seems, songwriters were fired from Bollywood instantly as the film industry started on a crusade to spoil every classic song ever produced.
Things have gotten so bad that the remixed songs themselves are referencing to the annoying number of remixes being churned out. “Oh god, one more remix,” says Karan Johar at the start of Aankh Maarey.
Remixes are popular
Can’t blame it on Bollywood for churning out sub-standard art all the time, the draw of remix after remix lies in the fact that they’re chart-toppers.
Another remix of a Rahman song, Humma Humma had received backlash on social media but topped charts for an entire year. Masakali 2.0 also got about 18 million views on YouTube within two days.
However, this is also like a self-fulfilling prophecy — people can only listen to what they’re served. Singer Sonu Nigam had also remarked that the responsibility lies on the shoulders of people who are either creating or recreating music.
It’s not like there’s a dearth of talent. The independent music scene in India is stronger than ever with youngsters choosing artists like Raghu Dixit and Prateek Kuhad instead of listening to another badly rehashed or stolen song on the radio.
It’s time for Bollywood to send for some new songwriters. If not us, at least listen to A.R. Rahman and start pulling those all-nighters he talks about. Bollywood catch up, for times they’re a changing. And please don’t remix Bob Dylan too. I would rather listen to Arnab Goswami scream for one hour on Republic TV.
Views are personal.