Many of us are oblivious to the fact that a legit parallel industry runs in India which remixes popular Bollywood songs. They tweak the lyrics and turn them into peppy devotional numbers which are chartbusters in mata kajagaraata and devotional concerts primarily in North India.
"DJ wale babu mera ganaa chala do…" becomes "Sherowali mata bera paar laga do.. paar laga do.. paar laga do.."
"mehendi laga ke rakhna…" becomes "mandir saja ke rakhna…"
These songs rack up numbers in millions on streaming platforms, and the artists are cult figures in their own rights. Put it simply, the artists are just one notch below the likes of Double Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev et al in their circles.
Now I understand why the industry exists and at best I can chuckle at the corny and unintentionally funny lyrics and move on. But when I stumble upon T-Series and Tanishk Bagchi's latest offering "Masakali 2.0", the first question that come to my mind is: for how long should I quarantine myself after listening/watching it?
I am not a music connoisseur to comment on the merits of the remix, nor do I want to go into the pros and cons of remixes, but as an average music listener or simply as a living-breathing member of society, I can clearly figure the intent behind the existence of the song. And I feel it is really toxic. Masakali 2.0 is T-series' way of displaying its muscle-power. They are just doing it for the numbers and the eye balls.
You can't take Da Vinici's Monalisa and paint a scenery on its backdrop, complete with two hills and a sun emerging out and call it "Monalisa2.0"! Tanishk Bagchi, who is notorious for ruining a number of classics, with the help of T-series just spat on A.R. Rahman's hard work and artistry. Rahman, who is more often than not, fairly untouched by any praise or criticism also lost his cool for once as he took to Twitter to express his disappointment.
There is a school of thought which defends such lack of originality and imagination by saying, "Audience likes them, so we are doing it. If audience dislikes them, we will automatically stop making." But that is an easy cop out. As a content creator, which has over 100 million YouTube subscribers, the buck stops at T-series. A 'News Hour with Arnab Goswami' will always get more eye-balls than a 'Ravish Ki Report" because of the theatrics. A 'Simba' will get more footfalls than a 'Tumbad' or 'Newton' because of the glitz and extravagance it comes with. Simply because human beings intrinsically are inclined towards shallow glitters and things which doesn't require them to exercise their brains. It's a content creator's moral responsibility to not provide trash in the name of entertainment. Someone like Raju Hirani with his wholesome entertainers, has shown quite successfully that one can reach out to the lowest common denominators of society without compromising on the quality of content. I keep 'Sanju' aside when I say this.
Pop-culture influences society. Just imagine if Ekta Kapoor's shows were a little progressive in the 90s, we would have gotten so much better quality TV instead of the saas-bahu bile. We would have had a far more empowered generation of women. These women could have had so much to contribute to nation-building, economy, scientific temperament etc. But no, we had Saas-Bahu then, we have Saas-bahu now. Add a good dose of 'Naagin' to it!
It is not that quality music is not appreciated anymore. The indie scene is a bustling scene in its own capacity, but it doesn't have the backing of large conglomerates to spread pan India. And for whatever it is worth, Tanishk Bagchi has some really cool originals to his name, "sawarne lage", "bolna" from Kapoor and Sons are genuinely good numbers.
I think it all boil down to intent. The itch for instant eye-balls, mindless Youtube hits is toxic and the more you feed the monster,the more it will grow. So much so that, one day we will completely lose respect for genuine, hardworking artists. Lest we forget, a society which doesn't respect art, is a morally corrupt society.
(The writer is a copywriter based in Mumbai. He's an admirer of obscure things. Pop-culture and cricket aficionado. Belongs to a tribal community in Assam which is less than that of world's polar bear population.)