By Jackie Thakkar Feb. 20, 2018
Shefali Zariwala makes a wildcard entry into the Bigg Boss House tonight. Back in the 2000s, the "Kaanta Laga" girl helped usher in Indian pop music's Remix Era — a time when yesteryear classics were revamped with contemporary beats and an over-the-top element of sensuality.
There is a point in the life of every party when the Kygo and Rihanna that have been on loop are replaced by “Saat Samundar Paar” and “Chamma Chamma”, and all the effort that you’ve made trying to be cool is dissolved in a hot mess, leaving you in a confused state of mind: You are both elated and embarrassed on the dance floor.
Why do all our attempts to be better than Bollywood’s “jhataak music” phase fail so spectacularly? While many would like to believe it’s because “’90s musix is a roxx”, the truth is deeper than Kumar Sanu’s voice. It’s been scientifically proven that no matter how old you get, music that triggers memories of your teenage years and your first feelings of love, will forever hold a special place in your brain (and heart).
Which is why, an entire generation of grown-ass men crooning and gyrating to lascivious Hindi pop hits from the mid-2000s is now common at bars and pubs across the country.
Being a teenager in the noughties was a wondrous time. Smartphones were unheard of and kids spent most of their time doing primitive things like salvaging actual personalities through face-to-face communication. And the closest thing we had to stalking our ex was keeping an alert for when s/he came online on MSN Messenger. We did, however, have just a sliver of porn that a privileged few accessed through shady CDs hired “on rent”. These were then downloaded and stealthily hidden in discreet C/Program Files/Research Folders. If these CDs were put under the white light used in the X-Files that makes sperm stains glow, they could potentially blind a person.
The Noughties’ Remix Era was synonymous with yesteryear classics being revamped with contemporary beats, bassy undertones, and an over-the-top element of sensuality. YouTube
The Noughties’ Remix Era was synonymous with yesteryear classics being revamped with contemporary beats, bassy undertones, and an over-the-top element of sensuality.
In the midst of all this, while a whole generation of ’90s boys was collectively coming to grips with their raging hormones, India’s then relatively tame pop music scene was experiencing a different kind of sexual resurgence: The Noughties’ Remix Era. An era that was synonymous with yesteryear classics being revamped with contemporary beats, bassy undertones, and an over-the-top element of sensuality to these songs. Add to that the booming number of Hindi music channels along with MTV (before they began airing Roadies more often than Set Max airs Sooryavansham), and voila! Millennial TV viewers were experiencing their first wave of sexually provocative music videos delivered directly into our living rooms.
Of course teenage boys across India upped their creativity to come up with excuses so that they could lock their rooms and ogle at scantily clad Rakhi Sawants and Sophie Choudrys.
Of course teenage boys across India upped their creativity to come up with excuses so that they could lock their rooms and ogle at the scantily clad Sophie Choudry, the gyrating Meghana Naidu and a thong-sporting Miss Zariwala. Proof of this was the insane number of times, Shobhit, a school friend, phoned in a local music request channel, iTV, and requested for the same video: “Kaliyon Ka Chaman”. Once, during our summer break, the entire school found out that Shobhit was having a particularly vela day when iTV replayed “Kaliyon Ka Chaman” on repeat, 48 times straight – a slinkily dressed Meghana Naidu gyrating with a bunch of other women dancers, 48 times over. Cleavage shots filled up every frame and in one sequence, Miss Naidu’s bust is covered with nothing more than a layer of drenched flower petals. This kind of implied nudity on Indian television was unheard of at the time, and by Shobhit’s own admission, the 47th viewing of the video, led to him handing himself his “rite of passage” into boyhood.
The popularity of these videos soared the saat samundars. The year was 2014. My batchmate Shefali and I decided to rock the dance floor at a Chicago club. That night, the DJ decided to go retro on us and played the Spice Girl’s hit, “If You Wannabe My Lover.” Next thing I know, we were both pissed drunk, switching the chorus with “Saiyyan Dil Mein Aana Re.” And to our absolute elation, by the time the third chorus came around, another table of fellow desis had started singing along. Some even remembered the exact dance steps from the video. The entire episode was pathetic but oddly wonderful.
The Remix Era of Indian pop music stuck to a standard formula: A bunch of sexy girls dressed in loud outfits, a few catchy beats, a smattering of sexual innuendo, and perhaps a big star thrown in, helmed together by a tacky narrative. The era also launched a number of young actresses like Shefali Zariwala, Mumaith Khan, and Yana Gupta into item girl superstardom.
The item girls ushered in their own little revolution and remixed music regularly landed up busting charts nationwide. YouTube
The item girls ushered in their own little revolution and remixed music regularly landed up busting charts nationwide.
The item girls ushered in their own little revolution and remixed music regularly landed up busting charts nationwide. The rise of headphones and MP3 culture around this time meant that most of these tracks were also the first to be played widely on Discmans and Walkmans nationwide.
As years went by, these tunes became timeless. Just look at the staggering view count on these decade-old videos on YouTube, and you’ll know just how much of the past we miss.
Eventually, as is the case with most fads, remixes were overtaken by the rise of other short-lived and cringeworthy trends: We moved onto Himesh Reshammiya and today find ourselves debating who is worse – Dhinchak Pooja or Omprakash Mishra. The ones hit hardest by the decline were remix pioneers themselves: I don’t recall hearing of a successful album from DJ Hot, Aqeel, Suketu, or Harry Anand.
Remix videos were to our teenage what K-serials were to our parents’ middle-age: a glossy representation of everything we held aspirational and hoped to attain. Thankfully, both generations grew up to want better things in life, but while our parents warmed up to Netflix, we still sometimes slip into our teenage souls on the dance floor. The music must have been bad, but God, that time in our life, was pretty fucking good!
Masking anxiety with humour. Living with his dog, cat, and mediocrity. Creating content aur life se kaafi discontent. Tweeting as @juvenile_jack.