Friday August 23, 2013

Milliblog’s Three Laws of Music Appreciation Multiverse

Posted by Karthik

I see a lively discussion about my review of Shuddh Desi Romance, though the discussion has moved on to ‘the best song of the year 2013’, going by my assertion in the review’s first line that Gulabi is it… at least so far this year.

So, when pointedly asked, ‘In what universe is Gulabi the song of the year?? I mean I get the usual ”it’s all subjective” thing but seriously!!!!!’, I had to respond with the obv3lawsious – ‘Err, in my universe…?’.

This – understandably – got the response, from another reader, ‘Your universe must be a very very special place as all other universes I know have nominated “Tum hi ho” from Aashiqui 2 as the anthem of the year!’.

I get that, but I take the blame for not explaining the multiverse theory of film/music appreciation. And this has resulted in these folks going on and on about individual favorites and why some are better than others. So, let me try and explain that multiverse theory – I usually brush this aside with, ‘but opinions differ’, or the poetic, ‘that’s the beauty and trouble with opinions – everyone has one!’.

To start with, I believe that our interest in certain forms of music (and films; besides certain performers in both films and music) is largely dictated by,
1. Upbringing
2. Peer influence and (non-upbringing) exposure
3. Our own brain

To give you my own example, while I was growing up (in places as interesting and diverse as Bhubaneshwar and Bhopal, before moving down South to Coimbatore), I was pre-conditioned to like OP Nayyar, Madan Mohan and SD Burman. Why? Because my dad loved them (amidst all other composers, these three would get maximum play at home, thanks to dad) and played them all through my growing-up years. Also, he’d fiddle with the radio a lot and play exotic Latin and Spanish music. One particular record he played a lot and something that I started liking because of him was Ron Goodwin And His Orchestra’s Music For An Arabian Night!

As for movies – if I could digress a bit – I was taken to Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand when I wanted to desperately see Manmohan Desai’s Naseeb. The former was what my dad thought is good cinema (it is, I realize now!) but that thought was not in line with my peers in school in Bhopal who were going ga-ga over the new Amitabh film, Naseeb. At one point, I got so desperate and faked that I had seen Naseeb, upon which a boy in my building (in Bhopal; I still remember his name – it was Neetu!) wanted to confirm it and started asking me questions about the film. I tried to play along but failed miserably and was the butt of terrible jibe by 10 more kids in the building. I ran home and pestered my dad to take me to Naseeb so that I can show those buggers that ‘I can haz Naseeb too’, in today’s parlance. (Of course, if you ask me today which one I prefer, I’d name Anand instantly, but I do watch Naseeb for sheer nostalgia’s sake, the same way I enjoyed Chennai Express).

A Tamil equivalent of this would be dad taking me to a lesser known K.Balachandar film like ‘Kalyana Agadhigal’ and not to the blockbuster of the season, ‘Thoongadhey Thambi Thoongadhey’. I couldn’t even explain to friends in Sri Rangam (Trichy) why I was away for 3-4 hours because telling them I went to an ‘arty’ film like Kalyana Agadhigal was akin to digging a hole in the ground and burying myself. It’s a different thing that I catch that film occasionally on TV and thoroughly enjoy it. I also – like Naseeb – pestered my dad enough to take me to Thoongadhey Thambi Thoongadhey (starring Kamal Hassan, in the peak of his commercial streak) and actually got scared when he gets drugged by the villain… and asked dad to take me back home! Much to my horror, dad still narrates this incident to all and sundry at the most unfortunate time and they all have a hearty laugh! End of digression.

My own brain later discovered RD Burman’s music and I adored him eventually. My own brain also discovered Ilayaraja and later A R Rahman on its own, away from dad’s influence, because people in school were going ga-ga over Raja and then I discovered a curiously wonderful new sound in Rahman when I heard Roja’s Pudhu Vellai Mazhai for the first time… when the sound of the glass breaking (that’s what I thought, back then!) in the prelude happened, I said to myself, ‘Boy, this is ground-breaking!’ – that is my brain making its own opinion.

Then there’s exposure all around me – school (Ilayaraja), UG college (Rahman), PG college (old Hindi songs all over again, topped by Kishore Kumar)…!

So, having assimilated all this and also having the experience of running Milliblog since 2005, here’s what the actual multiverse theory is, articulated as the ‘3 laws of music appreciation multiverse’.

Rule 1: Everyone is right about music. There is NO wrong. There are only differing view points.

Rule 2: There is nothing wrong with sniggering over others’ choices inside your head (we’re humans, after all), but remember Rule 1 quickly and get back to reality.

Rule 3: There is no end to a ‘who is better?’ argument in music and movies. Realize this within the first two argument points and move on in life.

So, if you have seen me pulling the legs of certain composer’s fans, it is because of Rule 2 and how I have forgotten to get back to reality and merely having juvenile pleasure out of an endless argument. I shouldn’t and I keep telling myself that – hope I have improved in recent times.

PS: Replace music with movies or anything else in life in the 3 laws and things would pretty much be the same 🙂

PS2: Three Laws poster courtesy this Tumblr page and of course, Issac Asimov!

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