Nandu Bhende passed away last week. I didn’t know him well. But his father, thespian Atmaram was a strong early influence. In 1980, as an eager teenager, my partner, actress Shernaz Patel, and I managed a play with him, directed by my father. He was an absolute dude on stage, emoting frivolity and fury with equal élan. This unusual father-son relationship fascinated me.
Nandu Bhende had fronted many music bands during the psychedelic age
Here was Nandu, Bombay’s premier rock and roller belting out Western songs from the Doobie Brothers and the Doors. Fathered by Atmaram, the conventional God-fearing doyen of Marathi theatre. How in heaven’s name their twain possibly met, was one of life’s riddles.
Nandu had fronted many bands during the psychedelic age — like Savage Encounter, and Velvette Fogg. The late ’70s were a classic rock lover’s dream. Cassettes and LPs of Deep Purple, Led Zeppellin and Pink Floyd had made their way into Bombay’s music stores. No party pooper police spoiling open air rock shows with their, ‘Chala chala time zaala’ nonsense. My sizeable R150 pocket money was divided between canteen chai, matinee tickets and rock shows at Rang Bhavan. And Nandu Bhende strode the stages of discos like Blow Up, Slip Disc, and Bullock Cart like a true collossus.
Nandu came from a time when live music comprised a four-piece band. No frills, no show-sha, no fancy samplers or synthesisers, no major hi-tech electronics, no backing vocals, no swirling lights, no Coke Studio unifying musical worlds, no downloading, no copyright laws. Just four men in weird hairdos, flowery shirts and bell bottoms, playing guitar solos on Gibsons, singing songs of love, lust and lawlessness from distant lands. And in the audiences, much free love was expressed and much free drugs were consumed.
We all have that one lasting era that defines who we are — mine was this.
Cut to the present. As much as I seek not to sound nostalgic or dismissive, today electronica rules. I’m watching my goddaughter Ayesha groove to the king of the genre, David Guetta. The beat is unchanging, and the lyrics monotonous — “You shout it loud, but I can’t hear a word you say I’m criticised, but all your bullets ricochet you shoot me down, but I get up I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose fire away, fire away ricochet, you take your aim I am titanium” Maybe I’m just old fashioned. “You like these lyrics, Ayshu?” ‘Yeah, they’re awesome!” “The music’s a bit repetitive, na?”
‘Yeah…but I’ll be into something else next week,” she says nonchalantly.
See, I just can’t understand that. And possibly it’s a generational thing. Times have really changed. Bands have been replaced by DJs; iTunes may have unwittingly erased the rigour required to create a 14-song album. A single hit is enough to immortalise a musician.
Nothing is created to last beyond the following month.
When my goddaughter turns 50, will she look back at her youth and go teary-eyed when she hears Swedish Mafia House? Will she jump up at 65 and bop to David Guetta, while her grandkids watch with amusement?
Or will she have outgrown DJ Avicii by next Diwali?
All these and other musical issues concern me. As they did Nandu.
In the meantime, Nandu...Rock In Peace, man.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.