The verdict on the remix The Humma Song that features in the January 13 release Ok Jaanu, the remake of Mani Ratnam’s OK Kanmani, was swift. Two days after the song was released, Remo Fernandes, who had sung the original chartbuster Humma Humma in the dubbed Hindi version of Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film Bombay (2005), voiced his displeasure in an interview: “It is but a pale, insipid version of the original. Vocally, instrumentally and arrangements-wise, it seems to be a hurried, uninspired job.”
Old fans of the original tune agreed, new listeners clicked away, and at last count, the song had reached 20 million views on YouTube. While The Humma Song is certainly not a patch on the original, the recreated version is neither a remix nor a cover. But is anyone listening?
The new track by Badshah and Tanishk Bagchi introduces a rap segment and breezy vocals by Jubin Nautiyal and Shashaa Tirupati. Badshah raps, “Jo galti karne waala hoon, main uske liye pehle se hi maangta hoon maafi” (I am seeking mercy for the mistake I am about to commit). It sounds as though he is conscience-stricken as the on-screen character lip-syncing his words.
The Tamil original Humma Humma , sung by Rahman, Suresh Peters and Swarnalatha, was an all-out dance number, juxtaposed with the goings-on of a newly married couple (Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala). The revamped version does not try to better the original and only wants to introduce the tune in a slow, sensuous groove befitting the situation in Ok Jaanu. Live-in partners Aditya (Aditya Roy Kapur) and Tara (Shraddha Kapoor) are shown marking their territories in a shared bedroom. Ratnam’s OK Kanmani (2015) featured a similar song sequence through the AR Rahman composition Parandhu Sella Vaa.
The real question to ask is: why did the filmmakers not dub Parandhu Sella Vaa in Hindi? The Humma Song borrows equally from Parandhu Sella Vaa as it tries to combine two entirely different elements: the playful mood of the narrative song sequence from OK Kanmani to the funky beats of Rahman’s Humma Humma hit from Bombay.
Are the two parts blending seamlessly? It’s not that they aren’t. It’s just that our collective conscience as music connoisseurs is pricking our ears at the thought, how could they meddle with a classic like Humma Humma?
The director of Ok Jaanu, Shaad Ali, appears to be attempting an act of homage to Ratnam, the film’s co-producer. Ali has worked as an assistant director on Ratnam’s Dil Se (1998) and as an executive producer in Raavan (2010). Ali remade Ratnam’s Tamil film Alaipayuthey (2000) in Hindi as Saathiya (2002).
The outrage over Ali’s attempt does raise the question: should a classic number be touched at all? Many make that error, remixing and rewording great old numbers in promotional videos and oddly placed sequences where they have no business existing.
In the upcoming Kaabil (2017), the heavily synthesized remix Haseeno Ka Deewana sticks out sorely as a standalone music video for the film’s promotion. The original tune is from Yaarana (1981). Rajesh Roshan is the composer of the original as well as the remix.
There is no formula of what works and what doesn’t. The recent appearance of Sunny Leone in the recreated version Laila Main Laila (Raees, 2017) is a fine example of taking the popular number Laila O Laila (Qurbani, 1980) and repackaging it with great sounds. Composer Ram Sampath replaces the drums and string instruments from the original’s overture and replaces it with trumpet and claps, leaping off from the stage setting of the original into the raucous crowd shown in the remixed version. He hasn’t changed the tune or altered the rhythm. He amplifies the chorus and makes the score grander. The music video suggests that the song is integrated in the film’s narrative.
In 2016, there were plenty of misfires concerning the recreation of old melodies. Ilayaraaja’s beautiful Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le (Sadma, 1983), sung wistfully by Indian classical vocalist Suresh Wadkar, was orchestrated with electronic beats and rendered in the soporific voice of Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi. Composer Amit Trivedi went with two versions of the classic, one in Arijit Singh’s dependable voice. Singer Suryaveer Hooja had also attempted a version Aye Zindagi in Prague (2013).
The music label T-Series, which holds the copyright for several old tunes, recreated not one but three popular tracks, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas (Blackmail, 1973), Aise Na Mujhe Tum Dekho (Darling Darling, 1977) and Mahi Ve (Kaante, 2002) in the film Wajah Tum Ho (2016). Singer Arijit Singh was quite vocal about the auto-tuning of his voice in the recreated track Dil Ke Paas.
Kala Chashma (Baar Baar Dekho), originally a non-film bhangra pop tune, worked twice as much despite the film’s poor reception. Another ’90s pop hit, Nachange Sari Raat by Stereo Nation, was revamped in the film Junooniyat (2016). The composers Meet Bros Anjjan took the hook line and Kumaar provided additional lyrics. The original still fares better.
Unlike some of these songs, which were not part of the film’s plot, DJ Chetas recreated Oye Oye, originally from Tridev (1989), in Azhar. The revamped version was inspired by true events from the life of cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin, but the song did not have the desired effect.
Like the title track of Dhoom (2004), which always makes a return for the better in its sequels, Jagjit Singh’s pathos-laden ghazal Koi Fariyaad (Tum Bin, 2001) returned as Teri Fariyaad with additional vocals by Rekha Bhardwaj in the sequel Tum Bin II. Composer Ankit Tiwari did a credible job with the original tune by Nikhil-Vinay.
The trend of tinkering with sacred melodies is unlikely to fade away in 2017. Commando 2 is reportedly recreating Hare Krishna Hare Ram from the 2007 film Bhool Bhulaiyaa. Do the math. A ten-year-old popular song is a classic worth revisiting for the next generation.