The Screams of Rock On

Exactly 2.51 minutes into the album version of “Pichle saat dinon mein”, which starts with “Meri laundry ka ek bill”, Farhan Akhtar, in typical rock-star fashion, screams out the word “roya” at the end of the line “kabhi khud pein hasa main aur kabhi khud pe roya”.
My twins know exactly when that scream will occur and while singing along with Farhan, they too, strumming on their imaginary guitars, slung over the tummies, get that scream just right.
Having miserably failed in my attempts to inculcate an understanding of rock music in my 9-year olds over the last year or two, it’s amazing how Farhan has been able to effortlessly get through to them; all it needed was one viewing of “Rock On” and a playing of the CD a couple of times at home and in the car.
It’s quite funny. When we are all together in the car, there is an invariable tussle about the kind of music to play. My wife and kids want to listen to the latest Hindi film songs, whereas I usually want to put on my classic rock compilation. No guesses for who prevails and we always land up listening to whichever Hindi film songs are the current flavor of the month. On the rare occasion that I am actually allowed to exercise a choice, the kids immediately start wailing in the background “Dad…can we listen to something better?” It doesn’t matter whether I am playing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”…the kids’ reaction is always the same.
I haven’t quite been able to figure this out, but I guess their affinity for Hindi film music has to do with comfort levels and what they are exposed to day in and day out, at home, in school, in their friends’ houses and in the neighborhood. Hindi films songs are ubiquitous and pore out of every possible musical orifice in our environment; be it FM, Worldspace, television, the car stereo, elevator music, background music in restaurants, clinics, hospitals, during birthday parties and from Ganesh and other religious pandals.
The rule of Hindi film music is now complete. Time was, in the 80s, that all parties and “socials” had only English dance music mixes and if anyone even thought of dancing to Hindi film music, he/she would be an instant outcast. Today, it is a rare party where you hear English songs…it’s much simpler and faster to get the dance floor alive with the remix version of any popular Hindi song as compared to an English number.
And yet, I don’t really despair. Even when I was growing up, it was all about Hindi film songs; AM radio, Binaca Geetmala on Radio Ceylon, Chhaya Geet on Doordarshan and cassette tapes. My first exposure to rock was when I was way into my late teens after I had joined junior college, starting with the Beatles, but quickly moving onto Tull, Led Zep, Sabbath, etc.
What Farhan Akhtar and Shankar Ehsaan Loy have done is to kick-start my kids’ appreciation of rock as part of a routine Hindi music phenomenon. To me that’s terrific, the language be damned.
The funny thing is that their favorite “Rock On” number, the one where they love to jump and scream through the entire song, has not been sung by Farhan, but is actually the sole Suraj Jugan number called “Zehreelay”, a snake-idiom parody. If Farhan’s numbers are more Deep Purplish, “Zehreelay” is actually Metallica or AC/DC. So go figure the kids’ choice!

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