His genre is: Beach.
From his debut in Salaam Namaste (2005), the beach punctures director Siddharth Anand’s storytelling — as a sight of dreaming, of narrative, of beauty, celebration, even romance. His filmography expresses love as a beachside preoccupation, shoring his characters against the seas of Europe. Vishal Shekhar, the composer duo, have always woven these songs, which tumble between ‘inspired’ riffs and haunting swoons. While the male singers have flitted in and out, it is Shilpa Rao’s voice that has remained an unchanging factor over the decade and a half of beach croons and swoons. Following is a ranking of these punctures.
‘Ishq Jaisa Kuch’ is a strange reminder that two uncontroversially gorgeous people — Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone — in love will only be looking at themselves; that gaze, heated by longing, can be missing. Then there is the lazy, uninspired choreography of being — them walking behind one another, then running towards one another, glamorous close-up shots. This song, its staging felt like a fixation becoming a trope, an excitement becoming a prediction, a possibility becoming an inevitability — that even though there is no beach, no sea in the landscape of the film (set entirely in land-locked parts of South Asia), to force fit this song as a post-credit patch. Then, there is that disco ball by the sea. A constellation of them, in fact. Could that spitting of light not be evoked from the sea lying at the lead pair’s feet?
The animated eye popping out of Arshad Warsi’s face looking at all the Australian women in bikinis, contorting their bodies into S-s and M-s and Z-s (maybe even W-s), the camera leering, sets the date of the film firmly in the mid-2000s. Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta’s easy chemistry, easy friendship, his shirtless self with rolled-up jeans, the top of the Calvin Klein underwear peeking out, and her red halter top and Von Dutch skirts — there was something both rosy and rooted about this urban image. They’re playing volleyball in the waters, dancing till the sun is doused. And when the sun goes down, his sunglasses are out — odd, but such is style. The collective affect of this fractured song — the edits are recklessly swift — is of breeze, and of course now, nostalgia.
The Amalfi Coast, looking up at the city unspooling in the distance, the sea crashing on this side, and two lovers caught sandwiched between the city and the sea. Everything — the smooth camera, the wine in the cup, the fabric of Vaani Kapoor’s dress, the waves, the choreography touched by these waves — has the quality of flow, a grace in the motion that is playful and touched by torque, but never able to make that leap into heat. The song plays out without desire.
Katrina Kaif in fragile lace borders and a dainty flower in her hair; his biceps; her thick hooped earrings; his triceps; rose red lipstick against white stone and blue sea; his abs. This is a lopsided, gorgeous image of love that locates frailty in the woman and granite in the man.
What is more blue, the sky or the sea? This is a question that torments this Santorini-bound song, a rupture of a dream of eternal longing from the mind of a woman in young love, of blue as pristine, pervasive, and potent. One wonders what business a pool has alongside such seas, and one would wonder right, except in this vision, the Santorini seas are best seen at a distance, and you will never know if the blue fluttering in the background is sky or sea; the white specks clouds or surf. Eventually, they entangle on a beach with black mud, rubbing against it, and each other, the sea, softening their touch.
This song is Spanish sex and percussive celebration, giving us glimpses of where this eros in Deepika Padukone resides — the skin that bridges the legs and the hips, that spot of the body often masked by cloth; the arch of her feet as she gently touches her toes to the floor; the soft length of her sinuous fingers made longer by the hard extensions; the kohl-rimmed gaze. The song begins with Padukone looking at us, directly, as though we are Shah Rukh Khan, the man she is trying to seduce. It is too direct, almost intimidating, even daring, certainly carnal. Siddharth Anand takes the erotic and dips into imagery that embraces a coy pornographic aesthetic instead, with odd, unsettling images of her sucking on a strawberry, a spray of champagne foregrounding her.
When Khan enters the frame, to be with her, this gaze belongs to him; she is no longer ours. The romance has been displaced, but the aftermath lingers like an aftershock, like lust just wacked us in the head.
This song is both a holiday montage between fresh lovers (Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone) in Italy, but, simultaneously — since a holiday in Italy is not dreamy enough — also a dream song across marble white beaches along turquoise waters; a dreamy reality and a dreamy dream condensing on one another in an anthem of young love, full of haunting anxiety and giddy idealism, with lyrics by Anvita Dutt Guptan, Vishal-Shekhar’s tune, KK and Shilpa Rao’s vocals, which have a soft sadness running through it.
Ranbir Kapoor has armpit hair, a waxen, hairless body otherwise, and alongside Padukone’s exposed shoulders, running around a Europe full of monuments but no people, produces this strange feeling of the lonely city as their personal drawing room. The camera swoops and struts, and if you want an image of eros, it is Deepika Padukone’s hands grazing the chiseled — only lightly — body of Kapoor, a desperate, ravenous grazing.