Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Indhu (1994), Prabhudeva and the 'Gaana' genre

The title, I realize, sounds a bit presumptuous but this is not going to be a comprehensive post on the Gaana music or Prabhudeva. I just set out to register things that struck me while I was checking out the 1994 Prabhudeva starrer 'Indhu'.

It can be safely said that I was drawn towards the movie purely by my nostalgia for its songs, otherwise the movie's plot is so awfully all over the place. Youtube watching of all the song videos would have sufficed !. Deva's album for Indhu has a special fascination for me, I have very vivid memories of listening to them as a 8-9 year old and I knew all those lyrics by-heart back then. We were living in a close-knit neighborhood those days and our neighbor with a tape recorder played the album so many times that i practically sang along those lines with the speakers all the time. I remember that my mom always disapproved me of singing those verses aloud and now I understand why !. References to female body & sexual overtones are an essential feature of all the songs in the album. Almost all the songs in the album (except may be 'Metro channel') can be categorized under the filmy Gaana genre.

'Gaana' as a musical genre was born in urban slums and it even has a certain plausible dalit origin. When 'Gaana' songs made it into the cinema, they were tempered a bit to suit mainstream consumption. Even on that level, Vaali's lyrics for Indhu's album are so much over the board (pointing 'mainstream' again) making misogyny in filmy gaana an understatement. A few examples would be 'Ulla theriyum Nayudu hall', 'back a paatha bens car', 'nellu kutha edam kodutha maatikkuva oralukulla' etc. Films usually had one gaana song, usually shot as an item number but with so many gaana songs in the album, Indhu gains a representative significance. I think tamil cinema is well past its gaana glory .. gone are the days of Deva, the most prominent filmy gaana composer of the 90s.

Going back to Indhu the film, somebody should have been thinking of a good launch vehicle to sell Prabhudeva's excellent dancing abilities and forged together this particular film. By 1994, 'Chikku bukku Rayile (Gentleman)' and 'Lalaakku dol dappi ma (Suriyan)' have made Prabhudeva a familiar face among the tamil audience and hence somebody was encouraged to really invest in a whole movie selling his dance repertoire. 'Indhu' is his first movie in a lead role and he had a decent acting career to show off following this film. If we were to put in some kind of detailed research into all those songs that Prabhudeva danced to, we might be able to theorize the (urban ?!) youth culture of the 90s in Tamilnadu. More than Rajinis, Kamals or any other film stars during his times, I think these will offer a lot of insight in that direction. Just think of the long list we will have - Indhu, Raasaiya, Mr Romeo, Kaathalan etc. I also always thought his dance moves carried a certain trashiness (can't put forward with a better word - i actually mean inelegant), they were quite fast & hence difficult to follow, may be they were choreographed intentionally to be inimitable, at least in the most famous numbers that i could recall he wore baggies or lungi-pattapatti combo when he danced. I would like to associate these with the specific audience his songs (and movies) addressed, thereby pointing again to the youth culture of the 90s.

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