In the mid 90s, shortly after the economic liberalisation of India and the influx of new things like satellite television and international brands of fizzy drink, we had a fairly vibrant pop-music scene for a while. Players new and old broke on to the scene with modern music, slick music videos and experiments in both good and bad taste. The important part was they were giving it a serious shot.
At the time Alisha Chinai had been a playback singer for Hindi films for close to a decade and she made her first serious stab at the pop-music market with an album called Bombay Girl. And what a stab it was.
With energetic music composed by Leslee Lewis, a music video by Ken Ghosh (who now continues to direct feature films on occasion), and a very in your face Alisha Chinai on screen, De De (the official tile) was quite the sensation. This was in no small part because of the blatantly sensual and provocative theme of the video. Keep in mind that while this was extremely tame and par-for-the-course in any western market, in India, where many heroes and heroines were still exchanging shy smiles across rooms and groping trees as their only show of on-screen passion, this was tantamount to pornography. The powers that be certainly thought so, because the government run Doordarshan TV network showed this video with the singer’s cleavage pixellated. Yes, really.
Still, it was a heady time full of promise for the India that could be, a more broad-minded, more adventurous India. There were serious plans at around this time to start an adults-only satellite channel; Instead, as the decade came to a close, what we ended up with was a world of even more straight-jacketed domestic dramas and moral policing on both social and legal levels that are probably unprecedented in the country’s short history as a nation-state.
With music that’s still as rousing as it ever was, the video for De de mujhko by Alisha Chinai remains a quaint but telling marker of a time that was and what could have been.