A few weeks ago, the Mumbai edition of a national daily reviewed a new nightclub in the suburbs. I skimmed the review till I came to a screeching halt at one particular paragraph where the owners said, and I quote with some accuracy: “We play all kinds of house and hip hop. We don’t do Bollywood. We are simply too cool.”
Whoa! Just one minute. Bollywood is passé? Too proletariat? I immediately cursed under my breath and decided never to give that club a single paisa in receipts from my income (I will, of course, still go if someone takes me all expenses paid).
There is suddenly a staunch sentiment against playing Bollywood music in many nightclubs in Mumbai. Apparently, it is meant only for the classless dregs of society. The really moneyed and “with it” crowd, it seems, nowadays only party to one of two internationally acclaimed genres of music: electronically synthesized DJ music, or hardcore rock music.
Approach the DJ of any respectable club in Mumbai (1,000 bucks per couple onwards) and ask him to play your favourite Bollywood number. He will, in all probability, react as if you’ve just admitted to being an ardent Nisha Kothari fan. Bouncers may be summoned.
On the other hand, tell him to play the trance track Hyperspace Nuclear Proliferation Suicide by DJ Sepsis and the Gangrene Gang, and you will immediately see a glint in his eyebrow ring. While the track itself may be the same 5-second clip looped on itself 3,000 times, the crowd will immediately scream in approval—“Awesome!”, “Rocking!”, “Never heard of it before but I must fit in with my social peers by feigning interest, so rock on, DJ!”
Rock music clubs are primarily meant for software boffins, bankers and other young male professionals. These clubs, with suitably male names—Spanner Bar, Axle Grease, Torque—specialize only in music by bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. This timeless music—Zeppelin’s first album was perhaps played during the storming of the Bastille—is perfect for the young man with a glass of beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and no woman by his side.
The sad truth is that Bollywood music has vastly greater potential to entertain and engage. For instance, you can dance alone to it, as a couple or even in sets of 30, by making a human train and running around the dance floor.
Also, children, youth and older adults can all shake a hip to classic filmi numbers without a care. This avoids the awkwardness a friend’s father recently encountered at a club in Bandra when, coming to drop his daughter, he was hustled inside by the crowd just in time to hear the DJ announce the popular Iron Maiden number Bring your daughter to the slaughter!
Another great benefit of this genre is the accessibility. You can easily pick up a Bollywood song reasonably well after just a few lines. A case in point is the catchy song Chaiyya Chaiyya from Dil Se, the lyrics of which, largely, are as follows:
Rayna Jhaveri of trendy Mumbai hot spot Blue Frog, though, thinks it’s all a little sham: “Clubs initially denounce Bollywood perhaps to exude a premium image. But eventually Bollywood is what draws the crowds and makes the money.”
I recently asked a straight-laced, Mozart-listening friend to sit through some killer Bollywood tracks. There was some hesitation with Dekha jo tujhe yaar, dil mein baji guitar; Maujan hi maujan began to get his muscles moving; Bin tere sanam was a complete triumph.
By the time we reached Kajra Re, he was doing the slow double-sided wing-flap better than Big B ever did.
‘Bring Bollywood Back to Bombay Bars’ would make a great name for an urgently needed NGO.