remix

Sorry folks, the uproar over the reworked ‘Humma Humma’ in ‘OK Jaanu’ is misplaced

The mega-hit song from composer AR Rahman’s repertoire should not be clubbed with other mindless remixes.

The verdict on the remix The Humma Song that features in the January 13 release Ok Jaanu, the remake of Mani Ratnam’s OK Kanmani, was swift. Two days after the song was released, Remo Fernandes, who had sung the original chartbuster Humma Humma in the dubbed Hindi version of Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film Bombay (2005), voiced his displeasure in an interview: “It is but a pale, insipid version of the original. Vocally, instrumentally and arrangements-wise, it seems to be a hurried, uninspired job.”

Old fans of the original tune agreed, new listeners clicked away, and at last count, the song had reached 20 million views on YouTube. While The Humma Song is certainly not a patch on the original, the recreated version is neither a remix nor a cover. But is anyone listening?

The new track by Badshah and Tanishk Bagchi introduces a rap segment and breezy vocals by Jubin Nautiyal and Shashaa Tirupati. Badshah raps, “Jo galti karne waala hoon, main uske liye pehle se hi maangta hoon maafi” (I am seeking mercy for the mistake I am about to commit). It sounds as though he is conscience-stricken as the on-screen character lip-syncing his words.

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‘The Humma Song’.

The Tamil original Humma Humma , sung by Rahman, Suresh Peters and Swarnalatha, was an all-out dance number, juxtaposed with the goings-on of a newly married couple (Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala). The revamped version does not try to better the original and only wants to introduce the tune in a slow, sensuous groove befitting the situation in Ok Jaanu. Live-in partners Aditya (Aditya Roy Kapur) and Tara (Shraddha Kapoor) are shown marking their territories in a shared bedroom. Ratnam’s OK Kanmani (2015) featured a similar song sequence through the AR Rahman composition Parandhu Sella Vaa.

The real question to ask is: why did the filmmakers not dub Parandhu Sella Vaa in Hindi? The Humma Song borrows equally from Parandhu Sella Vaa as it tries to combine two entirely different elements: the playful mood of the narrative song sequence from OK Kanmani to the funky beats of Rahman’s Humma Humma hit from Bombay.

Are the two parts blending seamlessly? It’s not that they aren’t. It’s just that our collective conscience as music connoisseurs is pricking our ears at the thought, how could they meddle with a classic like Humma Humma?

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‘Parandhu Sella Vaa’.

The director of Ok Jaanu, Shaad Ali, appears to be attempting an act of homage to Ratnam, the film’s co-producer. Ali has worked as an assistant director on Ratnam’s Dil Se (1998) and as an executive producer in Raavan (2010). Ali remade Ratnam’s Tamil film Alaipayuthey (2000) in Hindi as Saathiya (2002).

The outrage over Ali’s attempt does raise the question: should a classic number be touched at all? Many make that error, remixing and rewording great old numbers in promotional videos and oddly placed sequences where they have no business existing.

In the upcoming Kaabil (2017), the heavily synthesized remix Haseeno Ka Deewana sticks out sorely as a standalone music video for the film’s promotion. The original tune is from Yaarana (1981). Rajesh Roshan is the composer of the original as well as the remix.

There is no formula of what works and what doesn’t. The recent appearance of Sunny Leone in the recreated version Laila Main Laila (Raees, 2017) is a fine example of taking the popular number Laila O Laila (Qurbani, 1980) and repackaging it with great sounds. Composer Ram Sampath replaces the drums and string instruments from the original’s overture and replaces it with trumpet and claps, leaping off from the stage setting of the original into the raucous crowd shown in the remixed version. He hasn’t changed the tune or altered the rhythm. He amplifies the chorus and makes the score grander. The music video suggests that the song is integrated in the film’s narrative.

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‘Laila Main Laila’ from ‘Raees’.

In 2016, there were plenty of misfires concerning the recreation of old melodies. Ilayaraaja’s beautiful Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le (Sadma, 1983), sung wistfully by Indian classical vocalist Suresh Wadkar, was orchestrated with electronic beats and rendered in the soporific voice of Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi. Composer Amit Trivedi went with two versions of the classic, one in Arijit Singh’s dependable voice. Singer Suryaveer Hooja had also attempted a version Aye Zindagi in Prague (2013).

The music label T-Series, which holds the copyright for several old tunes, recreated not one but three popular tracks, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas (Blackmail, 1973), Aise Na Mujhe Tum Dekho (Darling Darling, 1977) and Mahi Ve (Kaante, 2002) in the film Wajah Tum Ho (2016). Singer Arijit Singh was quite vocal about the auto-tuning of his voice in the recreated track Dil Ke Paas.

Kala Chashma (Baar Baar Dekho), originally a non-film bhangra pop tune, worked twice as much despite the film’s poor reception. Another ’90s pop hit, Nachange Sari Raat by Stereo Nation, was revamped in the film Junooniyat (2016). The composers Meet Bros Anjjan took the hook line and Kumaar provided additional lyrics. The original still fares better.

Bombay Rockers’ Rock The Party was remastered in Rocky Handsome, keeping the original voices intact, which makes the song work.

Unlike some of these songs, which were not part of the film’s plot, DJ Chetas recreated Oye Oye, originally from Tridev (1989), in Azhar. The revamped version was inspired by true events from the life of cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin, but the song did not have the desired effect.

Like the title track of Dhoom (2004), which always makes a return for the better in its sequels, Jagjit Singh’s pathos-laden ghazal Koi Fariyaad (Tum Bin, 2001) returned as Teri Fariyaad with additional vocals by Rekha Bhardwaj in the sequel Tum Bin II. Composer Ankit Tiwari did a credible job with the original tune by Nikhil-Vinay.

The trend of tinkering with sacred melodies is unlikely to fade away in 2017. Commando 2 is reportedly recreating Hare Krishna Hare Ram from the 2007 film Bhool Bhulaiyaa. Do the math. A ten-year-old popular song is a classic worth revisiting for the next generation.

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‘Hare Krishna Hare Ram’ from ‘Bhool Bhulaiya’.
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London then and now – As experienced by Indians

While much has changed, the timeless quality of the city endures.

“I found the spirit of the city matching the Bombay spirit. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps and there was no particular time when you couldn’t wander about the town freely and enjoy the local atmosphere”, says CV Manian, a PhD student in Manchester in the ‘80s, who made a trip to London often. London as a city has a timeless quality. The seamless blend of period architecture and steel skyscrapers acts as the metaphor for a city where much has changed, but a lot hasn’t.

The famed Brit ‘stiff upper lip, for example, finds ample validation from those who visited London decades ago. “The people were minding their business, but never showed indifference to a foreigner. They were private in their own way and kept to themselves.” Manian recollects. Aditya Dash remembers an enduring anecdote from his grandmother’s visit to London. “There is the famous family story where she was held up at Heathrow airport. She was carrying zarda (or something like that) for my grandfather and customs wanted to figure out if it was contraband or not.”

However, the city always housed contrasting cultures. During the ‘Swinging ‘60s’ - seen as a precursor to the hippie movement - Shyla Puri’s family had just migrated to London. Her grandfather still remembers the simmering anti-war, pro-peace sentiment. He himself got involved with the hippie movement in small ways. “He would often talk with the youth about what it means to be happy and how you could achieve peace. He wouldn’t go all out, but he would join in on peace parades and attend public talks. Everything was ‘groovy’ he says,” Shyla shares.

‘Groovy’ quite accurately describes the decade that boosted music, art and fashion in a city which was till then known for its post-World-War austerities. S Mohan, a young trainee in London in the ‘60s, reminisces, “The rage was The Beatles of course, and those were also the days of Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.” The likes of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were inspiring a cultural revolution in the city. Shyla’s grandfather even remembers London turning punk in the ‘80s, “People walking around with leather jackets, bright-colored hair, mohawks…It was something he would marvel at but did not join in,” Shyla says.

But Shyla, a second-generation Londoner, did join in in the revival of the punk culture in the 21st century. Her Instagram picture of a poster at the AfroPunk Fest 2016 best represents her London, she emphatically insists. The AfroPunk movement is trying to make the Punk culture more racially inclusive and diverse. “My London is multicultural, with an abundance of accents. It’s open, it’s alive,” Shyla says. The tolerance and openness of London is best showcased in the famous Christmas lights at Carnaby Street, a street that has always been popular among members of London’s alternate cultures.

Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)
Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)

“London is always buzzing with activity. There are always free talks, poetry slams and festivals. A lot of museums are free. London culture, London art, London creativity are kept alive this way. And of course, with the smartphones navigating is easy,” Shyla adds. And she’s onto something. Manian similarly describes his ‘80s rendezvous with London’s culture, “The art museums and places of interest were very illustrative and helpful. I could tour around the place with a road map and the Tube was very convenient.” Mohan, with his wife, too made the most of London’s cultural offerings. “We went to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Royal Opera House and ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie. As an overseas graduate apprentice, I also had the pleasure to visit the House of Lords and take tea on the terrace.”

For the casual stroller along London’s streets today, the city would indeed look quite different from what it would’ve to their grandparents. Soho - once a poor suburb known for its crime and sex industry - is today a fashionable district of upmarket eateries and fashion stores. Most of the big British high street brands have been replaced by large international stores and the London skyline too has changed, with The Shard being the latest and the most impressive addition. In fact, Shyla is quite positive that her grandfather would not recognise most of the city anymore.

Shyla, though, isn’t complaining. She assures that alternate cultures are very much alive in the city. “I’ve seen some underground LGBT clubs, drag clubs, comedy clubs, after midnight dance-offs and empty-warehouse-converted parties. There’s a space for everybody.” London’s cosmopolitan nature remains a huge point of attraction for Indian visitors even today. Aditya is especially impressed by the culinary diversity of London and swears that, “some of the best chicken tikka rolls I have had in my life were in London.” “An array of accents flood the streets. These are the people who make London...LONDON,” says Shyla.

It’s clear that London has changed a lot, but not really all that much. Another aspect of Indians’ London experience that has remained consistent over the past decades is the connectivity of British Airways. With a presence in India for over 90 years, British Airways has been helping generations of Indians discover ‘their London’, just like in this video.

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For more information on special offers on flights to London and other destinations in the UK, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.