Masakali, means not a dicky bird, as one may think after watching the song of the same name composed by AR Rahman in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi 6 (2009). According to the creator of the song, lyricist Prasoon Joshi, the term was used to imply the concept of freedom for the protagonist (Sonam Kapoor), who wants to live her life on her own terms, struggles with it, but is still determined to be free. Sung by Mohit Chauhan, the song found quite a bit of attention when it was released over a decade ago as part of a stellar album. It mixed up the rhythm and balanced lyrics along, sometimes repeating the latter for effect. Rahman’s yet another experiment with a combination of sounds fit a new aesthetic one hadn’t heard before.
So when composer Tanishk Bagchi picked up this seminal piece and remixed it for the Sidharth Malhotra and Tara Sutaria film Marjaavaan, there were doubts to begin with. One listening session and it felt like Bagchi had put the song in a food processor and then filtered the contents to take away its life and soul. The song would have probably gone away unnoticed, had the original composer not jumped to his version’s rescue. Rahman tweeted, “No shortcuts, properly commissioned, sleepless nights, writes and re-writes. Over 200 musicians, 365 days of creative brainstorming with the aim to produce music that can last generations. A team of a director, a composer and a lyricist supported by actors, dance directors and a relentless film crew. Enjoy the original #Masakali.”
Prasoon Joshi wasn’t happy either. “Things created with heart and painstaking craft reach out and make a genuine difference. So when they are simply re-used with sole commercial purpose, it is indeed sad,” Joshi told PTI. Mohit Chauhan, too, made a valid point. About how it was not justified to recreate an old song without even consulting its original creator, who should decide about the song’s future after it has been composed. The worst happened after Malhotra, who stars in the song, called the outrage “valid”. The criticism was enough to turn the whole issue into a dripping leg wound, with nothing to mop the floor.
What made it even worse were jibes taken by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and Jaipur Police — organisations that hardly bother with what goes on in the mainstream music industry. While DMRC tweeted, “Nothing beats the original track, plus we have a bias as we feature in it”, Jaipur police went one step further and made a reference to the song and coronavirus in one breath, with the tweet, “If you are unnecessarily roaming outside, we will put you in a room and play Masakali 2.0 on loop”. A slew of known names in the industry — singers, directors and filmmakers came forward to criticise Tanishk Bagchi.
When we attempted to speak to Bagchi, he refused to have a conversation about the issue. Bagchi, in the past five years that he has worked in the industry, has been at the helm of a plethora of remixes, many of which have been extremely popular and commercially successful. In fact, if you take his career graph, his originals and remixes are very well proportioned, almost equal. Take “The Humma Song” (Ok Jaanu), “Tamma Tamma Again” in Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya, two songs – “Ek chaturnaar” and “Tu cheez badi hai mast” in Machine, “Hawa hawai” in Tumhari Sulu, “Gazab ka hai din” in Dil Junglee, the famed “Jawan hai mohobbat” by Mallika Pukhraj that was used in Fanney Khan, “Dilbar” in Satyamev Jayate, and more recently, “Nachan nu jee karda” in Angrezi Medium – the list of remixes and recreations as is called these days, by Bagchi, is never-ending. His remix of “Chalte chalte” in Mitron even had melody queen Lata Mangeshkar raise the matter of consent and how no permission was sought before retouching the melody that she had once crooned in Kamal Amrohi’s masterpiece, Pakeezah.
When Tanishk Bagchi stormed the music scene in 2015 with the rambunctious “Banno tera swagger laage sexy”, in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, it became the toast of dance floors almost immediately. People were soon bonding over it on social media. But the tune was familiar. It harked back to “Banno teri akhiyaan surmedaani”, sung by Sapna Awasthi in Manisha Koirala-starrer Dushmani (1995), where the composer credit went to Anand Milind. But the familiarity and reminiscence belonged to its age-old origins in Rajasthan – where the song originally finds its roots and has been sung at weddings. The composer credit for Banno went to Tanishk-Vayu – Tanishk Bagchi and Vayu Shrivastava. The song took the basic hook of the old song, added some more lines to it and the duo presented it in a new avatar. One must say that it was tremendously created – be it Raj Shekhar’s lyrics, singer Swati Sharma’s rendition, or the Tanishk-Vayu arrangement. But along with these remixes, Bagchi also gave us some lovely originals – the delicate “Bolna” (Kapoor and Sons), the haunting “Rabba” in Sarabjit, and “Ve maahi” in Kesari.
But is Bagchi to be blamed for the shoddy treatment of Masakali? The answer is no. In the times of Rs 100-crore budgets, the pressure on filmmakers and producers is immense. And rehashing an old, successful number is a better bet than producing an original song. Of course, every piece of music, even the ones that are bad, have a right to exist. But a piece that’s the tampered version of an existing song, which has nothing to do with the narrative of the film and has been included specifically to make a quick buck, satisfies nothing more than commercial interests. The producers hold the hands of a mass-market and give them a tried and tested ditty that has been repacked with more beats, or made more oomphy, with Neha Kakkar’s nasal or Tulsi Kumar’s paper-thin and mostly quite jarring voice in it.
And that’s exactly what has happened in Masakali 2.0’s case. The song belongs to T-Series, owned by Bhushan Kumar, so do a plethora of others that have been composed by Tanishk Bagchi. But I wonder if AR Rahman, Mohit Chauhan or Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra will point fingers at the real culprits – the producers and in this case, T-Series – who have made a mess of what music needs to be. Every time relatively senior playback singers such as Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan or Alka Yagnik among others, have been asked about remixes, they have called them wrong. But shy away from pointing fingers at the producers. The likely reason is that tomorrow the same composers and singers are to work for or with the same producers. So it’s a rock and a hard place in an extremely manipulative and difficult industry. These producers demand remakes, some even suggest which one needs to be there in the film. This kind of commercial convenience of producers is what needs to be condemned for the creation of a Masakali 2,0 and many others like it. Not a relatively talented Bagchi, who should put himself to some originals for the time being and refuse to buckle under the pressure of delivering remixes.
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