Of Rockstars and Kolaveris

It has been a busy month and I have been at my keyboard a LOT. The only thing I remember doing over the past month is typing! The blog, obviously is not the recipient of my munificence — the actual recipient is a story for another day. However, I was doing my usual early morning coffee–news cycle and I saw an “article” about Javed Akhtar’s tweet on a currently popular song — ‘Why this Kolaveri di?’, and I was inspired. (The word article was in quotes because I am not sure how repeating someone’s tweet is an actual news item!).

Mr. Akhtar tweets that Kolaveri is like the Emperor with no clothes. I have to disagree, strongly.

My first brush with this now cult song was when a north-Indian friend asked me the meaning of kolaveri out of the blue I told her it was bloodlust, but could not help but wondering how she of all people would come across this word. After all, not many supposed Tamilians even know the meaning of this word! (The lack of vocab power of Tams from Chennai is also a story for another day). Only later, when I was doing my usual brain-dead browsing did I land upon the song. I clicked on it purely out of luck since I have given up all hope on Indian film music (except Rahman of course). I liked the song the instant I heard it, and after a couple of listens, I was in love. This was an amazing song, and it was amazing for the exact same reasons that Mr. Akhtar criticizes it!

I second his opinion when he says that the lyrics are an insult to intelligence and the tune is so pedestrian that one would imagine people materializing over it, however in this middling quality lies its appeal. This is the kind of song that is sung in campuses across countries when boys peddle liquor after hours and reminisce  about loves long lost and girlfriends who were not to be. The song with its ridiculous lyrics which go, ‘Girl come-u, life-u reverse-u gear-u’, kindle in each and every person the joys of throwing all sense out the window and celebrating the nonsense that is life. The incoherence between each line and the next makes for a fine listen exactly because of the incoherence — by not conveying any continuity the song is able to reproduce the same environment that boys have grown up in. A line that I read recently bears retelling here. The strongest memories and hence the best stories are those that arise from adolescent memories. The pedestrian tune adds to the un-finished and rough structure which is also part of such reminiscences. Of course, the Tamglish, the attractive chick(s) (some Northies also found Aiswarya Rajnikant good looking — hmmmm) and the ability of the song to transcend Tamizh and reach across also helps.

Not all music is about music. Not all lyrics are about lyrics. The beauty of songs do not always lie in coherence or structure or even passion, they just lie in the memories they evoke, and it is my opinion that Kolaveri somehow strikes the right chord hard enough for us to love the song. Sorry Mr. Akhtar, as much as I respect you, I have to disagree with your comment. This emperor may not have new clothes, but he sure as hell sports a rocking physique — one that does not make him a laughing stock amongst the public!

I would have loved to hear what Mr. Akhtar had to say about ‘Rockstar’. This is arguably Rahman’s best to-date. The music simply transcends anything that he has ever created and the songs have not grown boring after over a gazillion listens — I have this on a loop on my playlist. If a singer like Mohit Chauhan (who I do not have much respect for as a singer) can be made to sound like this, I am not sure what other word apart from ‘Genius’ can be used to describe Rahman. Every song is a gem (though Katiya Karoon and Kavita’s Tum Ko do not get too much of a listen from me), and the lyrics are subliminal. Irshad Kamil’s beautiful poetry simply adds to the beauty of the music.  Picture these gems:

Marzi se jeene ki bhi main
Kya tum sabko arzi doon
Matlab ki tum sab ka mujh pe
Mujh se bhi zyada haq hai

Kyun sach ka sabak sikhaaye
Jab sach sunn bhi naa paaye
Sach koi bole to tu niyam kanoon bataye

I did not even attempt to translate them, for then, they would have lost their beauty. The most powerful line for me has to be

Jo bhi main,
Kehna chahoon,
Barbad kare,
Alfaz mere 

Imagine a lyricist writing this — so powerful, so profound, so poignant!

The fact that Rockstar’s music topped the charts is an indicator that good music still lives and is appreciated. In between these interludes, Kolaveris and Kolaveris can spring up, enthralling audiences till the ‘next big thing’. While Kolaveris will be forgotten in a matter of months, Rockstars will live on — Mr. Akhtar, do not worry, people shall still appreciate good music, immaterial of how small that population is or becomes!



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