hindi film music

Bollywood baddies always have the time for a song break, and the movies are better for it

Ashim Ahluwalia’s Arun Gawli biopic ‘Daddy’ honours time-tested musical traditions of Hindi films about gangsters.

A tough-as-nails gangster story is not automatically associated with a song. But Indian filmmakers have always found a way to do the shimmy. In Indian gangster films, a must-have situation is the song set in the gangster’s lair, where the baddies are entertained by a seductress. The quintessential Mumbai gangster film has an added responsibility: to include the Ganpati song which portrays the gangster as a part of the milieu.

Ashim Ahluwalia’s Arun Gawli biopic Daddy, starring Arjun Rampal, has both, honouring time-tested musical traditions of the genre.

Among the early gangster’s lair songs is Tadbeer Se Bigadi Hui Taqdeer Bana Le from Baazi (1951). The desperate, out-of-luck hero Madan (Dev Anand) is about to leave the gambler’s den in Star Hotel until the seductive Leena (Geeta Bali) strums her guitar and the Geeta Dutt classic kicks in. Leena sings, “Apne pe bharosa hai to dav laga le” (If you trust yourself, place a bet), and Madan feels compelled to return to his gambler’s ways.

Play
Tabdeer Se Bigadi Hui Taqdeer Bana Le, Baazi (1951).

In another Dev Anand starrer, Jaali Note (1960), Anand is an undercover police inspector hobnobbing with criminals in their underground den beneath the Paris Hotel, where they are entertained by a then-unknown Helen dancing to Nigahon Ne Pheka Hain Panje Ka Chakka.

And in yet another hotel, this time in Howrah Bridge (1958), Prem Kumar (Ashok Kumar) too tries to get cosy with the bad guys who may be involved in his brother’s death. The hotel’s biggest draw, the beautiful Edna (Madhubala), is fond of Kumar and charms him with Aaiye Meharbaan, while the villain Pyarelal (KN Singh) looks on.

Play
Aaiye Meharbaan, Howrah Bridge (1958).

Latter-day songs such as Jalwa Dekhoge Kya Ji from JP Dutta’s Hathyar (1989), Jawaani Se Ab Jung from Vaastav: The Reality (1998) and Khallas from Ram Gopal Varma’s Company (2002) continue the tradition of women dancing along while gangsters relax, conduct deals, or are joined by a silent enemy.

The gangster’s lair song gets an unique update in Don (1978), in which the impostor Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan), posing as Don, entertains his guests, cronies, and, of course, himself with Main Hoon Don. It’s a self-celebratory moment for the crime lord. Bachchan is in peak charm mode and his theatrics are punctuated by shots of his chums (Kamal Kapoor, Mac Mohan, MB Shetty) nodding in appreciation.

The song situation gets a Mumbai-flavoured update with Ganpat from Shootout At Lokhandwala (2007). Ganpat appears in the film right after the interval and is a functional item song with no attempt from director Apoorva Lakhia to tie it to the story. The boys, drunk and out of booze, sing their own praises (“In the Mumbai, all over India, we are the bhaai”), declare their influence irrespective of the party in power (“Congress smart party ya phir hove BJP, sabko to hoti hai only tere bhaai ki”) and list their usual weaknesses (“Shaam ko daaru, raat ko ladki aur neend aa jaye.”)

Ganpat, however, draws more from two 1998 songs than anything else. One is Goli Maar Bheje Mein from Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya (1998), another song in which the gangster lifestyle is described and celebrated. Alcohol is involved, as usual. Gulzar’s lyrics describes the gangster’s code in broad, philosophical strokes (“Bheje ki sunega to marega”, “Tu karega, dusra bharega” or “Yede, woh marega jo darega”).

The other is the Hinglish rap song Mumbhai from Kaizad Gustad’s directorial debut Bombay Boys (1998). Javed Jaffrey provides the vocals for and dances to Mumbhai in a colourful video where he describes what an “ ekdum danger place” Mumbai is. Much before “bhai” or “bhaigiri” became commonplace with Rajkumar Hirani’s Munna Bhai M.B.B.S (2003), the terms were used with wild abandon in Mumbhai. With its strange mix of English lines, Hindi lines, lines in Bombay Hindi and tapori-speak (“Hoenga woh khallas”, “Udharich reh jaata hai”), Mumbhai paints a picture of the city as a kill-or-get-killed place.

Play
Mumbhai, Bombay Boys (1998).

In Company’s Sab Ganda Hai Par Dhanda Hai Ye, Varma strips the fun out of the this-is-how-we-gangsters-are song and admits that it is just dirty business (“Vote mein note, dhoti pe hai khot”, “Matlab ke yaar, aage se pyaar, peeche se waar”). Sanjay Gupta adds a touch of romanticism in Rama Re from his Reservoir Dogs-meets-Heat saga Kaante (2002). Here, the gang comprises a ragtag bunch of Indian expatriates in Los Angeles who are desperate for money and join hands to rob a bank. They are fearful of their life choices, and even regret it, but they march ahead without a choice – “Soch na hai kya? Jo hona hai hoga. Chal pare hai fikr yaaron dhuey mein udake, jaane kya hoga rama re.”

The nihilism of the gangster life is explored without inhibition and coyness in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur (2012). The hopelessness reflects in most of its songs’ lyrics: Keh Ke Lunga, Chhi Chha Ledar and Aabroo in particular. While these songs don’t describe the cosmetic details of a gangster’s life (that purpose is somewhat served by the Bihar anthem Jiya Tu), they speak of the violence and twisted eye-for-an-eye code prevalent in their lives.

Play
Jiya Tu, Gangs of Wasseypur Part - 1 (2012).

Another fixation, particular of the Mumbai gangster film, is the Ganpati song. Ganesh Chaturthi is Mumbai’s biggest religious and cultural festival, and gangsters singing praises of Ganesha or being filmed amid celebrations are recurring elements. This song situation has the dual function of portraying the gangster’s close ties to his community and giving a bird’s eye view of Mumbai’s ethnography.

Ganpati Apne Gaon Chale from Agneepath (1990) is one such song, as is Deva Shree Ganesha from its 2012 remake of the same name. Sindur Lal Chadayo from Vaastav: The Reality is a particularly popular one. The 2006 remake of Don by Farhan Akhtar has one too.

Now, Ahluwalia has brought back the tradition with Aala Re Aala Ganesha in Daddy. The video shows Gawli (Rampal) and his wife Asha (Aishwarya Rajesh) celebrating a Ganesh puja with his supporters and patrons. Towards the end, the joy is punctured by assassins, as one of them takes a shot at Gawli, sending a reminder that all it takes is an unexpected bullet for the music to stop.

Play
Aala Re Aala Ganesha, Daddy (2017).
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

Watch Billions Now

2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

Watch Westworld Now

3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

Watch Big Little Lies Now

4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

Watch The Night Of Now

5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

Watch American Horror Story Now

6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

Watch Empire Now

7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

Watch Modern Family Now

8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

Watch The Deuce Now

9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

Available starting October

10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

Watch Rome Now

For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

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