In Anurag Basu’s new offering, Ludo, a mad cacophony of events turns some people’s lives upside down. And the moment you hear a gangster Sattu bhaiya (played by Pankaj Tripathi) listening to the song, ‘O Betaji, O Babuji (from Bhagwan Dada-Geeta Bali starrer Albela; 1951), you know the filmmaker has set the tone of his quirky crime drama.
In fact, of late, employing old Hindi film songs seem to have become a powerful leitmotif to prop up certain emotions, magnify contexts and also evoke nostalgia in web shows and films. And of course, the audience’s familiarity with such chartbusters also goes a long way.
Director Ram Madhvani incorporated Balika Badhu’s song, Bade Achche Lagte Hain in his latest show, Aarya (besides Akele Akele Kahan Ja Rahe Ho from An Evening in Paris for a kidnapping sequence). Hansal Mehta’s Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story saw Mithun Chakraborty-starrer song, I Am Coming (from Paap Ki Kamaee; 1990) making its way into the narrative. Sacred Games, too, featured Main Na Bhoolunga (from the 1974 film, Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan) in season 1, and Dharti Kahe Pukaar Ke (from Do Bigha Zameen; 1953) in season 2.
While Basu feels Albela’s song was “apt for the situation [in Ludo],” for Mehta, the song, ‘I Am Coming’ was a part of a tribute of sorts. He says: “In a lot of ways, our show is homage to the 80s and 90s, and that includes the sub-culture of those times. That’s why we didn’t pick up any so-called elitist, chartbuster number.” And Madhvani’s idea was to use Bade Achche Lagte Hain to express “every human emotion.” “We also incorporated it in the script keeping in mind that Tej’s character (played by Chandrachur Singh) loves old Hindi music,” he says.
In the past too, Sriram Raghavan’s Johnny Gaddar (2007) had featured the iconic hit, ‘Mora Gora Ang Laile (from Bandini; 1963), while Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota featured Nakhre Waali (from New Delhi; 1956). Also, Aanand L Rai employed Ja Ja Ja Bewafa (from Aar Paar; 1954) in Tanu Weds Manu Returns to showcase the fact that “despite all the cracks, a husband and wife are, somehow, still connected.” The filmmaker also used Kajra Mohabbat Wala (from Kismat; 1968) in Tanu Weds Manu.
Nostalgia, of course, plays a big part. “The song (Bade Achche Lagte Hain) is an absolute hit with viewers of all ages, for its nostalgic and sentimental value. It is mellifluous and brings out so many emotions. The idea was to strike an emotional chord with the audience,” says Madhvani, who – “without resorting to the crutches of flashbacks” – wanted to use a nostalgic song to keep Tej’s memory alive.
But what value does an old song add to the narrative? “Besides nostalgia, they evoke certain emotions and create imagery, depending on the situation that they come in during a narrative,” says Mehta, adding: “But when you pick up old songs, I am against them getting remixed or recreated. Those melodies must be used in the original format, the way they were supposed to be heard.”