So, Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara is out, and nearly everybody has nearly unequivocally ripped it apart; but when somebody like KrishAshok tears into something, the funniest lines will have been written and the most appropriate analogies will have been drawn, leaving us less funny mortals to scrap for the residual raping rights. Anyway, the video has piqued me enough to unleash upon you unsuspecting readers another review.
There are two ways we can rate the new PMSMT- either by comparing it to the original MSMT, which we all acknowledge is an outright classic, or by critiquing the video itself. But as Linkin Park will inform you at 200 decibels and 300 words per minute, in the end it doesn’t even matter. The video- running an incredibly long 16 minutes- has its moments, but all the good work is undone by the halo effect, according to which we allow our impression about one aspect of an object to spill over to all other aspects; so the few priceless moments in PMSMT are overshadowed by nearly 12 minutes of unadulterated drivel. Allow me to elaborate.
1. The Intro & other good bits
The video started like a dream- Rahman playing a melodious classical piece on a snazzy little continuum keyboard, followed by Bachchan Sr kicking off the verse in front of the Gateway. Honestly, the start couldn’t have been better. The scene shifts to a beach where Shankar Mahadevan arm-twists the tune Hariharan-style, with Loy and Ehsaan smiling broadly and playing the keyboard and guitar respectively. Impressive, but would’ve been better if Ehsaan wasn’t frozen on one chord and Loy turned the volume up a notch.
Everybody who actually sang or played an instrument was good (with the dishonorable exception of Sonu Nigam and Bhupen Hazarika)- Pt.Shivkumar Sharma, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan & Sons, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Shreya Ghoshal, Yesudas, Bengali contingent, Gurdas Mann, Unidentified Marwadi Singer, the rock band, etc. Kavita Krishnamurti/y/hi/hy and co. were good too, but why were they in the middle of a forest? And why did L.Subramaniam’s son have to do the arms wide open thing? Subramaniamji, please call pest control and exterminate all traces of Shahrukh Khan from your house.
2. The Tamil bit
If you ask me what the best part of MSMT was (even if you don’t), I’d instantly say –and this has nothing to do with my Tamilianness- it was Balamuralikrishna walking along the beach singing his Isaindhal bit with a host of Tamilian celebrities ranging from Revathi and Kamal Hassan to Ramesh Krishnan and Srinivas finger-up-my neighbour’s-nose Venkataraghavan listening obediently. The way BMK intonates at the final Namm Isai still gives me goose bumps.
Circa 2010- Two well-rehearsed, well-dressed, well-exercised Tamil actors- Vikram and Surya- replace the balding, ugly, black patch-on-face BMK who just happens to be a fantastic singer. What we want to see of course is two actors, who probably need 25 takes to give a passable expression, charming us with their signature chest thumping and arms-wide-open poses while lip-syncing to a singer who discovered just yesterday he had a vocal cord. I’ll never forgive him for raping the final Namm Isai.
3. Bollywood ladies
MSMT had Sharmila, Tanuja, Hema, Waheeda, Shabana and probably one or two others mouth one line and vanish immediately. This time around, we have lengthy individual bits with the talking point being, as you must already know, Deepika being dragged out of her bed for the song because of which the poor girl couldn’t even wear a pyjama. So sad. The ladies’ bits were like having the trailers of their next films playing back to back. But I still fail to understand, why Deepika? Why Shilpa Shetty? And it was all so artificial, especially Aishwaxrya Rai making soft eyes first to the overhead electrical cables and then to the ants on the floor of the bus.
4. Shiamuck and Shobana
This bit was, well, hmm, let’s see…I can’t do justice to it- stop all current activity and head to KrishAshok’s blog. What he says is so true!
5. 2/3 Khans
It was nice to have a segment on sign language for the deaf and dumb. But was it really necessary to have a celebrity sitting in their midst? Why not have the caretaker of that lovely school instead? And if they had to use Salman why couldn’t he cover himself up? Yes, yes Salman, we know your biceps and chest are the only things visible from the moon- but this is a video on national integration, not a concert where you measure the cubic centimeters of saliva shed by the female folk. And besides, why caricature yourself? We laugh at you anyway.
And Aamir, O Aamir, he whose quality control sieve would not allow a fake moustache to pass through ,agreed to fuse Aati Kya Khandala and Mile Sur Mera Tumhara? The tune was bad, out of sur with the song, and had the kids –the object of that piece- languishing in the background while you-the savior of the tyrannical education system- take centre stage. Looks like Ghajini really hit you with that rod the other day, which is why you come up with names like Phunsuk Wangdu and now this.
4. Sonu Nigam and the super heroes
So we are 13 minutes into the song and have already ODed on Bollywood; the song is already on the edge of the precipice with one foot over the edge and the suicide speech into its 13th minute- time for a Bollywood-style rescue and a classic finish? Or a kick to the butt and subsequent freefall? The latter. The wrecker-in-chief is Sonu Nigam, who tried to look hep in is new hairdo but was really George Harrison-meets-poodle. The man has a lovely voice and doesn’t need to wohohowohoho like the anti-talented Anu Malik. Anyway, that was the least of the problems considering what was to follow.
Sonu sings for Messrs Shahid Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, and – drumroll- Shahrukh Khan who are present at an empty stage, an arbit hilltop in an arbit jungle (unless it the place YSR’s copter crashed or Veerappan entertained his hostages, I don’t see the significance of the location), and the magnificent Worli Sea Link respectively. The problem with this segment was that the tune was raped beyond salvage, neither Shahid nor Ranbir merited a place in the video, and SRK did his arms-wide-open ™ again. As KrishAshok said, if Gabbar was alive, “he would take those hands and spare us all.”
5. And finally
After 15 minutes of B/K/M/Tollywood and seeing varieties of celebrities in varieties of clothes with a variety of postcard backgrounds, our sportsmen and women possessing mediocre credentials such as Olympic medals and World Championships make a slideshow appearance- many of them were actually running in the video- symbolic perhaps of their running to the producers to find a place. The video was wrapped up with a token few seconds of our Armed Forces- the guys directly responsible for every breath we take.
6. Conspicuous by their absence
MSMT premiered in 1988. In the ensuing 22 years, what have been India’s biggest stories? A liberalized economy characterized by the blossoming of first generation (NRM), second generation (Ambani and Ambani), and nth generation (Ratan Tata) entrepreneurs; a demi god felling people around the world with a piece of blunt wood and going by the mysterious initials of SRT; a couple of tennis players who collect Grand Slams like SRK collects Filmfares; the Green Revolution attaining critical mass; and a scientist and visionary par excellence who also happened to be the most loved President of India- a post which, till then, was just the fastest way to collect frequent flyer miles. But none of these icons have made it to the video because, come on admit it, they have ungainly pot-bellies and cannot do a rockstar impersonation like Shahid Kapoor can.
7. Final thoughts
Sequels are rarely well-received; especially when the original is still so fresh in our memories. Probably a 15-year old who has been watching Friends and Aaj Tak ever since he’s learned to flush the toilet will like it; for people like me who grew up with DD, it’s impossible to watch the video without bias; so I didn’t try. When you call the song Phir MSMT, you had better be prepared to stand up to comparisons. The old video had celebrities sharing screen space with each other- not only did this save time but also symbolized unity in a way. The celebs were only part of the picture and you could almost not notice them at times (I only recently realized it had Om Puri). The aam aadmi mouthed a number of lines- who can forget that Malayali on the elephant singing Ende Swaramum or the Bengalis milling out of the train with Tomar Sur Moder Sur playing in the background? PMSMT sadly needed a recognizable face for every segment, and every celeb needed exclusive air time; no Amitabh-Jeetendra-Mithun style camaraderie here. I wouldn’t blame the celebs for this- Mile Sur is a legendary video, and nobody will turn down an offer to be a part of it; hell, even Aamir agreed!
Moreover, MSMT was crisp at 6 minutes and even though it featured a number of languages, the flow was beautiful- you always knew you were listening to one song. Here, there were too many breaks- total breaks; it might as well have been 8 different songs some engineering kid merged on Windows Movie Maker on a lazy Monday morning. The only perfect transition was Zakir Hussain-to-Bengali group; that was well done.
I’d say shoot the damn video again; let AR Rahman and Amit Trivedi compose it together so that we can at least shut our eyes and listen to a good song.
Breaking News Update- Raj Thackeray has threatened to pull all posters of the song off Mumbai’s walls and ban its release. His party objected to Marathi being featured in the 12th minute and getting only an 8-second coverage, a gross underrepresentation for a state that contributes 15% to the national GDP. When he was informed the song began in Mumbai and featured the sea link, and that the song had no posters and was released on TV, the MNS, in an official reply said, "Jai Maharashtra".