One hundred years of recorded music and all those chart-busting television shows later, it’s as good a time as any to ask this question: Why is singing such a turn on?

Prashant Tamang: Constable cool.

Let’s see. Bela ke phool did it for me. Or was it the Sunday evening movie? Or the fact that my normally quiet father could never resist singing along with the Baiju Bawra soundtrack? Or the full-throated wail of Dosti’s soundtrack at a matinee rerun where everyone in the audience sobbed? Or the early discovery that Mukesh and Kishore Kumar already had a song to go with every single sad and happy moment respectively that was likely to happen to anyone in their lives? Or the 5am aartis at Juhu’s Iskcon, courtesy a Krishna-worshipping aunt? Or the Jesuit school hymns that will never be erased from my head? Or all those Top of the Pops videos we watched in school? Perhaps, like with a million other Indians, it was just Dilip Kumar or Guru Dutt. Or Shah Rukh Khan for those who will remember DDLJ as their first big romantic film.

Whatever, it was irreversible.

Like many Indians, I’m stuck with a lifetime of songs in my head and the unrealized dream of becoming a singer…some day, some place outside the bathroom. Just how commonplace the dream is hits me every time I watch one of those aspiring singer programmes on television.

Last month, I met audio buff Kushal Gopalka, who lovingly cobbled together an exhibition on 100 years of recorded sound in India. Gopalka believes our love for music runs deeper than just the need for entertainment. After all, our musician-gods Saraswati, Krishna, Shankar and Narada have been around much before Dilip Kumar (make that Naushad) and even before India began its 100-year-old journey of music and recorded song. “Music is in our blood. Our soul’s connectivity with music is deep," Gopalka told me.

In his recently released autobiography, Memories Come Alive, singer Manna Dey offers a rare portrait of our musical past. Of the time when an established singer’s records were publicized with: “Is your favourite Pankaj Mullick or Bing Crosby?" Of  how legendary music director Salil Choudhury had set up the Bombay Youth Choir, “a cultural body whose aim was to create music for a free India".

At the Indian Idol3 final last month, the audience was wild. The show got 70 million SMSes (like the frenzied girl gang sitting behind me, my bets were on Amit Paul). Nepalese women danced at the drop of a song, the men were acting like the extras in the Omkara item number Beedi. Idol-winner Prashant Tamang said that as a Kolkata policeman, he had never met the Prime Minister on his many visits to the city. But as a contestant, he got the chance for a one-on-one. When the duo went to meet Sonia Gandhi, her normally deadpan SPG men came rushing for autographs. Such is the power of music (or televised performance) in this country. Of course, Shillong’s old school rockers are not impressed with Paul (see Page11). They’ve got their own gig going this weekend.

At the recently held Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Shah Rukh Khan said songs were the USP of our movies. I agree. Now, if only we didn’t have to wait a year for a good quality soundtrack to come along. Keep singing. 


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