Mumbai voted yesterday. I did not because I don’t have a voter ID owing to my nomadic lifestyle. Also, being a self-proclaimed elitist, the idea of queuing up in this sweltering heat to vote for the best-amongst-the-worst candidate didn’t seem too appetizing. I was happy to stay home, listen to music, and reread Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Of Love And Other Demons (May he rest in peace). But, that’s not to stay I haven’t had a brush with Election 2014. Here goes my story!
It was a frantic, late-night call from a friend. A premier news channel of the country wanted me to come up with an election-themed song that would be aired across their network. It sounded like a challenge. And, I almost gave my nod. They threw around terms like women’s empowerment, literacy, safety, health standards, and I thought to myself that ‘here is something worthwhile and honest, unlike anything Bollywood would ever be able to offer!’ They also said they’ll shoot a video. It sounded too-good-to-be-true! I wasn’t looking at making money out of it; after all, I’m a good citizen of the country.
I was just glad that I’d be able to make a difference, in whatever little way possible. I excitedly shared a plan with them- zeroing in on a concept, composing and programming the track, recording it, mixing and mastering it. Now, I wasn’t going to make any profits, but I wasn’t going to pay out of my pockets for this, was I? So, they came up with a solution. They asked if I already have a ‘ready’ track on any of the lofty themes, reminiscent of the Gandhi scion’s much-entertaining interview with The-nation-wants-to-know Goswami, they’d mentioned earlier. Being the honest person that I am, I told them I didn’t and connected them to a rapper friend of mine who writes fantastic issue-based poetry. He seemed quite kicked about it, and I was glad to help. He called me the next day and said it wasn’t happening. Why? They refused to pay even a dime!
I’m sorry, what? Are we supposed to use our own resources to spread awareness about issues that have not been adequately addressed all these years by any of the parties in power, ensure increased voter turnout, ask people to vote ‘wisely’, while political parties use private funding and taxpayers’ money to propagate their vacuous manifestos and warped ideologies? Tell me, is that fair at any level? Airtime is equal to money. Ad-space on every channel is bought by advertisers.
News channels, therefore, earn revenue by airing campaign-commercials of various political parties. So, why not use some of that money to create something honest, something that’s not affiliated to any particular party’s beliefs, something that’s of the people, by the people, and for the people? Isn’t that what democracy is all about? There was a time when the country’s nightingale’s rendition of Ae Mere Waatan Ke Logon, dedicated to the martyrs of the Indo-Chinese war, had famously moved a Prime Minister to tears. Now half a century later, it serves as a campaign song for an aspiring MP from Ranchi- ‘Ae Ranchi shahar ke logon, chunav ko samjho chunauti, chuno aisa saccha sathi jaise Amitabh Choudhary’.
Go figure! Well, if this is the sort of campaigning you wish to do then please pardon me. Umpteen popular songs masquerade as bhajans. Please feel free to abuse them in order to further your political ambitions. You might have sold your soul, but I still respect my art. The BJP dropped its campaign song sometime back because it’s ‘too harsh’. Perhaps, for the rest of the election season, their poster boy PM candidate’s cheerleaders can sing ‘Ooh la la ooh laa, tu hai mera fantasy!’ or, ‘Bharat ka Prime Minister banne ke liye, aaya biwi aur ghar-baar chhod chhadke!’