By Rahul Desai
Close your eyes. If you, like me, aren’t remotely familiar with the language, listen to the first playback song of Nagraj Manjule’s record-breaking Marathi film, Sairat. The lyrics are fairly self-explanatory, but it isn’t about the words. In five orchestral minutes, Yad Lagla, a soaring pine-fest of an Ajay-Atul composition, manifests the entire euphoric timeline of puppy love between its notes. Sweeping novels, epic musicals and towering three-hour-long cinematic extravaganzas have waxed giddy about the complexities of this phase; ‘love-at-first-sight’ has long been art’s most prolific breeder. But arguably no evanescent sound has storyboarded its essence the way this does.
Listen carefully. You sense a tale unfolding.
The cheeky overture, a 50-second-long burst of strings, trumpets and flute, signals the arrival of a long-awaited window; one heart is grabbing an opportunity. For two minutes, Ajay Gogavle’s cheery voice transports you into the body of a hopelessly infatuated teenaged boy. Even if you didn’t know about Parshya (Akash Thosar) and his crippling crush on the fiery upper-caste girl Archie (Rinku Rajguru), this portion evokes the spirit of an excited boy preparing to orchestrate a happy coincidence – reminiscent of an exuberant Sunil (Shah Rukh Khan) racing towards Goa station to “bump into” Anna (Suchitra Krishnamurthy) in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, with Udit Narayan’s celebratory ‘Dil Deewana’ ringing out his journey. You can sense Parshya’s head, too, throbbing with anticipation. He wants to look his best: if he’s going to make her see him, he must earn her condescension.
The third minute brings with it the piano, to temper a pulsating symphony of violins; he bathes, wears his finest and speeds towards his destiny. As soon as an outbreak of dhol-style drums elevates the song into its first crescendo, you know he has seen her. You know that, much like the instrument, a dramatic dimension has been introduced. You know time will stop.
The brief silence, followed by a wailing clarinet melting into the unrequited neediness of the flute, elicits ripples of an aftermath. Perhaps he has done something crazy, like jumping into a well to arrest – nay, demand – her attention.
As he walks back up the spiraling staircase, drenched to the bone, all eyes on him, the full orchestra – as if it were prowling in the bushes – comes to life. This peak encapsulates the sheer headiness of wilting across gazes. At long last, she has seen him. As he grins past her, one can imagine Archie’s adolescent face reflecting a rapid change of emotional gears: from disapproving to curious to bashful in ten unassuming seconds. A rambunctious tomboy feels the coyness of a lady. It’s one-way traffic no more. He has willed her to fall for him.
The song ends with a shy female voice taking the baton, humming its notes and closing out the loop; it’s now Archie’s turn to click past these stages. Riding into school premises on a Royal Enfield in aviator glares and a brand new suit is her version of jumping into that well. Her wild heart has stirred awake, and the drums in her head are louder than his. It makes no sense, but then, neither does leaping into muddy water after a shower.
Manjule continues marking each progressive milestone of this honeymoon period with a song: ‘Aatach Bay Ka Baavarala’, the second, is Archie’s own ‘Yad Lagla’ – peppier, less monumental, spirited, a modern quickie dotted with choruses of demure, old-school glances. It rises and falls with her barrage of life-is-beautiful moods, and establishes her quasi-dominant role in this gender-subversive little romance. With every smoldering, unbroken gaze of hers, it cheekily screams: You wanted me? Here I am. If his page was full of cute incoherent scribbles, hers bares generous and well-rounded cursives.
The third, the title track, is a more traditional and passionate ballad – it has both voices, sharing space and time, serenading each other. They’re finally on the same dreamy wavelength, feeling with equal intensity, behaving with heart-over-mind spontaneity, and riding on white horses into sunsets together. This piece represents the point of no return, where one decides that it’s humanly impossible to feel anything stronger than this.
Zingaat, the final song, more commonly known as the ear-wormy dance anthem of the year, is essentially the ultimate realization of surreptitious love: In a chaotic world, madness all around, boy and girl dance for – and to – one another, propelled by the clandestineness of it all. They shed all inhibitions, physically expressing themselves in the only primal way short of lovemaking: an electrifying sum-total of their whispery liaison. As they sneak away to a dark spot behind the house, to privately culminate their flight in the manner only two young hearts can, the music blends into the background – an ominous prelude to a lifetime of no songs ahead. It wanes into a mélange of familiar noise – as if posthumously scoring a memory, on revisiting the one incident that changed it all.
And change, it did. The moment forever becomes tinged with the horror of being yanked into adulthood. The music, both, literally and figuratively, stops. Life begins.
They stick together long after the magic dissipates, not because they’ve eloped and risked everything and everyone. But perhaps because they’ve felt far too hard and far too early to ever feel the same again. Letting go is too ordinary – and too modern – an option; it simply does not fit into their grandiose history of foolishness.
By roughing it out and growing together, by being unpleasant and brutally naked together, they respect the fleeting sanctity of sounds they once created. Perhaps they realize that the longer they stop singing – or listening to the music that created them – the stronger it feels when they begin again. Everyone hopes to begin again; maturity is the byproduct of quietly mourning, and not smiling at, the days of future past. Theirs, in a way, is truly a happy ending. Until it’s not.