The band Black Eyed Peas put out their latest earworm, ‘Action’. The video is a stitched tapestry of action sequences from Indian films- the most bizarre, and most fun. It’s an ode to “India and Bollywood”.
Indian cinema is a lot of things to a lot of people. The stereotype, however, is of outrance. Wild action-sequences that push at the boundaries of logic and imagination. These are the ‘single-screen’ moments used in this song, made to elicit whistles. Rohit Shetty, whose film Singham is featured in this song, had spoken to us about Simmba, and how he knows exactly when the whistles and the claps will come.
“That’s how we have been trained to make commercial films, the build-up to that euphoria… It is choreographed, we shot it like a song… I used to tell Sara (Ali Khan) and Ranveer (Singh) that ‘Mark this … when you get up, people will clap’”
This is cinema made for mass, and of course now with theaters shut, all we have are memories and anecdotes. Black Eyed Peas’ usage of such footage for their video might serve to rekindle just that.
Tamil and Telugu cinema too have their fair share of action that is as much a meme as it is mass. For simplicity or ignorance, here, Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi cinema are clubbed together as ‘Bollywood’.
The song starts with SS Rajamouli’s Maryada Ramanna (2010). They used footage from the song ‘Udyogam Oodipoyindi’ where Rajamouli’s bubbling imagination has a cyclist causing a ruckus of cars banging into each other mid-air as the beat drops.
There’s also Shankar’s Robot (2010) (Also credited separately as Enthiran, though it is the same film), Sundar C’s Aambala (2015), and Rohit Shetty’s Singham (2011). The faces of will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo, members of Black Eyed Peas, are superimposed onto those of the actor using ‘deep-fake’ technology, introduced in a prologue scroll-up to the song.
— A.R.Rahman (@arrahman) August 9, 2020
The Black Eyed Peas have always had an interesting connection with Indian music. Their song ‘Don’t Phunk with My Heart’ has ‘Ae Naujawan Sab Kuchh Yahan’ and ‘Yeh Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Diwana’, both sung by Asha Bhosle, composed by Kalyanji Anandji as the base music on which their fast beats and refrain rammed. Bhosle, along with Rahman (who tweeted out his appreciation for this song) are credited as inspiration for the band’s music. They have even remixed an old Ilayaraja song, ‘Unakkum Enakkum’ in‘The Elephunk Theme’.
Oddly, there’s also a Swedish film KOPPS (2003), in the midst of this Bollyw-ode. (If you remember Om Shanti Om’s incredibly entertaining Akshay Kumar shootout scene in the Awards Ceremony nomination clip, you will realize it has been entirely plagiarized from this film. Well, at least here’s the Bollywood link.) At this point, it’s made clear that Bollywood is not a noun used to connote an industry with movies in a certain language, from a certain city, but an adjective, to describe excessive entertainment, wherever that might come from.
Like most Black Eyed Peas songs, there is a line here that keeps repeating itself, (I got a feeling!) like a stuck tape recorder that won’t stop being memorable, “It’s time for some action, give me satisfaction.”