Many years ago, three
high wise men from the east saw a star and knew that it signified the birth of a KING. So, they followed the star in search of the newborn and found him in a small village. They bowed and worshipped him, offering treasures of gold, incense and myrrh. When they enquired about the name of the child from his mother, she answered humbly “Nagpur cha Raja.. Altaf Raja”.
And thus began the life journey of a messiah for who legend says “He walketh on water, turned that water into wine, binge drinketh the same wine and nose-peed it on humanity whilst lamenting about his lost Lou”. A genius who crooned his way into our world and blessed us with his a la carte mooosique. Now, to all the people who judged me after reading Altaf Raja and thought “What Cheapo yaa’, no taste for good music only. Why u no listen to THE Sir (with tongue-rolled Rs) J-Beebs”, I say FUCK OFF! I think Raja is one of those musical talents who would have become a living legend, had he handled his immense fame more intelligently, like how Babul Supriyo did it. Infact, I firmly believe that some of his biggest critics are actually his greatest fans deep down, just that no one wants to accept the truth. It is like pretending being a connoisseur of Pinot Noir at O Chateau, when all that you want to do is to have some Old Monk and chakhna. I know a lot of people who are closet Raja fans, and come out only after eight pegs of Old Monk while trying to whatsapp ex-girlfriends with that classic line “Bhai, Altaf jaisa bhi hai, tedha hai, par mera hai”
Among the many stories that is famous about Raja’s childhood, I am most inspired by the one which describes his angst after he suffered a great personal loss. In that poignant moment, he understood that life isn’t exactly a kaliyon ka chaman as was promised by Meghna Naidu. He had given up his will to live and went into a hiding only to resurrect three days later and said to his disciples, “Yaaron maine panga le liya”. According to the scriptures and Chetan Bhagat’s tweets, this is the story of how he was heart-broken:
Altaf Raja had a S-M-E-L-L-Y cat and he was madly in love with it (Hear me out, its not a joke)
He later discovered that the cat was homosexual and was cheating on Raja with some guy named Himesh R. (Hear me out, JM D let’s rock)
The loss of a Lou-ed one did not go down well with him as he distanced himself from the world, assaulted random people, spat on his fans, was caught smoking a spliff with Sanjay Jha, was detained for reckless driving and was caught on camera peeing in a restaurant’s mop bucket. (Believe you me, all of these are facts. I looked them up also in the Book of Royal Turds, 3:16)
But then, he decided to clean up his act and moved on to
date adopt another cat and then live a glorious life. Yet, as SRK on acid says “Pehla Pyar toh Pehla Pyar hota hai Anjali”, Raja was never really able forget his first lou and every song he wrote thereafter was in some way reminiscent of that haseen dard he experienced in his first relationship. (I told yu’ol, HARD FACTS). In that way, he is the Dharavi version of Taylor Swift.
I am not sure about you guys, but I sure do remember my first time when I heard the master’s mellifluous voice and conjuring composition. It was during a bus ride from it doesn’t matter to it really doesn’t matter many years ago and we had a halt at a roadside dhaba. To my surprise, I found a shop there selling newspapers, magazines, mastram, movie posters with titles such as Pyasa Shaitan and Machalte Yauvan ki Jawani and a curated assortment of cassettes. (Note to the kids: Cassette is a primitive form of iPod and was extensively used to kill time during such bus rides by inserting a pencil in between its miniature spools to rewind or fast forward a song). As I browsed through the collections of Marley, Nirvana and Queen, I chanced upon some audio tapes stacked in the section titled SO BAD ITS ACTUALLY GOOD which had cover image of a man who resembled the results of a nuclear explosion gone wrong. Of course, I had to buy that album. As the bus chugged along the picturesque valley of does it really matter now, I put on my headphones, inserted the cassette into the player and hit play.
After about 15 minutes into a song called “Tum to thehre pardesi”, I realised I had struck gold.The song is Raja’s ode to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody or Morrison’s The End. The best part of this musical extravaganza is when he syncs his calendar app into the song and explains the tribulations of a once-rosy-now-stagnating relationship of a couple over the entire year, then takes a long pause and croons “Lekin yeh kya batoon ab haal doosra hai, Woh saal doosra tha, yeh saal doosra hai”. Although I was too young at the time to grasp the intense emotional chord these lines struck, over the years I have always found solace in them after every break up with my personal monk who has grown older. From then to now, the surreal enchantment of his lyrical ballads, eclectic use of percussion in his songs and his own’s exquisite presence, has made my faith even stronger that he “heals” through his music, the depressed and deprived souls of the likes of cab drivers, rikshawallahs, press waale bhaiyas, auto, Rahul Gandhi, myself et al.
Alas.. he did the same acid as SRK and now we don’t hear him often, not because he can’t sing as he is perennially in a state of hallucination due to his obsessive compulsive addiction to acid, but because he is really busy trying to “score” the stuff from those three
high wise men. Now we all will have to wait for the Judgement day, when he cuts his new album and waves a giant middle finger to the world with words “Pyar gajaab ki cheez hai padh lo aaj subaah ka parcha, Pyar karoge to muft main ho jayega yaaron charcha”. Oh LORD! Cometh, Saveth my ass on that day.