Musician Ankur Tewari in an interview told us that, given this pandemic scare, artists now need to rethink their strategy- putting all their eggs in one basket is just not the smart thing to do. If you’re a live musician, you need to move digital. If you’re entirely digital, you need to look for live gigs. If you’re an actor… you need to be more than that.
To be fair, most actors have moved beyond acting, becoming brands unto themselves on TikTok and Instagram. But this lockdown has accelerated the need to be more than just one thing. So Hindi cinema’s actors have moved into alternative spaces with shoots on hold, scripts frozen, and the future of cinema as a medium cast into an epistemic fog. Salman Khan recently dropped a single. Saif Ali Khan is now a painter. Sonam Kapoor cooks a mean meal. Ayushmann Khurrana and Tahira Kashyap have taken to the written word more seriously. Kartik Aaryan, after a viral response to his Corona monologue has started his own show on his channel, and Varun Dhawan even debuted as a rapper. Their identity as an actor is now hyphenated.
Salman Khan’s Pyaar Karona
Salman Khan dropped his 4-minute single, ‘Pyaar Karona’. It is part-rap, part-ode to the nation, and part-anthem of self-love. But more than anything, it is an auto-tuned rallying cry to the divided fabric of our country; to be patient, but also to worry (Sabr Karo Na, Fikr Karo Na).
Khan co-wrote the lyrics with Hussain Dalal (and the Urdu poet Mohammad Iqbal who wrote “Saare Jahan Se Achha”, which honestly drops in out of nowhere). Khan’s constant Sajid-Wajid composed the music. The monochrome shooting is something most people have taken to; it connotes both gloom and severity. (I am thinking of Bachchan & co-stars short film ‘Family’, Kartik Aaryan’s thumbnail for his Corona monologue on YouTube, and even RGV’s song calling the virus an ‘Invisible worm’ which is drained of all colour except for the yellow of the fire.)
It’s sweet, but perhaps wishful, that people consider music to be not just balm, but also a fixer- threading together a broken nation. So might as well be poets of it. As Khan advises, “Ghar pe baithkar shayar bano na.” Good or bad, a poet is a poet.
Kartik Aaryan’s Koki Poochega
Kartik Aaryan asks the doctor in Ahmedabad, working on the frontline, if her hospital has a plan for December. The doctor looks confused. Aaryan’s reply “December mein bohut deliveries hone wale hain… bachon ki” doesn’t help. Cut to, the two of them giggling before discussing the myths that surround the virus.
That’s the tone of Aaryan’s YouTube show Koki Poochega, where he turns journalist, asking deep, well-researched questions to healthcare workers, recovering patients, and police-women, in between the gossipy and flirty one-liners. He ends his videos with a quick “Myth or Fact” game where he tries to bust ignorance and be that voice of reason. The doctor mentioned that we are being too communal about a virus that knows no religion. One of the first COVID patients of Gujarat, who got it while chasing the Northern Lights in Finland, spoke about victim-shaming, where people begin to assume you’re reckless since you contracted the virus. The police-woman from Madhya Pradesh spoke about her work-hours. (It isn’t entirely blameless though: There is a joke on police brutality which might elicit chuckles, forgetting the actual instances on violence taking place)
Varun Dhawan’s Rap
Varun Dhawan recently posted a rap to Prime Minister Modi’s speech on the Janta Curfew. While washing hands, jamming his words between shots from Devdas and Teletubbies he urges everyone to stay indoors and not crowd. It’s funky, fun, and very questionable.
He also did a YouTube video with his childhood friend and actress Zoa Morani who was recovering from the virus at the hospital, talking about risks, mitigations, and hope. None of these seem like consistent endeavours like Aaryan’s show on YouTube. But it is nonetheless a stab at opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise considered.