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Rock gets funny & naughty


You don't need no Munni
Stop pulling on her chunni
We are the item guys
You don't need no Shiela
If you know what I meana
We are the item guys
Break it down
Aishwarya giving you kajra
Dancing with Abhishek and Paa
She does not have my jhatka
Inside my pants
I have my own dance bar

The lyrics on the left aren't the result of some random word play but the verse of a song, Item Guys, that Vir Das and his band Alien Chutney performed for the television show, RIPping the Decade. While the song and its rendition - Das and his band along with a few actors dancing, wearing fezzes and gajras - had many in splits, the music on the show was no rip off.

Das, Warren Mendosa, Johnston D Souza and Sidd Coutto are no slouches in the music department and can play Mozart just as easily as their original composition Mera Bharat Kahaan, an ode to the corruption infesting every aspect of life in India.

The genre of comedy rock has yet to take off in a big way in India. The music scene is still largely dependent on and driven by Bollywood. But in the West, it is very popular. The legendary Frank Zappa and Weird Al Yankovich are much-loved acts for their wisecracks. Zappa's 1974 album Apostrophe (') reached No 10 on the US music charts. Weird Al has sold over 12 million albums, having parodied everybody from Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga over four decades, and always with the blessing of the stars. Remember these lines, set to

Jackson's mega-hit Beat It?
How come you're always such a fussy young man
Don't want no Captain Crunch, don't want no Raisin Bran
Well, don't you know that other kids are starving in Japan
So eat it, just eat it

A few years ago, Devang Patel audaciously and successfully parodied international hits like Aqua's Barbie Girl, which became Chaloo Girl and Wes' Alane, which became Ae Raju. His albums, Patelscope 1, Patelscope 2 and Patelscope 3 had music that was 'inspired' but lyrics that were totally his own. The Ahmedabad resident, who is much in demand during the garba season, is now a busy Gujarati filmstar, but he was the closest India ever came to producing a Weird Al.

The emergence of Alien Chutney, a humourist metal band called Workshop and to some extent alternative indie bands like Tough on Tobacco and Helga's Fun Castle, who found fame with the reggaeinfluenced Smoke Some Ganja, suggest that Indians are getting comfortable about being ridiculed, funnily of course.

Bollywood loves to be sentimental but from time to time it has had us chuckling. Dil Dance Maare from Tashan was a mad hatter song, and Quick Gun Murugan (2009), a spoof on the Idli Western, had the wacky Mind It, sung by Mika and written by Ankur Tewari.

While bands like Alien Chutney and Workshop may not be burning the charts - neither is a Frank Zappa, yet - these bands have slowly won the laughs and hearts of the young college crowds they play for. Workshop has 7, 000 followers on Facebook.

Workshop is a creation of Sahil Makhija aka The Demonstealer of Demonic Resurrection. With "elements of metal fused with pop, bhangra, lavni, garba and topped with comedy" it's unlike anything you might have heard before. While metal flavours whatever Workshop create, the "musical bhelpuri" works both ways. It allows them room for humour but "a section of metal fans weren't pleased with what we were doing, " says Makhija. Their songs typically combine tongue-in-cheek lyrics like Here I am with a loaded gun, it's pointed at you baby here I cum with metal riffs. The band has released only one all-Hindi ditty, Bunty Aur Mallika, which turned out to be a hit:

Phir foothpath par Bunty ne dekha
Do badey babley - uske malik?
Mallika Sherawat
Ekdam fida uspe Bunty ho gaya
Babli peeche baithi thi, totally bhool gaya
Do bade babley, Hai re hu re
Mallika ne Bunty ko blow kiya kiss
Bunty ko speed breaker ho gaya miss

Even their first album called Khooni Murga (2009) plays on the title of a B-grade Hindi movie, and translates into English as
Murderous Cock.

The birth of Workshop took place at an ESP Guitar workshop where Makhija met with Hamza Kazi and Riju Dasgupta. After much wooing, Makhija finally agreed to jam with Kazi, and it was after an 'improv' performance at a college gig, where they made up vocals on the spot, that Makhija realised that there was some potential in being funny. Rajarshi Bhattacharyya joined them on guitar and the men in the blue overalls and yellow hard hats christened themselves Workshop. Bhattacharyya recently left them and has been replaced by Devesh Dayal.

Workshop writes for the frustrated, repressed Indian male. The lyrics certainly aren't meant for prudes and deal quite explicitly with subjects like masturbation and a horny Patel lusting for some action. Songs like Garba Gaandu, She Folked Up, My Jazz and I Came are a big hit with hormonally charged college boys.

"Irrespective of where we are, there are always men who are dying of sexual repression and it's through the raunchiness of the stage acts that those men can find an outlet, " says the 29-year-old Makhija with a straight face. "I Came is my favourite from Khooni Murga, " he adds, teasingly.

Surprisingly, the liberal use of cuss words hasn't earned Makhija any heat from listeners or their parents. "I played Garba Gaandu for my parents' friends and they were all on the floor laughing. All of us either use or have used words like gaandu while talking to our friends, " he says.

Das, like Makhija, wears several hats. He's a comedian, Bollywood actor and runs his own comedy consultant company Weirdass: The Vir Das Comedy Company. His forte is words but he fancies his musical prowess and not only writes the lyrics but the chords too, and then has his band follow his lead. Alien Chutney recently recorded a live album at Mumbai's Blue Frog. Their sound is more pop than rock, softer, and with cleaner, funnier lyrics.

This is how they do it in the white, white place
Brad and Angelina adopt every race.
Every single baby have a different face
This is how they do it in the white, white place

For Coutto, who plays drums, Das was the main reason for joining Chutney. "I've been a fan of Vir for 8 or 9 years now, " Coutto says. "I like the humour more than the opportunity to play music in this band. I loved writing songs for HFC and TOT. But here in Chutney I'm playing the drums because I like Vir and want to work with him. Sometimes I think that the mother ****** has gone and got great musicians to play chutiya songs," laughs Coutto, whose humour is of the same vintage as the television comedy show South Park.

Coutto, who was part of both Tough on Tobacco and Helga's Fun Castle, describes TOT as a "humour-tinged, pop-rock-reggae sextet from Mumbai". HFC, more a jam band than a structured one, broke up in 2008, but not before they managed to release an album, Thank You, Come Again. Tough on Tobacco, whose first album is called Happy Goat, is taking a sabbatical from touring but will release more music in the future.

The yet-to-be-named Alien Chutney album is diverse and leaves no demographic untouched. There's a ballad about seducing your sabzi walli, a rock song about Delhi girls versus Mumbai girls, a hard blues number about Haryanvi men, a classic punk song about man-boobs, a tribute to Bollywood, a love song for Parsis, a serial killer metal song, a pop song, a rap number and even a Sufi track. Like Das says, "Everyone can be made fun of."

Reader's opinion (1)

Kanwal BatraJun 20th, 2011 at 15:31 PM

something new to me? Or is it that the childhoood lingo is coming back.

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