Mayank Shekhar's review: Soundtrack

By Hindustan Times

Director: Neerav Ghosh
Actors: Rajeev Khandelwal, Mohan Kapoor
Rating: **

These are musicians world-famous, north of Mumbai’s Worli. The front man is the resident DJ at a nightclub called Tango Charlie. When not spinning on the console, his partner’s busy with a groupie going down on him in the greenroom.

The hero’s manager (Mohan Kapoor) decodes the gist of their trade: “What’s the best thing about music,” he asks. “Melodies, solo guitars…” says his protégé DJ. “The chicks bro; music is like honey, they're like bees,” enlightens the manager. Fair enough.

But this leading man of ours, swigging Johnny Black from the bottle, smoking pot from the bong, probably has a long way to go. He’s just about gotten noticed, as it were. Labouring all night on his Logic Pro, he records a track with an unknown, old, poor folk/Sufi type singer. The number’s original. People fall for it at the discotheque. He’s now scored a gig at Goa’s Sunburn. Done. Wohoo! Malishka, the popular radio jockey, says she'd only get requests for this DJ’s non-Bollywood independent track, ‘What the f’ to play on FM all day. Really?

The ultimate in aspiration for DJ Raunak is AR Rahman. Who is, as they say, the Mozart of Madras. The film informs us, the hero’s not even yet the “Bandra ka Beethoven”. Bandra, of course, being a tony suburb in north Mumbai, where the makers of this movie are probably from. It could be Soho, if Mumbai itself was New York City (which it isn’t). Though currently in serious decline, it’s still a neighbourhood known for its more alternative creative outputs: artists, filmmakers, designers, musicians, models….

Director Anurag Kashyap is possibly the Karan Johar of this lot. He rightly makes appearances in this film. Rajeev Khandelwal (Aamir, Shaitan) is likely to be appreciated more here than, say, Shah Rukh Khan. He plays the hero. Movies unite the young in these lively parts. Floating population love eating and drinking out. They enjoy as much ordering in, DVDs, as in this case.

This movie’s directly lifted from Michael Dowse’s It’s All Gone Pete Tong (2004). The filmmakers acknowledge the source in the closing credits, which I guess, just about makes it okay. The original was the kind of DVD that would have long queue at rentals like Bandra’s Sarvodaya or Movie Empire. It’s a mockumentary, concerned a hedonistic, drug-addict DJ, who becomes deaf in pursuit of his ambitions, forever surrounded by cocaine and loud music. Soha Ali Khan plays the girl who helps him heal in this film. An alter ego visits the hallucinating leading man. That’s a joker from Shweta Shetty’s ‘90s music video ‘Johnny Joker’ in this picture. Nostalgia is evident. Fakeness being passed off for local cool shows. Sadly.

Here’s the problem with adapting culture specific substances to an Indian context, at least with a deeply derivative movie like this. For starters, Alibagh is no Ibiza. The story defies a fundamental rule about rockstars in India: that there are none. Movie actors lip syncing and dancing to tracks at cinemas and TV alone make for all-purpose super-stars in Indian pop-culture. Unfortunately.

Independent Bandra musicians at best can look to fetch about Rs 25,000 for a gig at Blue Frog, haggling with the cabbie on their way to the venue. This is why the Boogie Nights’ pool parties, The Aviator style closed-door seclusion of the genius artiste, and The Doors’ greenroom groupies, seem so out of place. Mithunda's ‘80s Fast Forward copy Dance Dance appears a lot less pretentious in comparison! The soundtrack for a film by that name is also strictly whatever, besides a bunch of Bollywood remixes: Yeh Jevan Hai (Piya Ka Ghar), Rahi O Rahi (Himalay Se Ooncha), Khulam Khula Pyar Karenge (Khel Khel Mein)…

You can still tell a bunch of Bandroids trying hard. Something genuine, off-centre, Indian, original, and cutting image, will eventually emerge from efforts like these. Until then, I guess, we should just bear with these.

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