I walked into Music World and heard Lata's soulful voice singing and was taken by surprise. They were playing, 'Yaara sili sili. . . .,' which happens to be one of my favourite numbers.
But how could they play such a slow classical number on a Sunday evening? Normally they don't. And then all of a sudden Lata's voice went into the background and a rap song started playing.
For a moment I felt they were playing two songs together. Few seconds later I realized that the remix brigade had not spared this beautiful number either. Disk jockeys (DJs) who are fast running out of item numbers to remix (well the vamp had just one song in the movie, the heroine had the rest) are now remixing anything that sounds a little familiar.
From Lata's 'Yaara sili sili. . .' to Mukesh's equally soulful 'Chandan sa badan. . .,' nothing is being spared.
All this set me thinking: Why are so many remix albums coming out?
DJ mera naam, chori mera kaam!
Well, first and foremost, making a remix album does not cost much in terms of money.
Further, most of the songs that are remixed have been big hits in the past ('Kanta lagaa' was a rare case of the remix being a bigger hit than the original). And going with something that has already worked before is always easier than trying out something new.
The logic normally is, people liked the song the first time around and so they will like it again.
The recording of the song is carried out as per the provisions of Sec 52 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. Instead of protecting intellectual property this Act actually gives people the right to copy.
As per the provisions of the law the only person who needs to be paid to make a cover version of the original song is the lyricist. Having paid the lyricist a royal sum of Rs 150, the remix acquires a legal status.
Having zeroed in on a song, the company next needs to record a cover version. And if you happen to be a Saregama-HMV (Saregama-HMV owns the copyrights for most of the old Hindi film songs), you don't even need to do that: you just hand over the song to the DJ straight away. And he can choose to do whatever he wants to do with it.
So you have lots of ooohs! and aaahs! thrown in and fast beats added in the background. Also, no remix is complete without the use of the phrase 'Check it out.' At the end of it all, a new remix is ready. So much for the creativity involved in the entire exercise.
As far as female voices making suggestive sounds in these songs go, the DJs will tell you that there is no sexual connotation at all and that, vulgarity, if any, lies in the 'ears' of the beholder. How simple!
The smarter ones will tell you that this remix is dedicated to the new age Indian woman who is not afraid of flaunting her sexuality. And in making this remix he has tried to shatter the myth of virginity being all-important.
Those who protest are labeled as naysayers who are trying to stifle the 'creative process' of making a remix.
Choli ke peeche -- my heart goes dhak dhak!
The song once recorded needs a music video to promote it. And since there are so many music videos on air there has to be a way of breaking through the clutter. The way out is fairly simple. The women in the song are scantily dressed and are made to do suggestive moves.
If Madhuri could let her choli go dhak dhak, guess there is nothing wrong with this. But there is a thin line dividing sensuality and vulgarity and that is being crossed.
Once the decision to make a music video has been made, the music company needs to get hold of a starry-eyed lass who wants to get into movies and to get noticed is willing to shed clothes.
(In industry parlance, the euphemism used is, 'I am ready to wear revealing clothes if the script demands so'). At the same time she should be ready to work for free or very less money. In Mumbai, you get them a dime a dozen. After short-listing one of them, the music video is made.
Once the music video is shot, it is ready to be played on the innumerable music channels that have cropped up. It's a win-win relationship for, both, the music channel and the music company that has brought out the album.
The music channel needs content to fill up its broadcasting time and so it needs music videos. The music company needs to promote its album, so that people come to know of it and go out to buy it.
The music channel gets the music video for free and the music company gets invaluable screen time for its product. The fact that there is no censoring of content broadcasted on television also helps. Almost anything can be aired.
Sab gandaa hai, par dhandha hai ye!
When the first remixes started coming in, supply created its own demand. To Bally Sagoo goes the credit of spawning this entire industry after his super hit remix of the R D Burman number, 'Chura liya hai tum ne. . .'
Over the years remix music has attained great popularity among the listeners. This explains why music companies are falling over one another to bring out remix albums. The fact of the matter is that remixes sell and the music companies are just trying to be in business by making what sells.
It is a financially viable proposition for them. That by doing so they are pulling down the moral standards of the society is an entirely different issue.
Like how a venture capitalist works
The remix business bears a great resemblance to the way a venture capitalist works. For a venture capitalist nine out of ten investments might turn out to be duds, but the tenth business might give him a return, which covers the investment of the other nine and also leaves him with a profit.
The remix business also works like that. Music companies don't know what will work and what won't. So they keep bombarding the market with more and more remixes hoping that something might just work.
This explains why there is a new remix playing on the music channels everyday.
But what explains the popularity of these remixes? At every place and time there is a zeitgeist, the spirit of the times. The zeitgeist of today is instant gratification.
We are in the age of instant gratification and we want everything to be fast and we want it right now. Remixes are just a part of that bigger problem.
The blame partly also lies with the music companies, particularly Saregama-HMV, for not promoting its huge portfolio of old music. A lot of the present generation listeners have not heard the great old songs of Hindi movies and get exposed to them for the first time through remixes.
With remixes showing so much nudity on television, they tend to have a negative impact on young minds: the effects of which are already showing. The recent MMS scandal involving teenagers proves the point.
Alam Ara, the first Hindi talkie was made in 1931. And since then the quality of songs in Hindi movies has been reasonably good. If the current trend of remixes continues nearly 75 years of good work is in the danger of being destroyed.
It takes ages to build something great and its takes only a moment to destroy it. And it's a pity that most of us don't even realize this.
For starters let us stop being hypocrites and at least admit that we are not selling music but selling sex and soft porn under the garb of music.
We, thus, owe it to our coming generations to stop the remix menace from attaining gargantuan proportions.
The author is Research Scholar, ICFAI University.