Tuesday August 31, 2010

Playo Jiyo…Meh’yo.

Posted by Karthik

By now, I’ve been asked on email and Twitter many, many times on what I think of the CWG Theme Song by Rahman. V K Malhotra ji has given his verdict, though we have no idea what his expectations were. Was he part of the team that briefed Rahman on what they are looking for? Was there a brief at all, in the first place? If yes, I’d love to see it.

The theme song, in itself, is something I’d term as ‘Meh’.

It’s as gimmicky as Jai Ho, but with much limited cues for people to go ga-ga over. The point when the guitar portions kick in is the only one that works well, but then, Rahman has to invoke a cringe-inducing Hinglish anthemic line that goes, ‘Playo Jeeyo…whatevero’. And less said about the sitar usage, the better. I agree that sitar is associated with India, thanks to Ravi Shankar’s legacy, but one doesn’t necessarily expect Rahman conforming to such staid legacy images.

And then, everything goes supremely ‘meh’ in the song, including Blaaze’s utterly pointless rap portion. The final dhol part addition adds to the…err, how can one single song invoke so many cringes?

I have seen assorted references to inspiration behind this track. A tweet refers to Carpenters’ Calling Occupants and Paul Simon’s Diamonds…for the opening. Both are completely off the mark and refer only to generic sounds that may simply be not called ‘inspiration. To some extent…vague extent that is, a mail from Animesh Agarwal says the ‘Playo jiyo’ part is reminiscent of Def Leppard’s similarly-tuned chorus in Rocket. These are marginal references, in my opinion.

The larger problem is the way Indians are going hammer and tongs over how the song is not rousing enough – see these reports; India Today and Mid Day (super absurd comparison between Rahman and Shakira, using Google Trends and YouTube numbers as base). What were they expecting, I wonder! What we have from Rahman is a perfectly conformist theme track that sounds like any other theme song India has produced for such occasions. It is as sarkari as you want it to be and that is its success and failure, at the same time.

Why hasn’t any other theme song evoked any such reaction in the history of Indian sports? I doubt that it is because India is proud to host THE Commonwealth Games and more to do with the overarching negativity surrounding the games, thanks to the corruption and Kalmadi. The games do not have an established figure to stone – all known figures have been adequately stoned and are not responding now…so, no more fun in stoning. Enter Rahman, the scapegoat. I’m quite sure the man had the best of intentions, Rs. 5 Crore or not, but the timing and situation couldn’t have been more worse. Add to it, a tune that is strictly template-driven and predictable…you have the perfect recipe for disaster – so, even if Rahman had given another Vande Mataram, there would still be stones.

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