By Vijeta Kumar
9 Songs is an occasional series in which people mark major memories in their lives with the songs that accompanied them.
1.Halli Meshtre – Silk Smitha
Long before Sushmita Sen made teaching sexy, Silk Smitha aced it with her heaving sarees in Halli Meshtru. My cousins and I were children watching this in a room full of adults. Like full bladders, we were always acutely aware of her arrival at least 15 mins before she arrived. And soon as she entered, one or the other adult would begin looking for the remote. The slightly older cousin would leave the room, and the younger ones would sit and stare at the wall.
Meanwhile, the many unsuspecting aunties who came inside the hall bearing food asked us sweetly where the film went, why we changed the channel.
When their husbands left the room, the aunts confessed that they really liked Silk Smitha’s lips. “Eshtu muddu, enta tuti ala?” (So sweet, and what lips no!?)
I assumed that something wild had to be happening which is why we weren’t allowed to watch the full song. When I finally watched the full song, I understood why. All the men in my family were probably afraid of Silk Smitha because all their wives loved her.
After all, I still remember every rape scene I’d ever watched with excruciating detail– because no one had cared to look for the remote then. Everyone was more interested in watching my anxious grandmother who closed her ears during every rape scene and screamed odeeee hudugi, sigbeda avnu kai ge (run girl, don’t fall into his hands).
2.Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On
My father’s fascination with English songs comes from a childhood fixation both he and I share for Christmas and carols.
In school, I tried convincing my teacher, Rose Miss, that I was Catholic because I wanted to see what this rosary was, what this mass was, things I had heard my classmates returning from or going to. She took me by the ear, dragged me to the last bench and put me there.
Pa wanted his children to go to Catholic schools because as a young boy, he’d always wanted to study in one – to learn English. He couldn’t. When the internet finally came home a couple of years ago, among the first few things he looked for on Google was Home Alone songs. They were the closest we came to feeling Christian and English.
Long before that, my family discovered Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. It was the first English song we ever listened to. It quickly became a favourite. That song was a benchmark of sorts, because, much like I’d tried to convince Rose Miss, my dad tried to convince us all that My Heart Will Go On was his school anthem. He didn’t have to try hard because, for some time, I really believed him. Even so, after that, every English song that we listened to were all his school anthems.
Every time this song came on TV, I would look for the remote because he’d mimic Celine Dion’s face and mutter gibberish. We had a game. To call his bluff, I’d hit the mute button. He’d hit the mute button on his face.
The most recent connection I have to this song is my then-little brother singing it with full enthu while playing with his toy cars. He was convinced the song was – ‘My hot wheel go on and .’
3.Kisi disco main jaayein
Another thing I have inherited from my father is love for Govinda. Govinda is probably the only man in the world to have hips on his face. And what hips. Hips that all 90s heroines were jealous of. Hips that swayed like windshields in Bombay rain.
We hit the pause button when his face looked like it was having the time of its life. And in this song, his face is having all the time in his and Raveena’s lives.
It is something of a marvel that in a song with a man wearing tight leather pants – you are more interested in his face. In the song, the couple is searching for a Disco to go to, where they won’t be found, but there is enough Disco happening on Govinda’s face. Say hello to the man who brought Discos to parks and pool sides.
4.Jaati hoon main
This is a classic Shah Rukh song for me. And I have only filmmaker Paromita Vohra to thank for bringing Shah Rukh back to my life. This interview of Paromita Vohra, which I take to all my classes, reaffirms a long-standing belief I have had that I don’t know many girls from my generation or my mother’s generation whose first love was not Shah Rukh Khan. So now I wait for that exact moment when Paromita talks about Shah Rukh Khan’s signature move of kissing women on the neck and watch with delight as the girls in class nod their heads violently and boys raise their eyebrows very seriously.
This song is full of kisses on the neck – ones that give me the courage to protect pleasure from the Engineering Savarna Millenial Chetan Bhagat IIT type understanding of love and consent. It brings back fond memories of my sister and me enacting it. I was Shah Rukh, she was Kajol even though both of us fought over who had the right to imagine wearing her lovely blue dress.
5.Dil Kya Kare Jab Kisi Se – Julie
I listened to this song lolling in part sleep part misery in the back seat of many cars. I imagined that I too would fall in love one day like Julie here. I imagined I’d be sushil and saral, for whom men would spend many months to seduce. I am a grown woman today – no man has spent months to seduce me. I’m neither sushil or saral. I like to think this song changed for me after I heard this more beautiful story of Julie and Sulie – twin sisters from Bombay who made me believe that Sushil and Saral are boring, Julie and Sulie are the real thing.
6.Yann Tiersen – La Valse D’Amelie Orchestral Version
My sister and I discovered the film Amelie on Zee Cafe one boring afternoon in 2003. We were intrigued because the heroine — or as we soon began calling her, the Amelie heroine was the first woman we watched on screen who lived on her own. Today, I listen to the soundtrack of Amelie when I want to write. It is the perfect music to listen to while writing because it easily assists important activities like day-dreaming which writers would much rather do. I listen to it while I shamelessly imagine a standing ovation to when I will go up on stage to read my stories. Needless to say, there’s very little writing that actually happens because, by the end of my soulful reverie, I am wiping my own tears.
7. Anjaana Anjaani
No one in my family has ever wanted to learn a new language. They have never felt the need to. Because every time they hear a word they don’t understand, they just go ahead and make up their own meanings, in the same way they make up their own lyrics.
For instance, my uncle thought that when Shah Rukh breaks into the Pretty Woman song in Kal Ho Na Ho, the lyrics are actually Hari Rumaal. For a long time, no one in my family knew what Shah Rukh was saying. My brother ran around singing kudi guma, my uncle was singing Hari rumaal. Even after they found out it’s ‘Pretty Woman’, they continued singing whatever they wanted to.
But the greatest proponent of my family’s own lyrics is this song. Anjaana Anjaani in Yuva.
I am still wondering why my aunts thought that Kareena and Vivek were remembering Madonna on the beach and singing Madonna Madonna Madonni – and not Main aaya Main aaya Main aayi (as my cousins thought) or begaana begaana begaani (what they were actually singing).
This is a song that takes me back to Bangalore in Bangalore. The red-oxide, the mosaic tiled, the 4 ‘o clock time to watch Mayamruga Bangalore. The Shankar Nag one, the Anant Nag one, the Jaggesh one. Not the fancy marble one – not the tide freshness of Golden star Ganesh one. It’s a Bangalore I have never lived in but experienced deeply through songs and TV shows. The slowness in this song is like the slowness of Bangalore in the late 90s. The dim orange of long afternoons spent lazing on the floor watching ajji as she rubbed her spectacles on the end of her sari and asked one of us to change the channel to Parvathi, the Kannada TV show, like Sthree of Malayalam, Shanthi and Kkusum of Hindi, we had Parvathi.
It’s fully delightful to watch a moustache-heavy Shankar Nag singing to yellow flowers in this song. Probably one among the few rare songs where the hero-heroine wait patiently and lovingly while the other is loudly singing into their faces.
9.The title track of Kasuati Zindagi Ki
Nothing empowered the women in my family like watching Ekta Kapoor’s TV shows did. An aunt fought and got her very stubborn husband to start having dinner at 7 so she could watch her post 8 pm Kkusum and Kasuati Zindagi Ki peacefully. A grandmother who sustained a 20-year-old fight with my grandfather learnt to bang his plate on the floor outside his room and hiss, ‘oota’ before settling down to watch Kahiin To Hoga even though she didn’t understand Hindi. Another aunt glared at her son for disturbing her in between Kahaani Ghar Ghar ki to find out cricket scores. Neighbour aunties refused romantic holidays in Ooty with husbands for fear of missing the show. My own father resigned to watch his Vadivel jokes and elephants on National Geographic only on weekends which were free of Ekta Kapoor.
Ekta Kapoor did what no one else could – she managed to put the remote control back in the women’s hands and that too with great background music. I’ll just say I know and will always remember the lyrics of chahat ke safar main and rishton ki pooja jaha ho.
Vijeta Kumar teaches English by day and binge-watches Gilmore Girls by night. She blogs at rumlolarum.wordpress.com