Will the real rockstar please stand up?
Rock music in Indian films seems to be more about style than substance, but the country's musicians are happy nevertheless
When Canadian rock band Nickelback sang, 'We all just wanna be big rockstars, live in hilltop houses, drivin' 15 cars,' they pretty much spoke for every ambitious youngster that ever lived.
Being a rockstar has always been about the attitude (first), the style (second), the fans (third) and everything else that follows.
And it's little surprise that Bollywood's once again waking up to that very attitude, both musically and otherwise.
The dictionary doesn't define rockstar, perhaps because it cannot really be defined. But tinseltown at least seems to have gotten the first few notes right.
Thousands of youngsters reaching out to a dreadlocked Ranbir Kapoor, who is galvanizing choruses to a distorted guitar, is almost like ensuring a full show from the very beginning.
The music obviously follows.
Imran Khan in Delhi Belly
From Imtiaz's Rockstar to the Rock On boys, who are all set to bring back 'Magik' into our lives, to the makers of Manorama: Six Feet Under, who are now set to 'Rock' The Shaadi, rock is back in with a bang in Bollywood.
On one hand there's D K Bose that justifies an angered youngster's reasons to hurl abuses, while on the other there's Sadda Haq that speaks for the rights of the country's youth.
What's common within both the songs is that it gives the young guns a voice. A voice they have always been looking for and which rock music has always provided for.
Says composer Ram Sampath, "Rock is a way of life and it has always been about having something to say to the world. It is high on energy and music that is honest to its core.
Obviously people in Bollywood have realised how much of a connect something like this has with the youth of the nation."
Katrina Kaif in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan
So we suddenly see musicians like Sampath, bands like Indian Ocean and voices like Mohit Chauhan reaching out to a hardcore mass audience and being accepted like never before.
Adds Amit Kilam of Indian Ocean, which gave music to Black Friday and Peepli Live, "There was time in the '80s and '90s where we'd put on the television and strain to listen to someone other than the a few popular voices.
Today every song has a new, fresh sound. Stories are written for this kind of music. So as the Bollywood's story-telling undergoes a change, it's music will too."
Is it really rock?
Apparently, a famous producer once asked the band Indian Ocean if they could change the lyrics of their cult number Bandeh to suit the film.
Not surprisingly, they never met him again. Though many musicians strive to bring to the mainstream, sounds that were until now confined within a college concert or a music festival, others ask if rock music in Bollywood is real rock?
Arjun Rampal and Farhan Akhtar in Rock On
Says Venky from death metal band Bhayanak Maut (that recently composed a song for Anurag Kashyap's Shaitan), "I don't think Bollywood filmmakers are being true to what they really want.
This seems like a phase, but their core lies in commercial music which can never change."
Adds Sampath, who spearheaded the band Colourblind for over two decades before finally making the foray into Bollywood, "Rock music is not new in Hindi films. Even R D Burman composed rock.
But today people think having a guitar and screaming on stage makes you a rockstar. Bollywood tends to adapt to rock very superficially. But it is at least happening."
For someone like A R Rahman, his music transcends beyond the genre. But for independent musicians who have defined the rock scene, it's a trend that works in their favour.
Says Kilam, "When we did a Peepli Live, many people suddenly got curious about our music.
They started buying our albums. Rock music has always been in the periphery of Indian music, but never the centrestage. So if it's taking centrestage through such a popular medium, why not."
Adds Sampath, who zeroed in on his second film Rock the Shaadi after 12 different offers, "Even today I go out there and perform live.
Obviously, the response is a lot more enthused because there is a DK Bose to relate to. But I will always make music independently."
So, while Bollywood toys with its new obsession, all we can say is let the music play. After all, rockstars are not made everyday!