I’m a nineties guy.
The nineties were when I fell in love for the first time. And listened to Pehla Nasha over and over again.
The nineties were when I learnt to ride a bicycle. It was the time when Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander made every kid in school feel cool, like a hero who owned the world.
The nineties were also when I first had my heart broken. Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa made me sign up for music classes. My school already had a band, they didn’t have a drummer. So I learnt drums. For a month or so.
The good old nineties.
When Jatin-Lalit were the sound of music, at least for the young.
My top five films from the nineties were Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Andaz Apna Apna and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
But since I’m supposed to pick just one, I’d go with Kundan Shah’s delightfully entertaining Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, one of Shah Rukh Khan’s most pure and endearing performances ever.
It wasn’t the most original story. So it was all the more fascinating how Kundan Shah managed to make it so fresh and straight from the heart.
In spite of the fact that Ramesh Sippy’s Saagar was set in Goa too. The dynamic of the love triangle was uncannily similar to Saagar (which incidentally, is the first Hindi film I ever saw in a movie hall…Ega in Madras, maybe why these stories of unrequited love appeal to me most) but I’m pretty sure that Kundan Shah didn’t want to hide the source of inspiration.
Watch out for the yellow handkerchief that Kamal Haasan picks up during ’O Maria’. It’s the same one Anna has in her hand during the song Deewana Dil Deewana (Also just for fun, compare what Dimple is wearing in O’Maria and what Suchitra is wearing in Deewana Dil Deewana!)
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sunil lived on through Kundan (ahem!) in Raanjhanaa, who does exactly what Sunil does when he is going to the railway station to meet his childhood sweetheart after years. If Sunil engineers a flat tire, Kundan steals the spark plug. Sunil rides his motorcycle, Kundan his scooter. They both have the same energy, excitement, hopes and flowers for the girl they have been waiting for.
They weren’t the typical nice guys. They were capable of lying (Remember “Enter the Dragon club jahaan waiter log bhi plate phekte hai?!” “Ee!”) and pranking to impress the girl.
I love the scene when Sunil tells Anna Chris isn’t coming and takes her out only to get caught when he’s gone to get her ice cream. She screams at him and chucks the cone he got her, leaving him behind with his ice cream. He wants to throw the cone too but changes his mind and eats it anyway. It’s moments like that that made Sunil so relatable.
Saagar, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Raanjhanaa. Three generations. Same old story. Unrequited first love. The heroes were brats, under achievers, slackers… Who rather be bums than have a career, who let their lives revolve around the girl than figure out a way to make a living. They brought joy to people around them. Through music, through friendship, fun, song and dance. They are who we wanted to be growing up but forgot in the business of life.
I remember going in search of the navy cap in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa that Shah Rukh wore, rather unsuccessfully. I related to the character so much that it felt like the story of my life, more so because Shah Rukh Khan as Sunil spoke Konkani, a language I speak at home.
I still find myself singing ’Ai Kaash ke hum hosh main ab aane na payen’ when I’m on a date late at night. No road trips are still complete without us singing ’Aana mere pyaar ko’, ’Sachchi yeh kahaani hai’ (the genius of Farah Khan’s choreography) or ’Woh toh hai Albela’ (incidentally, SRK just tweeted that this is his favourite song).
Remember the moment when Sunil, after catching Anna kiss Chris, sits alone in the beach and plays a sad tune when Anthony Gomes (Goga Kapoor) notes “Lagta hai koi bahot sad hai re”. That is what heartbreak sounds like. Yes, The Moldau River.
The influence continued so much that when I wrote my first film almost 15 years ago, when I was 22, I named the character based on me Sunil in my debut film That Four Letter Word. It was a terrible film I ended up making, twice over seven years by the way, but it was all part of growing up.
But the slacker in me is still alive. He speaks through characters in my films. As Turiya (Manu Narayan) in Good Night Good Morning says: “All I want to be is to be a bum but be with the girl I love… and that she loves me.” Thankfully, this one worked. Ah well, sometimes we win.
So even today, when I sit to record music for my films, I can feel the train.
“Jungle se guzarti hui train. Ladki khidki se bahar dekh rahi hai… jhoomtey hue pedh (“Aur pedh pe baita hua ek bandar” “Chupp bey bandar”), aasmaan main uddtey hue panchi (“Haan, haan mujhe bhi dikh rahe hain”), parbaton se guzarti hui ek suraang… Aur whistle pe whistle maarta ek engine… Deewana… Dil Deewana…”