In my opinion, 90s was a decade which can be termed as THE transition phase for our country – economy got opened, elections were no longer “once in 5 years” affairs, movies witnessed the start of digitization and cricket became a religion with the emergence of its GOD. Or in other words, I thought so because it is the decade when I went through the biggest transition period of my life – from a kid to a teenager to an adult. There are so many events belonging to 90s which, although forgotten by most, I still cherish and see as a turning point in some way or the other.
One of them was the legendry myth of Attaullah Khan – a voice which swept through the entire city I lived in. I realized the existence of this phenomenon when I heard the song for the very first time – Accha aila diya tune mere pyar ka. This song was everywhere – be electronics shop downstairs, sweet’s shop in the next lane or Ganesh Ji (world’s most unique public transport vehicle which had the official capacity to fit in 10 but could actually fit in 40), any marriage function, radio or any place which was not in vacuum.
The song became an instant hit amongst the kids because of its parody – Kaccha sila diya tune mere yaar ka.
Slowly more songs started coming out from an unknown closet – main duniya teri chhod chala, jara surat to dikhla jana (please mail me if you want the parody of this song because its censored), wafa na raas aayi, tujhe ho harjai, Ishq mein hum tumhe kya batayen and few more.
I started wondering. Who is this guy? Why is everyone playing his songs? Which is this movie? Music album concept was rarity in those days.
Answer lied in a smart marketing strategy played by T-Series. In those days when HMV had near monopoly in the music cassette industry, T-Series changed the dynamics of the industry. First T-Series were blamed for selling pirated cassettes. I do not have anything to say about these allegations. Then they were blamed for selling dubbed songs – songs sung by greats were dubbed in the voices of new singers and sold. I never say anything about any allegations. T-Series’ cassettes were way too cheap as compared to HMV’s – Rs. 10 compared to Rs. 25. I am very certain about it. Agreed that quality of T-Series’ products was not match for the originals but in an age when entertainment was a scarce commodity, who cared about the quality. People care about the quality when they have sufficient choices at their disposal. In scarcity, whatever comes is welcome.
T-Series played its second card. A story started making rounds – Attaullah Khan loved a girl but she ditched him and married someone else. Ataullah khan went in her marriage ceremony and shot her dead. Hence he was jailed. Yes, a murderer being jailed in Pakistan was believable in those days. But since he killed for his love, he should not be punished. It was girl’s fault as she ditched him. Loving someone was never a crime. Ditching someone is. Hence Attaullah Khan was innocent. Gulshan Kumar was trying his best to get Attaullah freed. He was spending truck loads of money for this purpose. Gulshan Kumar needed help, our help.
Hence everyone was expected to buy those cassettes in order to help Gulshan Kumar. One of the shopkeepers in my area actually started collecting money so that he could send it to Gulshan Kumar. If you find it unbelievable, few people actually donated money. Just that that shop owner’s visit to alcohol shops increased in those days.
Even a movie was made on this story – Bewafa Sanam. Gulshan Kumar launched the future of bollywood in this movie – Kishen Kumar. This made my father worried for his job. He was working for HMV – the market leader in music cassette industry in those days. He told me “If future of bollywood is Kishen Kumar, I am worried for its existence in few years. No bollywood means I will soon be out of job” The movie also featured Shilpa Shirodkar before she ballooned and her career crashed. Just that there were no songs under the waterfall for her this time.
Movie was a super-hit at least in my city. Some of the cinema halls showed it for weeks. Some of them ran it for months. We heard that part of the revenue generated by the move would go for freeing up Attaullah Khan. People happily went for watching the movie saying “If my entertainment can result in some innocent’s release from jail, I don’t mind spending money.”
I could never understand the logic. A murderer is a murderer. In the story, Attaullah murdered someone in cold blood. How could he be innocent?
As time passed by, Attaullah Khan was forgotten or shall I say his fame died a natural death. With the quality of songs improving or people said so, with scarcity of entertainment reducing hence everyone starting to look at the quality of entertainment, with cable network spreading its wings, with internet and with globalization, we had new products to enjoy and new parameters to evaluate them. Same people who enjoyed Attaullah Khan’s songs termed them crass within a few years. He was buried in anonymity.
Several years later while utilizing my employer’s resources to increase my knowledge which wasn’t related to work, I thought about Attaullah Khan. I searched for him. I wasn’t surprised to know that his story actually turned out to be a myth. He turned out to be a folk singer at the other side of the line which was created in 1947. But his myth played a huge role in the decade of 90s – it helped T Series eating up the market share of HMV. It will actually make a very interesting case study.
Almost two decades later, I still enjoy those songs, the music, the voice, and most importantly the lyrics
Ae Lahad apni matti se kah de, daag aane na paaye kafan pe.
Aaj hi humne badle hain kapde, aaj hi hum nahaye huye hain!!!
PS: I take bath and change my cloths every day.