What do Hindi film students sing about? Attraction and hook-ups, Punit Malhotra’s high-school movie Student Of The Year 2 suggests. Bollywood’s older campus films have provided a more diverse set of student songs. The best ones contain specific references to key moments of campus life.
One such track, which transcended its campus setting and became an anthem of sorts, is Aal Izz Well (3 Idiots, 2009). The title and lyrics are tied to the theme of Rajkumar Hirani’s film. Swanand Kirkire writes that it’s useless to stress over the future (“What does a hen know about its egg?/Will it hatch or get fried on a pan?”), so it’s better to let go and chant, all is well. Shaan, Sonu Nigam and Kirkire’s spirited singing complements the quirkiness in the lyrics.
A different take on the sentiment is Dum Laga (Dil Dosti Etc, 2007), The song suggests that the solution to all problems is a few puffs. Raam Goutam’s lyrics cover the stress of studies, new relationships, watching pornography, hitting on a professor’s sister-in-law, leaving the campus at night to buy cigarettes and drinking local spirits (we hope we’ve covered the lot).
A dreamier alternative to the rowdiness of Dum Laga is Kya Karoon (Wake Up Sid, 2009). The heart sings slowly that life feels slightly euphoric these days. The emotion in Javed Akhtar’s lyrics is mirrored in the feathery-light acoustic blues of the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy composition.
In Rang De Basanti (2006), lyricist Prasoon Joshi superbly encapsulates the heady years of campus life with three words: “Masti ki paathshala”. AR Rahman’s music and production have zing and verve and are as unpredictable as Joshi, who punctuates the usual imagery of these kind of songs with absurd words that don’t always make sense – sulphuric acid bubbles in the heart, he writes. But he also writes that clarity in romance is arrived at only after going through practicals.
Most of these songs have the entire campus come together in party-like situations, and thus double up as dance numbers. A popular example is Sunny Sunny (Yaariyan, 2014), where Yo Yo Honey Singh finds a way to bring alcohol and women into a song for college kids to a party they cannot afford. A less-manicured example where the anything-goes spirit of college parties come across better is O Teri from F.A.L.T.U (2011).
A more enduring example is Pappu Can’t Dance Saala (Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, 2008), which is a dance number meant for a college party. The lyrics, by director Abbas Tyrewala, include references to college culture. The song revolves around the proverbial rich guy who is a dream catch for the campus’s women but is a “Pappu” (a flop show) at dancing.
There is a lot of time to fall in and ponder over love during the teenage years. A number of high-school and college songs are about love, though they aren’t exactly romantic songs.
The funky and fun Koi Mil Gaya from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) introduces the Veronica of the college, but its lyrics are ultimately about the rush of finding a new crush. Sameer writes: “What has happened to me? Am I lost? Was I crazy before or did I become crazy now? What do I say, friends? I have found someone.”
Chori Chori from Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar (2007) is performed by a bunch of boys who tease their classmate who has just fallen in love. Uh-Oh-Uh-Oh (Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, 2011) is a romantic duet as well as a song in which the chorus is performed by the leads’ friends, making the sequence resemble one of those usual celebratory campus songs.
A standout here is Love Karo (Ishq Vishk, 2001). The campus’s resident love guru Rocky (Yash Tonk) and his acolytes sing about ways in which women need to be wooed. Sameer’s criminal advice includes: follow your crush, find her whereabouts and text sweet nothings to her mobile number. The women rightfully protest. Although the song’s references are sexist and hopefully dated, the back-and-forth banter and the sequence’s vibe and choreography keep the fun alive.
College is a time when the possibilities appear endless. This limitless joy and confidence come through in songs in which the lyrics are conquering the world through sheer awesomeness. Yahan Hain Hum Sikandar (Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, 1992) is a good example. Majrooh Sultanpuri writes, we are the kings here, and if we want, we shall have everyone in our pockets.
No aspect of teenage angst is missed by Sultanpuri, whose lyrics waltz through ideas such as, the world is our oyster, our enemies will fear us, our parents and teachers cannot stop us, it is fine if we are misunderstood, and one day, the beautiful women will realise our worth.
A more recent example of such a song is Chale Jaise Hawaein (Main Hoon Na, 2004). Here, the lyrics do not speak of how fantastic the youth collective is, but are meant for the sassy hero and heroine to express their individuality.
Alright, but do these kids ever study? Though the songs do glance over the pressure of studying in a line or two, seldom are they entirely focused on academics.
Here comes Karan Johar to the rescue. His Student of the Year (2012) has an entire song about studying: Ratta Maar. The song is not the film’s most memorable track, and its message isn’t exactly life-affirming (“mug up the lessons”), but at least, it touches upon the most important feature of our teenage years.