When was the last time you felt Indipop should make a comeback?
Rewind about 15 years back. On a countdown show so typical of those days, Baba Sehgal croons with the practised ease of a star, “Thanda thanda pani…”; minutes later following a commercial break, Alisha Chinai sashays onscreen declaring her desire for a man made in India, “Ek dil chahiye that's made in India...”. You get the picture —the glorious years of indipop — when it was all about narrating stories, over the top and exaggerated theatrics, jazzy colours and a bold sense of fashion, westernized music and above all, a quest for true love.
At a time when the only music the Indian household had heard of was Hindi film songs in Chitrahaar or Binaca Geetmala over the radio, Indipop took the younger generation by storm. Listening to Suneeta Rao's blatant and sensuous “Paree hoon mai”, a story of a teenage girl falling for her teacher, or Suchitra Krishnamoorthy's “Dole Dole” meant you were hip and happening.
The indipop industry brought with it a slew of actors, singers, models and even non-singers who wanted instant fame. And one didn't even have to be a good singer — technology was advanced enough to drown out one's real voice and make it sound sultrier, sexier and well, better. All in all, it looked like the time and place were perfectly conducive to a booming indipop scene.
But fast forward 15 years and all you see are ghostly apparitions of Bally Sagoo (of “Noorie” fame) and Shweta Shetty (who gave us “Deewane, Deewane toh deewana hain”). While Alisha Chinai's last performance may have been as a playback singer for “Prince” in 2010, Baba Sehgal is back on the scene with a seemingly last-ditch effort to revive his popularity with “Praji kunjam kunjam”, a rap song for the cause of saving the girl child. But if Twitter comments are anything to go by, the video has not made a mark on audiences. Not a good one anyway.
But it might please our erstwhile pop artists to know that they still have fans out there, primarily youngsters who grew up watching them on television. Some are even nostalgic about the era bygone.
“Indipop at our time was the cool new thing. It was zangy, snippety snap, something other than soppy Bollywood love songs that the early 1990's had to offer. But it appealed to us because it was different. Not to mention the chance to see stars — Alisha Chinai, Jas Arora, Malaika, Milind Soman and the rest,” says Joey Pathak, a 20-something Delhiite who works for an ad firm.
But the magic fizzled out eventually. Remo and the Colonial Cousins have been replaced by Justin Beiber and Hannah Montana. Pop is no more Indi. “Pop now has become synonymous with uncool, thanks to the sitcom exposure,” opines Joey. Could be, but is that all?
“The younger generation finds Western music a lot more fun now. Besides, I think indipop was merely a stepping stone — the final destination was films or the music industry. Thanks to reality TV, who needs indipop anymore?” asks Shyaam Nagarajan, a Bengaluru-based lawyer who is a diehard fan of Shaan, Sonu Nigam and Lucky Ali.
And who would know why better than a man who's been right in the centre of all the action? Manohar Iyer is an artist who has penned lyrics for many a pop star — Shaan's “Loveology”, Mehnaz's “Banoongi main Miss India”, Vikas Bhalla's “Hain dhuan” — to name a few. Speaking from a perspective that only experience can provide, Mr. Iyer ticks many reasons off his fingers as to why indipop lost out to new trends in the music industry.
“Those days to make a good album all you needed was good looks and a personality to match. You could be a non-singer or ordinary at best. The songs had no novelty or melody structure — it was all up to technology to make them sound good and the star quality pulled enough attention to make the albums a hit,” he reveals.
Maybe that's true but one can't forget a few gems that did possess talent — after all, indipop gave us Sonu Nigam, Hariharan, KK and even Asha Bhonsle.
“True,” Iyer agrees, “but even they couldn't keep the trend going. The advent of Internet, rising costs of making albums and refusal of companies to invest in them proved to be the nemesis.”
Have we lost Indipop forever?
Iyer speaks with finality in his tone that could well convince anyone. But have we? One-time wonders like Aasma (of “Chandu ke chaacha” fame) and Band of Boyz (“Meri neend ud gayi hai”) came and went without much notice. The only reminder of those times seems to be the group Euphoria but they have resigned themselves to their yesteryear hits like “Dhoom pichak dhoom”, which they play at college fests every year.
“I wouldn't know what to do if indipop came back. But will it? I think it will. It is a fad which will have, once again, its time under the sun. We just need our Adele,” says an optimistic Joey.
Wishful thinking, some might say. Even if it did make a comeback, Indian pop wouldn't garner the kind of craze it enjoyed back in those days. Maybe the best we can do to feed our nostalgia is to seek out that dusty cassette, listen to the comfortably familiar whirr of tape and lose ourselves for a few moments in Shaan's “Tanha dil tanha safar, dhoonde tujhe phir kyon nazar.”