Something which has worried me since 2004 is Euphoria’s Maaeri. Is it actually an all-time great song, or do I just think so because it was lucky with its timing and came out just when me (and my batch) were in the grip of teenage angst and susceptible to any decent song about pain, lost love, and fickle/ missing/ unattainable women. When you’re in an engineering college where the education sucks, the extra-curricular scene is a wasteland, and there isn’t a single woman worth talking to (and not that many men either); hearing other people sing about being crushingly alone or having lost the love of their life provides the schadenfreude necessary to keep you going through those four years. And after four years of exploiting your angst, the song sticks with you and gives ou goosebumps even when you’re in a college full of strong junta, or have a job you enjoy, or have a darling girlfriend.
So as I was saying the question of whether Maaeri was actually a great song or just a lucky song that exploited our generation’s collective teenage angst when we actually had teenage angst plagued me. Finding an objective answer to this question was of vital importance, otherwise any Best Songs of All Times list we prepared could never be accurate. At one time, I seriously considered having a son just so I could shield him from Maaeri through his formative years and make him listen to it only once he had gotten over his teenage angst. In this way I would have a controlled environment in which to test the emotional appeal of the song. Eventually I realised that this would be child abuse, and besides, I could do it to anybody else’s son instead. If he too would respond to it by becoming senti, getting down on his knees and singing along loudly, we would have proof that Maaeri was actually a great song for all times and not just for our generation.
But this week, over a long conversation with my parents, aunt and cousin-in-law (the one who my cousin eloped with, thus bringing honour to the family), I think I’ve settled the question once and for all and so raising my own children or kidnapping other peoples’ won’t be necessary. Maaeri is in fact an all-time great song.
I realised this when I compared Maaeri to another song from the same time that also played heavily on teenage angst – Chaandni Raatein (youtube link, embedding is disabled). That had angstmax lines like दुखिया आँखें ढूँढ रही हैं कहीं प्यार की बातें (these miserable eyes are trying to find something about love anywhere). But the song didn’t even need that – the chorus was enough.
चांदनी रातें, चांदनी रातें / सब जग सोये हम जागें / तारों से करें बातें
(On moonlit nights, while the whole world sleeps, I stay awake and talk to the stars).
It just lays on the angst and pathos. It’s the senti engineer’s kryptonite. And if said senti engineers weren’t cynical enough to lay on the booze and weed, but not despo enough to pile on to women from Bhatinda (pronounced Bathinda), they pretty much had to spend their nights sitting around in the lawns loudly and tunelessly yowling Chaandni Raatein.
So back in the innocent days of the early 2000s – before global financial crises, before extraordinary rendition, before DJ Aqeel even – Chaandni Raatein had teenage angst well in its grip and was applying the olive press treatement too. But where is it today? Nobody remembers it. When I did remember it, I realised that it no longer affected me the way it used to.
But Maaeri is still going strong. The song (with or without the video) still gives me goosebumps. If only the fresh batch at IIMB weren’t such maggus who never came to L-Squares, we could do further tests and see if they dropped to their knees and started singing whenever it was played. I bet they would, despite all the magguness.
And now, the video:
You know, the video leads to another insight. It is very cliched, but the genius of Pradeep Sarkar is that he deploys familar tropes so effectively that an entire story can be told in a six minute video. You can see that in the Piya Basanti video too, and the Aana Meri Gully video (which even without the storytelling is awesome just by virtue of having young cute Sandhya Mridul in it):