• Paromita Vohra: Take it easy is the best policy

    Paromita VohraJan 15, 2017, 06:56 IST

    AR Rahman (right) gives fans a new version of his 1994 hit song, Take It Easy Urvasi
    AR Rahman (right) gives fans a new version of his 1994 hit song, Take It Easy Urvasi

    As AR Rahman’s MTV Unplugged updated reversion of Take It Easy Urvasi goes viral, it brings back happy memories of how this charming song entered our lives in 1994 and laconically set the pace for so many cultural changes that defined the decades that followed.

    First, it gave zero shrugs for the domination of the first-in-class topper all-rounder types over the rest of us vague-o’s. The insurance policy attitude to life was replaced with “Take it easy policy” — not a pose you were encouraged to strike in the average middle class family of the time.

    The droll humour of the song had insouciance and a streetwise slacker swag. “Even after showing off, if the girl doesn't look at you, take it easy policy,” it said, making you relax about what were supposed patriarchal humiliations.

    And there was Prabhu Deva! A guy whose baggy pants emphasized his comical stick figure body and whose dancing redefined fun, sexy and well, dancing! Along with Govinda, he heralded an era when dance, especially street dancing and B-boying, would transform physical culture. This loosey-goosey new Indian self and body who would enter the mainstream through a new democracy of dance and dance shows — exemplified by the film, Any Body Can Dance.

    Then, there were the lyrics. Not since the 1940s and 1950s had there been film songs with these madcap similes (remember that other song, Muqabla, where eyes were like strawberries?), these whimsical, even nonsensical mixing of English and Hindi and the entire mix and match contemporary experience of music, technology, street life, goods and services, politics and media images functioning as a metaphor for the libido and for desire. Such lyric writing is today the norm.

    This universe definitely pivoted around the musical sensibility of AR Rahman with its infinite mixture of styles and sounds. They say culture itself is a remix, and Rahman’s work foregrounded this truth in its very form. So many languages and cultures — traditional and contemporary — swirled kaleidoscopically in Rahman’s music that they both expressed our experience of a changing, globalising India but also infused us with that sensation in the most sensual way.

    From Kadhalan to Thiruda Thiruda the impact of this music, as the lyrics in Muqabla went, was that — “sex mere tan mein hua, mix mere man mein hua” (there was sex in my body and something mixing with my soul).
    Since then Rahman has become a rightfully gigantic cultural figure. Alongside, it has felt like his youthful and irreverent-but-serious energy was a little too often in the venerable service of soaring anthems, as befits a man who is called maestro.

    For Urvasi 2.0, he crowd-sourced the new lyrics and it has resulted in a smorgasbord of contemporary experience. We are asked to take it easy not only on being called bhaiya by a lover, but also in the face of demonetisation and Trumpification as well as losing battery in the middle of the sea. The masti and mirthfulness of the old young Rahmanverse brims over in this version.

    Through this interactivity with regular people, a connection of the heart between artist to audience, a template has suddenly become energetic and refreshed. In times where we have become rather sour-faced and ready to be righteous over everything from typos to opinions, it feels nice to have renewed that take it easy policy.

    Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at  www.parodevipictures.com

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