A much-remembered theka (rhythmic phrase) on the tabla had opened “chalte chalte, yun hi koi mil gaya tha”, the iconic composition by composer Ghulam Mohammad in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice in Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah (1972). The piece transported the audience into the world of a courtesan named Sahibjaan. Now, almost 45 years later, composer Tanishk Bagchi has used parts of the song in his version of it in an upcoming film Mitron. Rendered by Pakistani singer Atif Aslam, it uses a similar tune and catchlines but has rewritten words. On Tuesday, Mangeshkar lashed out at Bagchi and Aslam, asking “where was the creativity in simply lifting acknowledged, beloved classics and shuffling the notes around.” Her anguish is understandable. But does a remix really mean the death of creativity?
It’s not just about beefing up the beat and making it dance floor ready. If done well, a remix can become a creative project. The attempt, also, is an ode to the original work. The introduction of remixed versions in films today is an attempt by filmmakers to draw attention, pull audiences into theatres. Remixes came to India in the ’90s when classics such as “kaliyon ka chaman” (Jyoti, 1983) and “sayiyaan dil mein aana re” (Bahar, 1951) had the younger audience shake a leg to them. The videos were criticised for liberties taken with original themes, but youngsters, whose grandparents and parents would have hummed these pieces, were crooning and dancing to the new versions.
Sometimes it requires another pair of ears to renew the song. Many international remixes have become popular after being recreated, sometimes overshadowing the original. It may not happen all the time, and there are many disastrous remixes, but the notion that touching an original piece of music is blasphemous, seems outdated.