BHOOM BHOOM WORLD CUP
More than a year ago, when I first started mulling over my proposed thesis for my Film Studies degree, I was interested in creating something “Pakistani.” Around that time, I started researching on films being made by yuppies and burgers like myself, to get an idea of both what topics were being pursued as well as the scale of production that was being achieved.
During that time, I ran into two films – Freedom Sound and Slackistan. The former, despite being advertised several years ago, never seemed to make it beyond a trailer. The latter gained a lot more fame, and a lot more notoriety, hailed for being the renaissance of a new idea of Pakistani cinema, and derided for being another piece of elitist trash.
For me, as a future filmmaker, it was exceedingly difficult to have an objective opinion. When I viewed them as my peers, I felt the need to support them, as their efforts were brave cries in the oppressive barrenness of independent Pakistani cinema. When I viewed them as competitors, or an arm-chair critic, I sneered at their English-medium, insular, trying-too-hard to be hip demeanor. I was struggling however to come to terms with what was wrong about these films without allowing my own insecurities or biases to filter through.
Now if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might have heard me go on about intertextuality. One of the concepts that I came across while reading on this idea was how texts and ideas traveled from the core to the preiphery, or to put it crudely, west to east.
…the first step in this process as one where “the foreign texts which become known in the original language are perceived as “strange” and as belonging to the elite by the domestic audience.” Lotman argues that once the periphery becomes saturated with texts from the center it begins to master the language, create its own adaptations and translations until it begins to “bombard” its own texts at other structures, including the former center.
This was the point the metaphorical penny dropped for me. The problem with Slackistan and Freedom Sound wasn’t entirely that they were in English, or catered only to the elite. It was that they were being presented in genres and visual styles which were as yet alien and foreign to the native audiences, and thus became associated with the elite.
On a personal level, this realisation was critical in conceiving both the plot and style for my own film.
But on a more general level, I felt the need to return to this idea recently. It happened after a chance discovery by @Shahidsaeed sparked a viral epidemic of the youtube kind, and after a little over 500 views in more than two weeks, Asif Khan’s epic “Boom Boom World Cup Song” hit over 3000+ views and counting literally overnight.
When I first started tweeting this enthusiastically, a few people complained that I was taking the piss out of what was an innocent and earnest effort. A trip to the song’s youtube page shows a combination of either condescending reactions, or outright abuse. When the discussion of this song entered the Elite/Almost Elite strata, there were mournful observations of how our population felt the need to make sounds in English. Although I did not come across it personally, I am sure a lot of people would have also despaired about where our proud heritage is going now that the poor/middleclass/masses believe that they need to make such songs in English.
All the reactions betray certain chutyapay (for lack of a better word) amongst us all.
For starters, a vast majority of us consume such fluffy, trivial and low-brow entertainment by the busload, be it Shakira’s songs or Kim Kardarshian’s life. Those who don’t do so, believe that unless it is to do with revolutions and poverty, ANY low-brow art is worthy of derision. Thus when there is a local version of low-brow tripe such as Mr. Asif’s entry, there is a coalescing of opinion seeking to condemn it.
What such condemnation obfuscates is the real value of this song.
Cricket is a colonial sport, and its adoption, assimilation and transformation by the colonised is well documented. Young boys on Pakistani streets don’t yell “Howzat” they yell “Awutzayyy!” They have changed “Well played” to “Well shot” “Well Ball” or simply, just “Well.” The sport’s commentary, regulations, jargon are all in English, and are (at least in pakistan’s case) not translated into local languages, but taken as is. Cricket is also one of the few cross-cutting, hierarchy defying features of Pakistani life.
Which means that Asif’s song is written in English not because it is an attempt to enter the Billboard 100, but because it seeks to speak in the language of cricket as it is understood in Pakistan.
More importantly, it is a great example of the periphery ‘bombarding’ the center with its own texts, returned after an attempt to master them. In that context, we can’t start judging this song against Faiz’s poetry or Beethoven’s Fifth, because that would be comparing high-brow apples with low-brow oranges. Instead, this song has to be viewed within the genre of the “Official Tournament Song” which are pop ditties created for every major sporting event. By and large, these songs are nothing special. The greatest cricket world cup song is perhaps Jazba Junoon, which perhaps because of its overuse, generally ranks as one of Junoon’s worst songs for me. But that is only when I judge that song against the rest of Junoon’s output.
Tournament songs are not meant to be works of art, they are meant to be a celebration of the event, a condiment to the meal, an extension to the emotions, expectations and excitement surrounding the tournament itself. It is for that reason that most Pakistanis still weep at the opening chords of Europe’s “It’s the final countdown” something which even the genius expropriation of the song by Gob does not diminish.
It is why the otherwise supremely annoying Mr. jeem has a special place in my heart when he sings his World Cup 2009 song. And it is here where BHOOM BHOOM WORLD CUP fits in. Because it is an intimate expression of world cup joy.
But, and this is my final point, where this song truly makes its mark is its very existence. This is not some corporate paid, heartless single composed by nameless autobots and sung by some global superstar who couldn’t give two fucks about the sport. This isn’t some soulless exercise aimed at brand exposure and cheap publicity. (ok maybe a little cheap publicity) This isn’t some super-slick, super-fine production churned out by the machine.
This is an awkward guy, surrounded by endearingly earnest men, performing this whole scene in a rather dilapidated wedding hall with little to no hope of any financial gains, of any fifteen-minute fame, of any recognition or awards.
This, my friends, is art.
It might not be art for its lyrics, its production, its idea or execution. Its art for its heart. (see what i did there)
In a country where the only people capable of affording to create culture are forever aching for foreign acclaim and validation, in a culture where artistic endeavors are routinely dismissed and disparaged for not providing social security, in a country where batshit crazy archaic ideas are blowing up in maidans and marketplaces, BHOOM BHOOM WORLD CUP is not just extraordinary, its miraculous.