Music

A look at why Himesh Reshammiya is the saviour of pop culture and the last hope of the catchy tune.

So I was talking to my friend Vasu the other day, the day after I had met him in Bangalore, and the man pasted a link onto the chat window.

The idea of a tune, a melody, a combination of musical sounds that seems to be on everybody’s lips at the same time, that spreads through a society as rapidly as a respiratory infection, and seems to invasively seize and occupy space in peoples minds until they finally succeed in forgetting it.

The reason why he had thought it fit to send me this link was that in our previous meeting, I had driven him off his rocker by humming ‘Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa’ at every break in the conversation. Now Vasu is the kind of Pop Culture God who can sit through five Los Bros Ramsay productions in a day, but even a man of his stature has his limits. It was his reaction that made me realize at that precise instant that Himesh Reshammiya is a person who deserves not just my respect, but also a standing ovation for managing to affect people with his tune and voice. But the Himeshiyaa has been getting a lot of flak from all quarters, everywhere I see, there are people dissing him. Any lame stand-up comic or some babe-in-the-woods VJ thinks he can get a bellyful of laughs out of the potential audience by talking about The Him-man’s cap and his mike-holding posture. But you are wrong, all of you. Let me point out why.

The voice.

We are a nation who have been adoring Lata Mangeshkar’s glass-shattering screams for about fifty years now, and we cannot take a man with a nasal tone? What are you, aurally retarded or something? I felt the same way after I heard Ozzy Osbourne for the first time, and even Robert Plant, or for that matter, RD Burman on Mehbooba. Offbeat voices that feel like a cat’s claws on glass when you hear them the first time, but which grow on you, and a couple of decades down the line have become pretty distinctive in their own right. You may not like the voice right now, but twenty thousand hearings later, or perhaps after the next Hit Music Director decides to sing his own songs, you are going to beg for apna Himesh-bhai’s renditions. And oh, Indian music already has a nadir as far as voices go, and that happens to be Anu Malik.

The look.

On a flight to Bombay, I read an interview with Himesh Reshammiya. The interviewer asks him about the cap and the stubble, to which our man has a very legit explanation. I am quoting from memory

My friend pointed out that in India we have no rock stars. No Bryan Adams or Michael Jackson who the youth can identify with. I want to change that. My friend made me wear the cap, it has become part of my look. Even if you see a silhouette of Himesh Reshammiya, you ought to recognise it as Himesh Reshammiya.

Now hold on, I bet all of you are snarking at the guy’s audacity. Personally, I remembered an interview AR Rahman gave in 1997, when Vande Mataram was about to release. Did anyone complain when Rahman got himself the curly hair and the blue-jeans-white-shirt makeover? Nope, we were cheering him through and through. So why single out Himesh Reshammiya? And on top of it, his plan’s working, isn’t it? You see anyone with a cap and a stubble, and the first thing that comes to mind is HR. The same way a goatie below the lower lip will always, ALWAYS make you say “Aamir Khan”. Image, people, it’s all about image.

The attitude.

People say he comes off like a dick. Doesn’t smile in public. C’mon, just because a guy doesn’t grin like a vacuous moron whenever an interviewer is asking him questions doesn’t mean he’s being a dick. For all you know, he’s scared shit-less of the camera. And then you’ve Rahman who giggles uncontrollably after every question, and ruffles his hair — so when Harris Jayaraj does the same thing in his interviews, everybody’s like “HARRIS COPIES RAHMAN. OMG COPYCAT!”. Well? Himesh-bhai isn’t copying Rahman. Himesh-bhai is blazing new trails for himself. The Unapproachable Musician, the Bad Cop in the panel of reality TV judges who cannot be swayed by your ass-kissing or your heartfelt pranaams. And hey, at least he doesn’t go around saying things like “I am the best music director in the country.” He’s quite open about his respect for other music directors too.

The music.

Back in the days when Himesh Reshammiya was still a nobody, there was this article I read about the making of this film called Pyaar Kiya Toh Darnaa Kiya, which starred Salman Khan and Kajol and had music by Jatin Lalit. The article was about the fact that Jatin-Lalit, then one of the hottest music composers had tried rather hard to write the title song of PKTDK, and they had given up in disgust because, according to them, the tune of the Mughal-e-Azam song from the sixties “Pyaar Kiya Toh Darrna Kiya” was too overpowering for them to think of any other tunes for those words. What a bunch of pussies. It was then that Himesh Reshammiya snuck into history. He composed a tune which was quite decent. At least, unlike most the other songs in PKTDK, Himesh’s “Odhli Chunariya” was not ripped off from other sources. Over the years, his output has been dhinchaak at best – ranging from ear-friendly desi tunes to club-thumping numbers, which really got to you if you heard them a couple of times. And all the time, he didn’t quite have a “style” – sometimes he would sound like Nadeem Sharavan on a really good day, other songs he would be like Anu Malik on a bad acid trip.

Aashiq Banaaya Aapne changed all that. You might argue that Tere Naam was a superhit too, but the Himesh-bhai style, His Voice, the solitary violin, the tabla flourishes, the sexy babes in the title songs, Emraan Hashmi – everything came together in AAB. And of course, the Ear Worm effect. The voice lodged itself in your ear, the tune bounced around like a flubberly creature, and all was right with the world.

Now the problem that everyone seems to have is, all his tunes after Aashiq Banaaya Aapne sound the same. Not true. Jhalak Dikhlaajaa from Aksar is better. It is a superior song. If you thought Aashiq Banaaya Aapne was an earworm, Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa is like a mega-super-duper ear-worm designed to bring mankind to its knees. Do you know anyone who has used the shehnai properly in Indian Film music after AR Rahman’s ‘Humma’? Himesh Reshammiya has, in Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa. Can you think of anything who can make Emraan Hashmi look cool? Nope, not humanly possible, but Himesh Reshammiya, or rather, Himesh Reshammiya’s music can distract you from Emraan Hashmi. Which is always a good thing, my friends. How many other music directors use Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal’s voices in innovative ways? The correct answer would be “Everyone”, but because we are talking about The Him-man, the answer is, you guessed it right, Himesh Reshammiya. And the other tune from Aksar, called ‘Laagi Laagi’ also has him singing, and he sounds different on it. More like Sukhwindar Singh.

We are all in denial. Himesh Reshammiya has given us something like TWENTY EIGHT hits in the last six months, and we refuse to acknowledge his talent. Yeah, every Bappi song sounded the same when it came out. When Bappi Lahiri released Disco Dancer in 1982, and followed it up with a series of disco anthems, there would be these disgruntled janta who, with their ears plugged and their constitutions soured, would mutter curses against the newbie composer and his disco tunes. The more hallowed among them would say things like “Ah, he’s ripping off Modern Talking and Laura Brannigan and The Buggles” and then go listen to bootleg tapes of Thriller to purge their ears of such pedestrian compositions.

Twenty four years down the line, Bappi da’s having the last laugh. How many of you have heard of The Buggles? Yet, when I sing “Auwwa Auwwa”, you will think of Bappi Lahiri, and his magnificent Disco Dancer album. I believe that is precisely what Himesh Reshammiya will become twenty four years from now, a cultural icon and representative of the early 2000s, and I think I will give him his due. Which is better than having to explain to my kids why I thought HR’s music sucked at first.

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77 thoughts on “A look at why Himesh Reshammiya is the saviour of pop culture and the last hope of the catchy tune.

  1. Honestly, I had no grouse against Mr. Reshammiya, till I started listening to FM 91 regularly (which is about 1 month so far).

    Why the F do they have to repeat that Suroor shit so many frigging times!!! Am sick of his friggin voice, the friggin song, the frigging bloody 91 FM. Now, don’t you start giving me this!!!!! :-( :-(

    • Chill man, take a deep breath. It’s affecting you, right? That’s what every artist aspires to do. HR is doing it just like that. Give him his due. :)

  2. Or choose to be uncontemporary. No watching TV, no listening to radio, no music playing public places, no earworm ! :)

    But noticed (when I had to) that the babes are super hot. That’s good.

  3. Part of me is so glad others agrees with me. The guy makes good music. But my problem is something else.

    He is, I suppose, a pop star in the real sense of the word. With that of course, comes everything it takes to be a pop star. His songs, lyrics, and especially videos are an expression of that annoying huge Indian male ego. So, while I can’t help but like his stuff, I can’t listen to his songs for more than half a dozen times.

  4. too true!

    i agree with in toto. we’ve been giving too much credence to “Lata ji” for way too long. bharat ki aawaaz has become so screechy in the past decades that i often feel like my glasses are gonna shatter when she hits the high notes. whatever her achievement have been in the past arent being belittled now but she’s no longer got it and i dont see why a warbling “aye mere waton ke logon” should bring tears to my eyes now unless they are tears of frustrations at not being able to change the channel.
    the only nitpicking that i usually do about reshammiay’s music is that it’s repetitive. but it’s DIFFERENT.
    a friend had introed me to his songs and the naam tera song seriously got looped in my mind. of course, being the kind of person i am, i downloaded it and made it my wake up alarm on the cell. the next thing i know is that ma’s threatening to throw the mobile out the window if she has to hear the man repeating himself so copiously. the significant other pooh-poohed my choice of music too. but this guy is catchy and he’s got a style which is his own. cant say that about too many of the performers today. they basically ape the “winning formula” and try to give it their owe spin. which more often than not doesnt work!
    so until the looping stops, here’s to waking up the householders with more nasal choruses!

  5. I have a faint idea that this post would have offended me if I knew who Himesh Reshamiya was. Except for the one song from Pyar Kiya to Darna kya, I dont think I have either heard or seen him anywhere else. Nice rant though. Made me read till the end about somebody I dont know and definitely don’t care about. Doesn’t really happen in something this long…sometimes even if it is somebody I know and care for! :)

  6. well, ‘ll I can say is that I don’t have no Bappi-da cd’s either. So I’ll when it comes to this cultural icon and representative of the early 2000s, my approach is simple: just like I did with Britney, I’ll close my eyes and wait for the insane cacophony to die down.

    which basically means I shouldn’t try driving with the radio on.

      • sire, I don’t think Himesh is going anywhere for the next 5 years, at the very least.

        Honestly, I don’t hear that much Britney nowadays, do you?

        They all die down. Some after a decade and a half, but still die down. In that they aren’t going to be the only tunes thudding out of the auto-rickshaws. These trends too shall pass.

        But even if they don’t, the point I’m trying to make is that I know they’re there, but I’m not adding them to my playlist.

        The radio, as I commented, is a different story.

  7. last i heard abt the Him-man, he’s got around 80 movies he’s scoring the music for.. at last count, about a dozen of them have been released already.. The world is NOT this deserving but then there are ppl like U m’man who just cant get nuff of the dude..

    if nothin else, i admire ur staunch support for music [good/bad is just perception] and P A T I E N C E :-)

  8. I can say with a smile that I saw HR and thought, “What’s human resources have to do with this?”

    Muahahahaa. I guess Himesh has left a few of us unaffected?

  9. Last week after the quiz, I had the “Jhalak” earworm that you gave me, ringing for nearly a day. Had to play other soothing tunes to get rid of it.

    At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if you start the HR Fan Club next? ;-).

  10. In my opinion, there’s nothing like ‘Good Music’ or ‘Bad Music’. It’s just ‘Music I Like’ and ‘Music I Dont Like’.
    And I must confess, HR’s music for me (as of now) belongs to the second category.

    • What he says is that he’s experimenting with a style and he’s going to leave it behind soon. Not bad at all! And his inspiration rate is quite low too, compared to his contemporaries like Preetam.

  11. There were dark times once. Time when poor kids starved of entertainment had to sit and watch TV shows with their parents. Times when Himesh Rishemmiya had fun directing a horrendous soap called ‘Andaz’.
    I hate Himesh Rishemmiya and it has nothing to do with music.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The thing is Lata has been overrated in the field and that has cost many a good chance, but it cannot be denied that she has a good voice, which cannot be said for HR. His music is new and really good. But not his voice, thats what the singers are for. Other music directos turned singers also suck big time – Anu Malik, Deva, Illayaraja,RDB. I hum Jhalak dihklaja, but still cringe that I have to hear him sing.

  13. hey beatzo! welcome to the HIM Fan Club. Our numbers grow with every repeat of 36China Town or Jhalak Dikhlaaja. Every time you switch on the TV, the radio, you will feel his influence growing. More power to HIM. Jai Mata di! Let’s rock!!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Mind your language

    You can write paeans about Himesh because you somehow think he is a good composer. I give you credit for standing up for what you believe in. But the fact is that Himesh is the worst in the lot today.
    Churning out 28 hit albums in 6 months means nothing. Popularity never had to do anything with quality. For example, your other favourite composer Bappi Lahiri (by the way I really pity you for that) was on top in 1990 with his Gori Hai Kalaiyaan topping the Cibaca Geet Mala. Do you call that music? If you do, then I feel sorry for you. That song could have easily been voted as the worst song of the millenium!

    And hey… what do I call you… please mind your language. You called one of the very few talented music composers (Jatin-Lalit) as a bunch of p******
    It is in your interest that you don’t use such foul language on a web page available for public viewing.

    That ‘Odh lee chunariya’ number reeks of old & avoidable tunes from the 80’s. You talk about ripped off songs in that album. Yes, that album stinks. But as a matter of fact the only good song in that album is Deewana Main Chala composed by Jatin-Lalit.

    My name is Abhijit and you can write to me at abhijit_pancham_fan@hotmail.com

    • Re: Mind your language

      Oi Beatzo, this surely is a typical Bong from the Bongland. He reeks of that native stench. Maaf kar de isey, their sense of humor had croaked eons back! =))

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Mind your language

        So you guys are racists too!
        Maaf tum ko (nahi) karega- tumhara khuda- Bappi Lahiri (a Bong himself!)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Beatzo- Ever heard about real good music and good taste?

    I am disgusted… how CAN you ever compare that grunting pig who calls himself ‘Himesh Reshammiya’ with Lata Mangeshkar?
    And you talk about Lata’s “screams”- have you ever heard her perfect diction & rendering of ghazals like in Madan Mohan’s Jahan Ara or Woh Kaun thi? And this is just to name one facet of her perfect singing…
    Get a life dude, if you don’t know music, just shut up.. I HATE HIMESH, but that is nothing compared to the disdain with which I read your nonsense…
    Why didn’t you end your tirade saying Himesh is far better than Mohd. Rafi himself?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Great..! i really liked yr comment about Himeshji, not only you defended the great man but you very logical about it. All I read about himeshji is he is nasal,topiwala blah blah… I was tired of reading negative things, but your article was breath of fresh air ..thank you

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