There I was sitting in front of my laptop, googling for ‘Songs released in 1995’ as part of a writing assignment. The point of the assignment was to listen to a song that was released in the year you were 13 years old and then to write down about the memories that were triggered by it.
To be honest, I don’t remember much of my 13th year or for that matter even my 11th and 12th years. Every time I think of those years I just remember feeling the loneliest I have ever felt in my life. No dreams, nothing to live for, the darkest years of my life. I was a bit cynical to begin with. I mean I know songs have been very important in my life but how can they bring back memories. How can they when I don’t even remember what songs I listened to back then. I could give a list of songs I listened to after the age of 14 but 13?!
I was surprised to find so many songs Mercy by Diana King, Be My Lover by La Bouche, Cotton Eye Joe by Rednex, Scatman, You Are Not Alone (the irony!!) by Michael Jackson, Akele Hum AKele Tum, Rangeela, Karan Arjun, DDLJ and so many more, which have stayed with me over the years. But my biggest surprise was to find the movie Bombay was released in 1995.
Directed by Mani Ratnam, “Bombay” a Tamil movie also released in Hindi was a movie about a Hindu man marrying a Muslim woman and the difficulties they face during the Hindu-Muslim riots of 1992 which happened in Bombay (Mumbai now). The music composed by A.R.Rehman had topped the charts back then and are being remixed even today.
Even though I had the cassettes of both the Hindi and Tamil versions of the songs, I was more familiar with the Tamil version. However the most powerful song in that movie and probably in my life was the one with no lyrics.
The Theme song of the movie – ‘Bombay Theme’, has been this song which meant so much to me over the years and that it was from that period of my life, took me by surprise. While some songs make you cry and some dance, this song stirs a lot of conflicting emotions in me. Sometimes it’s soothing and relaxing almost like a lullaby. At other times it makes me feel really sad and inevitably makes me cry.
I don’t know if the song reminds me of my aunt with whom I had gone to see the movie and is no more. Or perhaps seeing the city that I spent my childhood in, one I associated with my innocent days was tarnished with such brutal violence, paralleled to my own struggles at that point.
I remember wishing in those days that my parents had never shifted out of Bombay (Mumbai). Wishing desparately to go back to the time I last remembered feeling free and happy. Return to the place I was born and spent the first 6 years of my life. Return to my inocence.
This movie had taken away that happy go to place from me. Mumbai was not the same anymore. It too had to struggle with internal conflicts much like me. At some level this movie has had a much bigger impact on me than I have realised. Perhaps I somewhere began to realise that things weren’t hunky dory back in Mumbai as well. There were great days and there were bad days.
I still don’t remember much, but I remember that things started to look up from my 14th year. Playing volleyball for my school, hanging out with friends… I had stopped feeling sorry for myself, stopped feeling like a victim of destiny and started to push myself to be more in the present.
While Depression and anxiety have been my constant companions over the years, so have such songs and movies which continue to inspire and soothe me over the years. For every phase of my life I have had songs that defined that period and now I have one for a time in my life that’s still a bit vague to me. Somewhere it’s helped me to connect the missing dot of that time in my life.
Even though A.R.Rehman has gone on to win some prestigious awards nationally and internationally including the Grammys and the Oscars, to date I believe that this was his best work.