Saturday, 29 April 2017

"Haal Chaal Theek Thaak Hai": Bidding Adieu To Muqaddar Ka Badshaah

...and Time has claimed one more bastion of the Most Colourful Era of Mainstream Hindi Cinema. The raw, animal, several-horsepower sexual magnetism of Vinod Khanna (6.10.1946–27.4.2017) has passed on into the big Eternity.

[Image courtesy: Google Images]

Tributes are pouring in as usual, most of it focusing on Khanna's handsomeness and machismo and how he had taken the concept of ubercool "maleness" to new heights, in conjunction with Dharmendra and the one man with whom Khanna drew the maximum amount of parallels, aka Amitabh Bachchan.

Some of us, and by that I mean the musically-inclined, have also been discussing Khanna's music on social media. And there, we are encountering a roadblock after only a few steps. You see, the number of truly iconic songs that the hunky actor could be associated with is considerably—and surprisingly—small, especially when compared against what his contemporaries can boast of.

Try making a list of the iconic songs Rajesh Khanna was associated with. The list will travel from the Earth to the Moon and back. Same for Dev Anand and Amitabh Bachchan, both of whom have a fantastic musical body of work to their credit. Ditto Randhir Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor. This is because the lion's share of Kishore Kumar and Rahul Dev Burman's best songs were picturized on these actors. But Vinod Khanna?

Well, let's see. So here goes, in chronological order:
  1. Koi hota jisko apna - Mere Apne, 1971
  2. Ruk jaana nahin - Imtihan, 1974
  3. Humko tumse ho gaya hai - AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY, 1977
  4. Amar Akbar Anthony - AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY
  5. Chaahiye thoda pyaar - Lahu Ke Do Rang, 1979
  6. Hum tumhein chaahte hain aise - Qurbani, 1980
  7. Chhodo sanam kaahe ka ghum - Kudrat, 1981
  8. Bachna rajaji - Jail Yatra, 1981
  9. Teri har adaa hai haseen - Daulat, 1982
  10. Moti ho to baandh ke rakh loon - Daulat
  11. Lagi aaj saawan ki - Chandni, 1989
  12. Jab koi baat bigad jaaye - Jurm, 1990
See what I meant? Hardly a dozen truly memorable songs from a career that started in 1968 and ended in 2017. And even here, many of the songs are not readily associated with Khanna. The AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY songs are associated more with Bachchan, with Kishore Kumar singing for the Megastar; most of the other songs on that list had Kishore da singing for Khanna, but the songs themselves are known more as "Kishore Kumar songs", not as "Kishore Kumar-Vinod Khanna hits". Compare this against the legendary singer's "Main shayar badnaam" (NAMAK HARAAM, 1973), "O saathi rey" (MUQADDAR KA SIKANDAR, 1978), "Main hoon Don" (DON, 1978), "Gaata rahe mera dil" (Guide, 1965), "Chingaari koi bhadke" (Amar Prem, 1972), and "Yeh shaam mastaani" (Kati Patang, 1970), and you will realize what I mean.

And yet, there is one song that tends to go almost unnoticed; a rare gem that few seem to be aware of, a song that got overshadowed by its more celebrated sibling from the same film (Mere Apne). But make no mistake: this is a song that is very unique...and uniquely structured. This song.

[Image courtesy: Google Images]

Firstly, the theme. The song is about a group of unemployed young friends, straight out of college, looking for jobs but not getting any: a common picture in the urban Indian society even today. Yet instead of tears and angry rants and bitterness, they channelize their angst through dark comedy and smiling sarcasm. What this also does is, it lulls the audience into thinking that in typical cinematic style, things will be all right by the end. This is why, to first-time viewers of the film, the tragic end comes as a bit of a shock even today.

The second thing is the lyrics, which resemble that of a letter a young college student in the city would write to his parents, esp. his mom, and siblings in his native village: "Don't worry, everything's fine." No flowery, ornamental filmic lyric here. Combine that with the low-key way it has been sung and the very basic orchestration—where the singers use their whistling as an instrument!—and what we have is actually the first-ever 'blank verse' song of Hindi Film Music, more than a decade before Panchamda's classic "Mera kuchh saamaan" (Ijaazat, 1988). Hats off to Salil Chowdhury for this one.

[Image courtesy: Google Images]

To me, more than any scene or dialogue, this song remains the greatest imagery of Vinod Khanna's suave, urbane machismo—the angry young man who has to shoulder his responsibilities as his family's beacon of hope while fighting a cruel, unmerciful system that churns out thousands of unemployed graduates every year.

The MUQADDAR KA SIKANDAR still rules supreme, but the Muqaddar Ka Badshaah is gone. That's how Muqaddar rolls.

Rest in a lot of peace, Vinod Khanna.

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