Karan Johar may have looked all startled and annoyed when he popped out of nowhere and yelled, “Oh god, one more remix” in Simmba’s Aankh Maare last year, a remake of the original Tere Mere Sapne song from the ‘90s, but he knew exactly what he was doing. As I write this piece, my music playlist suddenly switches to Saaki, the Koena Mitra-original that had set fire to many stages when Musafir released in the 2000s (the hook step is still popular). From films where almost every song was a remake to ones that bombed at the box office but had that one striking item number that stood out, 2019 has been all about bringing back songs that once ruled the charts.
There was a brief period in the early 2000s when songs from the ‘70s and ‘80s came back as remixes. When Shefali Jariwala moved to Asha Parekh’s Kaanta Laga, the generation that has grown up watching Asha frowned, and the millennials raged on the songs. And now, the same crowd is going on Twitter rants about how their childhood songs are all over the place with every movie remixing one. The question that arises is the same as it was back in the early millennium: Does this mean Bollywood music has nothing new to offer?
The debate about serving old songs in a new format (insert rap lines about Mumbai-Delhi, a little Badshah and a cameo by the OGs of the song and voila!) resurfaced recently when Vishal Dadlani called everyone who is remixing songs “Vultures”, and warned them against touching any Vishal-Shekhar songs. His problem, though, isn’t with remixing the song, it’s with not giving the due credit. In an interview with Hindustan Times, Dadlani said that while they have reworked songs too (Bachna Ae Haseeno, Disco Deewane…), it’s been a move of tribute, where they took permission and did it.
For the norm around remixes being “not as good as originals”, it’s almost surreal as to how these songs (imagine, someone remade Humma Humma. Why would you?) gain the kind of popularity they do when we have such strong opinions about not touching iconic numbers.
It seems like the key to making these reboots work is the nostalgia it generates in people to see a song that reminds them of something — a song that they probably sung on school buses, or a song that they danced to at an annual day. But nostalgia can go two ways, and so has the response that these songs receive. While most of us might end up tapping our feet at a Poster Lagwa Do or a Mungda at a Bollywood night, there are many who are calling these remixes out for “ruining the iconic song” because the remixes are all mashed up, with an update-of-sorts to the tune and to the lyrics. Doesn’t exactly let the nostalgia stay for long now, does it?
As Gen Z learns about how Sushmita Sen stole hearts in Dilbar and how Raveena Tandon was really THE Sheher ki Ladki, the season for remixes is just going to go into 2020, and seems to be sticking around for a while. There’s something called music you love to hate, music that grows on you, and when that’s literally all that Bollywood’s throwing your way, there’s not much choice but to stick to your older playlists.