Musical memories

In Fanney Khan’s remixed ‘Badan Pe Sitare’, the real Mohammed Rafi fan is behind the scenes

The song is Sonu Nigam’s latest tribute to the legendary singer.

To mark Mohammed Rafi’s death anniversary on July 31, the makers of Fanney Khan released a revamped version of the hit tune Badan Pe Sitare from Prince (1969). In the August 3 release, Anil Kapoor plays Fanney, a failed singer and self-declared Rafi devotee who performs the song at an event in his residential colony.

The real devotee of the legendary singer, however, is off-screen: the vocalist of the remix, Sonu Nigam. Like the fictional Fanney Khan, Nigam has, in numerous interviews, called Rafi his guru and spoken at length about the influence of Rafi’s career on his own.

The retolled Badan Pe Sitare joins a long list of Nigam’s sonic tributes to his icon. Though the remix has some problems, Nigam isn’t one of them. His voice sits awkwardly in Kapoor’s throat, but if you were to listen to the audio alone, the sincerity of Nigam’s rendition shines through. This despite composer Amit Trivedi’s unconvincing re-arrangement and some unnecessary tweaks to the lyrics of the song – the word “aashiq” is replaced “fanney” in the second stanza.

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Fanney Khan (2018).

This isn’t the first time Nigam has recreated Badan Pe Sitare. The song was a part of the album series Kal Aaj Aur Kal, Nigam’s recreation of Rafi’s 100 greatest hits. Nigam also performed the song as part of his Rafi Resurrected world concert tour in 2008, in which he was accompanied by the Birmingham Orchestra.

Yet, Nigam said in an interview that he was initially reluctant about singing the track for Fanney Khan. “I basically was avoiding doing it [remixes] because I don’t like to tamper with the original songs anymore,” Nigam told IANS. “I’ve done enough of versions in my past. And it’s Rafi sahab’s song. Who wants to mess with it? He is my guru, he is my musical father. But Anil Kapoorji insisted and he requested me to do it.”

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Kal Aaj Aur Kal.
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An Evening in London - Rafi Resurrected.

Nigam was four years old when he performed his first Rafi song, Kya Hua Tera Vaada from Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin (1977). His father, the singer Agam Kumar Nigam, introduced him to the music legend, he told The Times of India in a 2013 interview . “Whenever I talk about Rafi sahab, I feel I’m talking about my father,” he told the publication. “Mujhe lagta hai Bhagwaan ne mujhe is dharti par Rafi saab ka danka bajaane ke liye hi bheja hai.”

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Mohammed Rafi versus Sonu Nigam Live.

Rafi’s influence on Nigam’s singing style is palpable. In an interview to Rajat Sharma of Aaj Tak, Nigam revealed that when he sang Sandese Aate Hain for JP Dutta’s Border (1997), people recalled Rafi. “People said I sing like Rafi-saab and that my voice would work well for such patriotic songs,” Nigam said.

While the compliment was huge, Nigam did not want to be typecast. This decision too bore his idol’s stamp. In the same interview, Nigam said that when he set out to make a career as a playback singer, one of the things he wanted to imbibe was Rafi’s versatility.

“I’d like to say this about my first Ustad [Rafi]. Just like Rafi saab had sung O Duniye Ke Rakhwale and then also sung a song like Sar Jo Tera Chakraaye. And then also a song like Chaahe Koyi Mujhe Junglee Kahe. So...as an artist and as his disciple, my endeavour has been to ensure the audience listens to my voice in a variety of genres. That they listen to me in a spiritual song like Kal Ho Naa Ho, a patriotic song and a comedy song and so on.” 

— Aap Ki Adalat (2017).

Nigam made a reference to Rafi’s versatility in another tribute video for Saregama Music, in which he listed the many genres that the legend had deftly tackled. “Bhajan, qawwali, love songs, wedding songs, sad songs, songs for Ramzan, songs for Rakshabandhan, patriotic songs, ghazals, semi-classical numbers, comedy songs. And I’m missing many genres,” Nigam said. “There’s no one like him.”

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Sonu Nigam's tribute to the Legend Mohd Rafi. Saregama Music

The luminary similarly comes up in many other conversations with Nigam – whether in the context of what he has learnt from Rafi’s singing or when he explains how Rafi modulated his voice and expressed an emotion.

Seven years ago, on Rafi’s death anniversary, Nigam paid homage to his idol on a music reality show, where he once again summed up what the musician meant to him. “Everyone is inspired from someone in their life, and when a person is an artist, the inspiration is often found in one’s guru,” Nigam said before embarking on his rendition of Rafi’s soul-stirring Main Yeh Soch Kar from Haqeeqat (1964).

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Sonu Nigam pays tribute to his idol, Mohammed Rafi, on X Factor India.
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.