Alif, aka Mohammad Muneem, has long been singing Kashmiri songs, but his breakthrough came when he sang ‘Kya Karie Korimol’ on Coke Studio Bharat earlier this year. The song is both a satire on keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to wedding expenses as well as a lament by the bride on her imminent displacement. Sung in Kashmiri, it is set to different instruments and has the traditional wanwun, the haunting melancholic chorus so typical of Kashmiri songs. Alif has been an overnight star 20 years in the making, carrying forward the oral convention of the Valley, home to poets like Lal-Ded and Habba Khatoon. Alif sings of loss and longing too, whether in ‘Lalnawath’, where he is mourning the dead, or in ‘Ride Home’, where he is mourning the erasure of the arts from the Valley (with his collaborator from ‘Kya Karie Korimol’, the redoubtable Sufi singer and rabab player Noor Mohammad). Alif, who teaches Urdu poetry at Symbiosis, Pune, is an artist in the tradition of Kashmir but with an intellect that is global. It helps that the videos accompanying his songs are evocative. With frequent live performances and appearances on Coke Studio Bharat, Alif has brought Kashmiri music and poetry to the centrestage. At a time when sadness engulfs not merely the Valley but elsewhere as well, Alif’s songs provide a catharsis. ‘Malal lya hua’, about grief and regret, is a sentiment so universal that it requires no translation. Yet, here it is: “Darkness has promised a thousand promises/ Though its ways to love are hard/Do not seek anyone as your partner/Only He is your one true partner.” Alif writes his poetry in Urdu and Kashmiri usually in Srinagar, teaches in Pune and makes his videos in Mumbai, a practice that clearly makes him so appealing across India.
The Hero as Supporting Actor
In Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, Vicky Kaushal plays Kapil, a penny-pinching small-town husband with no particular skill other than keeping his wife happy—which he devotes his entire life to. In Satyaprem Ki Katha, Satyaprem (Kartik Aaryan) does all the housework while his mother and sister keep the home fires burning. And in the forthcoming Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, Rocky Randhawa, played by Ranveer Singh, has two occupations: being rich and building his physique. The first two films have done well at the box office. The third looks all set to be a hit as well. So, what’s common to all? The fact that the hero wants to be a “supporting actor” in his heroine’s life, to quote Satyaprem’s dialogue. This is not the metrosexual man or even the new-age man or the manchild, made so infamous by Ranbir Kapoor’s repeated iterations. This is a hero who is not afraid to take a backseat in his woman’s life, who cheerfully admits she is smarter than him, and who thinks loving her is an occupation in itself. That may well be a reflection on the state of the economy and the phenomenon curiously known as jobless growth, but Satyaprem’s story is the perfect example of it. His mother teaches garba and his sister runs a zumba studio. His father, who shares breakfast duties with him, has a history of failed businesses. Satyaprem has failed his law exams and decided academics—or indeed work outside the home—is not his cup of tea. He has no problems working in his father-in-law’s store or driving a car gifted by him. This is the supporting hero model first piloted in Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), where Salman Khan played supporting hero to the little girl who has crossed the border and has to be reunited with her family. Those looking for Hindi cinema to get its mojo back may well find in these movies a common thread.
Scene and Heard
Manish Chauhan was the subject of Sooni Taraporevala’s moving Netflix film, Yeh Ballet (2020), playing a version of himself. Now, a new documentary by Leslie Shampaine and Pip Gilmour follows the former street dancer from Mumbai who ended up as a professional ballet dancer in America. The documentary, Call Me Dancer, had its world premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival earlier in the year, and will be travelling the world. This is one story the world just cannot get enough of. It’s a pity though that English actor Julian Sands, who played the Israeli ballet master Yehuda Maor, in Yeh Ballet, died this year. He went missing while hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains, northeast of Los Angeles, in January. His remains were discovered in June.