Everything we know about Tamma Tamma Loge, which has been remixed as Tamma Tamma Again for the March 10 release Badrinath Ki Dulhania, is not nearly as baffling as what the lyrics of the dance track mean.
We know that the song was plagiarised by Bappi Lahiri for Thanedaar (1990) from Guinean vocalist Mory Kante’s single Tama. We also know that composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal copied Tama as Jumma Chumma in Hum (1991).
We recently learnt from Tamma Tamma Loge choreographer Saroj Khan that lead actor Sanjay Dutt took 48 takes to match steps with his more proficient dance partner Madhuri Dixit. Tamma Tamma Loge also featured a dance move on chairs that was copied from the music video of Janet Jackson’s Miss You Much from 1989.
But what exactly is lyricist Indeevar on about? What is the significance of the words in the hook line “Tamma tamma loge, tamma tamma loge tamma”, which is repeated five times by the chorus? The catchy digital loop sounds mixed with the vocals of the singers created an irresistible dance track that was emblematic of the sound of the 1990s.
In the old days, composers equipped with a harmonium would sit with their lyricists and go back and forth over a tune until they cracked the perfect verse to match the metre of the rhythm. In 1992, AR Rahman’s soundtrack for Roja (which was dubbed in Hindi) combined the best elements of orchestral melodies with electronic sounds. Roja ushered in a new period of computer-generated music, leaving behind the old style of musical sittings.
The shift in compositional style and dependency on instant and catchy tunes in the ’90s ushered in a period of poetry that represented the street but was also often pedestrian.
In the Akshay Kumar starrer Dancer (1991), SP Balasubramaniam and Kavita Krishnamurthy sang the gibberish hook words Yeke Yeme, Yeke Yema, possibly inspired by Mory Kanté’s Yé Ké Yé Ké. The inscrutable words by Sameer had a soothing effect on Kumar’s character Raju, a down-and-out dancer.
With the arrival of David Dhawan’s Bol Radha Bol in 1992, the phrasing of words to fit the metre robbed many lyrics of their poetic quality. In Tu Tu Tu Tu Tu Tara, sung by Kumar Sanu and Poornima, Sameer’s lyrics defy comprehension, except that the seven syllables in the first line complements the second line of the verse “To do na dil ha-ma-ra.” With that easy adjustment, composers Anand-Milind served up a chartbusting tune.
Nonsense words and street lingo are as much a legacy of the ‘90s as formulaic storylines and ridiculous fashion trends.
Dhawan’s films have a record number of songs with the least emphasis on poetry. Songs such as Ui Amma Ui Amma (Raja Babu, 1994), Main Toh Raste Se Ja Raha Tha (Coolie No.1, 1995), Oonchi Hai Building (Judwaa, 1997), Jab Takk Rahega Samose Mein Aaloo (Mr and Mrs Khiladi, 1997), Taara Raara Raara Ra (Gharwali Baharwali, 1998), Kisi Disco Mein Jayein (Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, 1998), and Hai Hai Mirchi (Biwi No.1, 1999) trade poetry for polyphony and, in some cases, pure cacophony.
Dhawan’s films also have the distinction of featuring countless songs with double entendres, but that’s another list.
Govinda celebrated the seductiveness of his trousers inMeri Pant Bhi Sexy (Dulaara, 1994) and ripped off the shirts of a troupe of dancers in Main Laila Laila Chillaunga (Anari No.1, 1999). Karisma Kapoor spun around like a battery-operated toy to the electronic beats of Sexy Sexy Sexy Mujhe Log Bole (Khuddar, 1994). When she is propositioned by a dancer, her riposte through the lyrics was “F.O.”
Madhuri Dixit wished for a differently shaped moon in Idli Doo Idli Doo (Khel, 1992). Suniel Shetty stumbled about a garden trying to decipher the meaning of Haye Hukku Haye Hukku Haaye Haaye (Gopi Kishan, 1994). Kajol and Vikas Bhalla buzzed like bees in Hun Huna Re Hun Huna (Taqdeer, 1995). Kamal Haasan compared Manisha Koirala’s laughter to a telephonic ring in Telephone Dhun Mein Hasne Waali (Hindustani, 1996). Men made a pass at Raveena Tandon in Kaale Kaale Baal Gaal Goray Goray (Ziddi, 1997). Govinda went a step further by paying the ultimate tribute to Tandon’s smoky eyes in Ankhiyon Se Goli Maare (Dulhe Raja, 1998).
Veteran lyricist Anand Bakshi leapt onto the bandwagon with a sideways tribute to The Beatles in the song Meri Mehbooba in Pardes (1997) by noting, “O bloody, dy, dy, o blooda, da, da, o bloodu, du, du, what to do? O bloody, dy, dy, o blooda, da, da, o bloodu, du, du, We love you!”
Anand-Milind, among the foremost composers in the ’90s to encourage street-savvy lyrics, tuned into the urgency of the homeless beggar in Bara Aana De (Insaaf, 1997). The Bombay Hindi dialect influences the lyrics of such songs as Akha India Jaanta Hai (Jaan Tere Naam, 1992), Ruk Ruk Ruk Arre Baba Ruk (Vijaypath, 1994), and Aye Kya Bolti Tu (Ghulam, 1998).
In most of these popular songs, the lyrics have the simplicity, clarity and a nursery rhyme-like cadence. There is no usage of Urdu words and couplets. The songs sound like they could be written by anyone familiar with the basics of rhyme and metre. The ordinariness of the looped tunes results in their repeat-worthiness.
The meaning of Tamma Tamma Loge remains obscure because it does not need to mean anything to work. A dance track with cleverly synthesised beats and unsophisticated verse has rarely failed to work.
The ’90s were marvelously summed up by the song ABCD in the box office hit Hum Saath-Saath Hain (1999). The 26 letters of the English alphabet were sung in one long exhalation without interruption by playback singers Hariharan, Hema Sardesai, Shankar Mahadevan, Udit Narayan at a family picnic ditty. Anyone who has been to school could have written that stanza. You need barely any education to understand its meaning.