April 03, 2020
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Duck Mr Bose, Duck!

When Bollywood genuflects to the suits, it begins to smell a bit

Duck Mr Bose, Duck!
Illustration by Sorit
Duck Mr Bose, Duck!

If I recall correctly, it was Shahryar, the lyricist of Umrao Jaan, who lamented that modern songwriters load their pens with urine rather than ink. The master said this some years ago, but when he listens to the Delhi Belly track, Bose DK, I can only imagine the euphemism Shahryarsahab would use to describe the degradation. I’d wager that it shall not smell very pleasant.

Bose DK has further pushed the envelope on obscenity. Hindi film songs, in general, have brought the mawaali street lingo into the multiplexes. Character dhila hai, Main hoon taaza mutton mutton, Potty pe baitha nanga are some recent gems, though I suspect Subhash Ghai set the ball rolling with Choli ke peechhe kya hai in the early ’90s. This was a period that saw a number of films go the raunchy song way, but these were few and far between and didn’t start a trend. But it’s different now. So much so that even Mr ‘Nice Family Man’ Aamir Khan has come to believe that a little vulgarity is good for his films.

The rise in popularity of raunchy songs and obscene lyrics portends the stifling of filmic creativity.

The question to be asked is this: Why are our songs getting tasteless? Is there no place for refined, dignified lyrics in New India? Has it suddenly become fashionable to be obscene? For an answer, perhaps we need to look at the business of movie making holistically. In the last few years, Bollywood, which was essentially run by passionate, creative directors and producers (sometimes financed by the mafia), has surrendered itself to studios controlled by pinstriped suits and accountants. And these suits, characteristically, don’t see cinema as a medium to tell good stories and exhibit tasteful art. They are in it to make money. For them, marketing movies is no different than selling detergent tikiyas and flavoured condoms: the same rules apply.

However, despite aggressively incorporating the four Ps of marketing into their PowerPoint presentations, despite assiduously plotting out various segments of the cinema going public across the four quadrants, over 90 per cent of their films go slithering down the tube. Which explains the desperation to cast one of the top 10 mega stars to guarantee a good opening (read: money made on the first weekend and advance TV rights, before the audience has a chance to discover that the film is absolute trash). But even that strategy has met with little success. Akshay Kumar and Abhishek Bachchan guarantee disaster from the first show.

So then, what else can be done? A quick-fix solution is to get some testosterone pumping in at least one song. So that it creates a wicked pre-release buzz, the salivating media frantically discusses and ‘disses’ the lyrics (I assure you Aamir Khan must be pretty pleased to read this article), and beguiled viewers rush to park their bottoms into multiplex seats to quickly suss what all the fuss is about. Rather than wait for the pirates to decode the mystery (which is why it’s so very important to tweet or put out a Facebook update immediately after the first show). In short, Bose DK is another P poured into the marketing mix. The ‘Piss’ ingredient, as Shahryarsahab might term it.

Since forced censorship is not a solution in these days of Youtube videos, the only question that remains to be asked is: What impact does this drivel have on our kids? That’s for us broke columnists and bitter PIL (public interest litigation) filers to worry about. Movie studios don’t give a rat’s ass about such minor details. Well, I guess you have to live with it, hope that it’s a passing fad, and quietly accept that your school-going child(ren) could well be humming these chartbusters in public. On Holi this year, I tentatively stared down my tenth floor apartment to see what the more exuberant building society residents were up to. A five-year-old girl was grooving to Sheila Ki Jawani, with the same gusto and body thrusts as Ms Katrina Kaif. Her parents had downed many glasses of bhaang and were looking the other way. That’s all you can do really. Ignore. Pretend. Duck. The suits appear to have won the sleazy battle. The piss ingredient has worked its odious magic.

Many years ago, I started my career as a trainee with an advertising agency. There was a very senior executive in the organisation who went by the name of D.K. Bose. I believe he’s retired now, and that’s good for him. Else, the poor gent would be standing in a very long queue to file a name-change affidavit. Under the tatkal scheme, of course.

(The writer is a non-state actor of the Indian media. A freelance journalist, in clichespeak.)

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