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Ek Do Teen... and The End: 'Baaghi 2' is a Reminder of What is Exactly Wrong With Bollywood's Remixes

What filmmakers don't realise is that the appropriation of popular music of the past amounts to an appropriation of the memory associated with that music as well.

Simantini Dey | CNN-News18

Updated:March 30, 2018, 2:16 PM IST
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Ek Do Teen... and The End: 'Baaghi 2' is a Reminder of What is Exactly Wrong With Bollywood's Remixes
Image credits: T-Series / YouTube
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While we are hoping -- for Tiger Shroff's sake-- that Baaghi 2 will not be yet another addition to the string of duds he has played a lead in, so far a number of rehashed old songs on its album don't point towards a box-office happy ending. If the trailer is any indication, Tiger Shroff will be fighting like a Gi Joe and dancing like Michael Jackson, again.

The film has two popular item numbers, one is a remixed version of the song "Ek Do Teen" from Tezaab (1988) while the other is a rehashed version of hit Punjabi number titled "Mundiyan", whose lyrics have been changed to Hindi from Punjabi (with a rap routine thrown into the mix) to appeal to a large audience.

To say that the makers of Baaghi 2 are stuck in a creative rut will be stating the obvious. However, it is perhaps unfair to single out Ahmed Khan for his unoriginality.

For the past few years, remixes of the 90s and 80s popular songs have taken over Bollywood and for good reasons. Each of the old songs that have been rehashed was wildly popular at the time of its original release and thus have a cult following already. This ensured not just new audience coming in with their remixes but also drawing in the old audience pool. The producers have been cashing in on this trend for a while. Every time a 'reinvented' version of an old popular song is out, it creates a lot of buzz on social media, ensuring easy publicity for the film it is featured in.

Remixing music does not necessarily mean to make an inferior version of a good song. Sometimes, these remixes give a terrific spin to old songs, defying the genres they previously existed in. "Khoya Khoya Chand" from Shaitaan is a good example of this. The song transformed from a romantic track featuring Waheeda Rehman and Dev Anand into a trippy, heady number on which Anurag Kashyap picturized a whole chase-and-fight sequence. Delhi Belly used a super cool version of a KL Saigal song. Kangana Ranaut's Queen rehashed Sridevi’s "Hungama" creatively and made it an important part of the film.

Sometime between the late 90s and early 2000s when remixes first surfaced in India and many non-filmy artists made innovative covers and remixes out of 70s Bollywood songs. Bally Sagoo added a haunting quality to the original track of "Noorie" that was featured on Poonam Dhillon. DJ Aqeel added disco music to the playful number "Keh Doon Tumhe" that was originally picturized on Neetu Singh and Shashi Kapoor and made it a rave in all the nightclubs that year. Bombay Viking with funky English lyrics and peppy beats made Kishore Kumar's old number, "Kya Surat Hai", into something completely new and refreshing.

That is what remixes were supposed to do; bring old songs back in new avatars. However, with time, Bollywood adopted it as a hook for the audiences. Old songs that were hardly ever part of the scripts were added for publicity's sake and this went on for several years until Baaghi 2 came into the picture and pushed the envelope by touching the Holy Grail of dance numbers, "Ek Do Teen".

Last week the makers of Baaghi 2 dropped the video of the song featuring Jacqueline Fernandez. The actress tried that iconic Madhuri Dixit steps in the video that every girl and a few enterprising boys who grew up in the 90s have tried at least once and all hell broke loose on social media. From slut-shaming Fernandez to calling the song "anti-national" a lot went down. The song was criticized for being raunchy and many were of the opinion that the dance moves were inappropriate. While some Bollywood stars praised the actress' performance, it is safe to say that the public verdict didn't go in her favor.

In Fernandez's defense, her acting credibility may be questionable, but she is a bonafide goddess when it comes to item numbers. When it came to recreating Dixit's classic though, Fernandez didn't quite get it right.

However, Fernandez's "Ek Do Teen" sparked conversations around the trend of remixing Bollywood songs. Songs like "Ek Do Teen" or "Na Jane Kahan Se Aaye Hai" (Chaalbaaz) or "Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast" (Mohra) were integral parts of the scripts of the films they were in. However, their remixed versions were added for no particular reason in recent movies. They were reduced to being foot-tapping numbers that are supposed to be visually appealing which means featuring girls who have oozing sex appeal.

While these girls can dance, unlike Dixit, Sridevi or Raveena Tandon, they are not particularly good actresses. They sure can smile and look pretty but they lack Dixit's easy grace, Sridevi's facial expressions, and Tandon's natural sensuality. For most parts of these remixes, we see them carrying out some tough dance routines and trying really hard to look hot while doing so. That takes the magic out of these songs and renders them to be a lifeless, reduced version of their original selves.

Another reason the remixes of these songs don't work is the shoddy job done in mixing the music. Adding few rap lines by Honey Singh in repetition, or a copious number of whistles (which for some strange reason was done to "Ek Do Teen") or adding a few extra beats don't amount to good music. Filmmakers nowadays rehash perfectly good old songs and produce inferior copies for the current generation to hear.

What filmmakers don't realise is that the appropriation of popular music of the past amounts to an appropriation of the memory associated with that music as well. When not done correctly, these remixes don't just ruin the original songs, they also ruin nostalgia for a generation who have memories associated with these tracks. Remixes are important popular culture instruments through which we revisit our past. However, that doesn't mean we keep rehashing past ad nauseam and give up on creating new iconic songs altogether.

We Indians are so intimately associated with Bollywood that we define decades of our lives in reference to the films and songs that were popular during that period. We have had RD Burman era, Laxmikant-Pyarelal period and AR Rahman phase. We also had our Anu Malik period. So, we have defined our past with good and bad music and the good songs have survived the litmus test of time and stayed in collective consciousness.

But here is a question that we should all ask: Who are the music composers who are defining this decade for the current generation? While Amit Trivedi, Sneha Kanwalkar, and the likes are doing some good work, it is still the remixes that are ruling the roost in Bollywood. Apart from Honey Singh of course!

Now that Baaghi 2 has unintentionally snapped us out of the easy fix remixes phase and hopefully will serve as a cautionary tale for filmmakers who wish to remix old Hindi songs in future, let's pray that the Bollywood music composers finally buck up and make some good NEW music for all of us to remember this decade by.
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