It happened during the 1990s, turning my teenage into an unholier mess than it already was. And it’s happening again, turning satire and stand-up comedy into a more lucrative business than it is.
The desis are at it one more time. The men and women of the subcontinent, lifted to fame by our collective poor taste, have now decided to use the potential of the internet and the popularity of crossover collaborations to showcase their mediocrity internationally.
While engaging in the humanitarian act of fostering more stereotyping of desis in Hollywood and its associated sitcom industry, they also serve as bonding aids to parties where everyone is too drunk to hold coherent conversation, and the only alternative to checking YouTube for these ridiculous videos is watching someone get weepy over an ex.
I wonder what started the new wave of desi-singing-phoren-song-ism. Perhaps it was Aishwarya Rai tittering her way into Hollywood, with an accent from outer space and random out-of-tune parlando singing in aspiring musicals like Bride and Prejudice. Or maybe it was Atif Aslam’s wild-eyed tribute to Michael Jackson on Coke Studio, which made me wonder whether he’d overdosed on the less-innocent version of coke.
Whatever it was, we now have Priyanka Chopra grinding against a bald gora, singing:
Aaaahhhhhm feelin’ so exaaahhh-tic
Aaaahhhhhm hotter than the traa-haa-pics
I suppose the first lesson in Singing for Phoren Videos 101 is “Substitute ‘I’ with ‘Aaaahhhhh’ wherever it occurs independently, or in conjunction with a modifier or preposition.”
The video, which has her climbing into and out of water bodies in her underwear, took me back to the Nineties, when Mariah Carey was trying to transition from girl-singing-by-wheat-fields to girl-whose-assets-you-want-to-ogle.
[quote]It is terrifying to see a 20-something man saying dopily to Asha Bhosle, “I’ve been waiting for a girl like you to come our way”[/quote]
Going back to the Nineties, if you’re desi, is essentially opening a can of worms and letting them crawl into your ears. And so I remember the song which finally killed my 13-year-old obsession with boy bands – it was Asha Bhonsle’s collaboration with Code Red, a horror called ‘We Can Make it if We Try’ (which, best case scenario, sounds like a tagline for a constipation-reliever). The only thing more terrifying than a 20-something man saying dopily to Asha, “I’ve been waiting for a girl like you to come our way” is her response:
I’ve been waiting for a boy like you to hold my hand
I’ve been waiting for a boy like you to give me a cha(e)nce
That was all I could decode of Asha’s prepubescent singing, except for “I know, I know, I know”.
The success of her initial experiment with young goras led her into an agonising duet with Brett Lee, which opens with the daunting line, “Can you tell a girl you don’t know that you’re the one for me?” Of course, it makes the grammarian in me hyperventilate, but that’s the least of its problems. The only thing worse than the lyrics is Brett Lee’s voice, whose pitch shifts are so frequent it takes one a while to realise when Asha takes over from him.
I’m not sure whether it was Baba Sehgal or Alisha Chinai who first entered the Indipop landscape, ushering in an era of rip-offs and budget videos. But I do know that I heard Baba Sehgal’s Thanda Thanda Pani before I heard Ice Ice Baby – I wonder, to this day, whether Vanilla Ice is aware of the ‘remake’, as Baba Sehgal puts it. And then, there was the Hindi version of Hakuna Matata, in which the singer’s anthropomorphism led him to take on the role of Pumbaa. If you were growing up in the Nineties, you couldn’t have escaped the smorgasbord of kitsch that was Alisha Chinai’s Made in India. One of the less significant effects of that video was that I can never think of Milind Soman without visualising him climbing out of a box. No wonder he’s less successful than Arjun Rampal. *Snigger*
I thought that scourge on the musicscape had ended when Junoon, and later Euphoria, showed the subcontinent it was probably a good idea to ease up on the international pop imitation, and find an original sound.
But it appears that the problem has deeper roots than we thought. Take Taher Shah’s Eye to Eye. One can almost hear him thinking, “Screw you, Kenny G, you don’t even sing.” When I eventually deciphered the lyrics, I was left wondering: (a) What a spectrum-eye was (b) Whether Taher Shah is easier on the eye of a one-eyed woman, because that’s whom his smouldering looks seem to be serenading.
One day, I would like to see him collaborate with a minor internet celebrity from around where I live – Vennu Mallesh, whose claim to fame was a song called “It’s my life whatever I wanna do”, which is introduced by a woman with a thicker moustache than his.