This letter is long overdue, by about 30-odd years. Sometime in the 1980s, with my lifetime subscription of India-West, I was introduced to the insightful reviews/comments of your reporter Rajiv Vijayakar covering Hindi films/music/lyrics in the Entertainment section. And it has been a class act.
In one of his articles, “How We Always Lose the Oscar Race,” he did not mince words, taking umbrage at “Newton,” as India’s official Oscar entry this year, with a refreshing and, in his case, not so rare, bluntness. He made a valid point, asking, “Do we HAVE to show the country & its people in poor light?” suggesting that the ‘Best Film’ award winner at the National Film Awards automatically becomes India’s official entry. That’s the best suggestion I’ve ever heard for India’s Oscar entry. Yet none of the ‘qualified’ people ever thought of this.
Having decried “Newton” as India’s latest Oscar entry, convincingly explaining why, he later titled his “Newton” review with: “Nothing Happened, Then Interval Came, Then Nothing Happened, and The Film Ended.” With that kind of capsule-review, why read the full review? Point already made.
The unprecedented success and ‘international’ recognition of music director A.R Rahman in Hindi films left me wondering if I was the only one to notice that the emperor had no clothes. Then Mr. Vijayakar, writing in another issue, in another ‘blunt’ write-up, “Style Overrides Substance in Songs,” wrote what was on my mind (and perhaps many others): “the fast-reducing public knowledge of Hindi and Urdu, reflected in Hindi film lyrics.”
Continuing with that theme about the new era of lyrics without depth, he wrote, “Along came music directors led by A.R. Rahman whose roots were not in Indian music, let alone Hindi film music. The modern lyricist was the man dressed in jeans, who was rarely well-versed in Hindi and Urdu literature, let alone Arabic, Sanskrit and more as in the past. The film director often had only a working knowledge of Hindi and maybe knew a smattering of Urdu…so have training, inclination or time for things like thought, content (‘become a thing of the past’) when all that is needed in this ring-tone era are smart hooks.” Mr. A.R. Rahman, meet S.D. Burman. Jai Ho!
Every time I read an article/obit related to India’s film industry by anyone other than Mr. Vijayakar, I feel his absence. For example, the recent obit of Shashi Kapoor said, “’Haseena Maan Jayegi’ opposite Babita who later became his sister-in-law…” Howler! Babita is married to Randhir Raj (Dabboo), Shashi Kapoor’s nephew, brother Raj Kapoor’s son.
Thank you, Mr. Vijayakar. Your taste in music and Hindi films is exquisite. In short, it is like mine.
Los Angeles, Calif.