Monica Dogra goes by many titles—most of them are self-proclaimed—actress, musician and what-not. But, of all her very inglorious titles, the one that seems the most ludicrous is that of ‘musician'. Then again, those are my personal reservations and one is free to digress on the grounds of creative liberties. You cannot expect a neon signage to resemble a Michelangelo, or even an Andy Warhol.
© Facebook/Trupal Pandya
To the most, Miss Dogra's music remains largely forgettable. Her last track with any recall value was Shiver, from her album Spit; and that too was only because of its avant-garde theatrics. Lately, she's been in the news yet again; not for her stint as a judge on The Stage Season 3 (I'll come to that questionable bit later, as well); but for her latest single titled ‘Naraye Mastana'. Sounds familiar? Probably because the very soulful original was sung by the timeless Abida Parveen—a Sufi musician who has transcended ages and remains relevant even today. However, Miss Dogra failed to realize who Abida Parveen really was before she was introduced to the song by one of her friends, as she herself admitted on air during an interview on popular radio channel 94.3.
Here's the original track by Abida Parveen.
And here's Dogra's version of the track.
We can leave the concept of music out of it. Revisiting a track, revising it, or remixing it—none of these words do justice to the original track because, let's face it; Abida Parveen's version remains a classic. Sure, Miss Dogra has the creative freedom to interpret music the way she feels makes sense to her own aesthetics. But, I'll say this out and loud—to even try to draw a parallel between her track which is raunchier than it is tasteful, and Parveen's track which is pure soul, is to try to compare legends to street smarts. One simply doesn't do it.
© Facebook/Monica Dogra
Dogra's video for the track sees her doing what she does best—looking fabulous, giving shots that are worth framing up like a piece of gothic art. But, it's not even music. It's Dogra rapping ‘I drink too much' and alternating between the chorus of the original song with orgasmic breaths in between. Look, I get it. Creative rights and all. What I don't get is this distorted sense of what quantifies as music and what is just a publicity gimmick to get a million hits and downloads online. Dogra's latest efforts are targeting the latter.
The problem is our ‘Indie' scene has become a bit of a parody in itself which seems to have lost the plot. We have ‘artists' on the scene who are producing a sad excuse of what they'd like to call their own interpretation of what music is and they all sound the same, do the same thing and harp on the same titles of good looks, money and commercial sell-outs. I'd have honestly liked to have seen a Sona Mohapatra, or a Hari & Sukhmani do a revisit of this track; it would have even kept the very essence and soul of the song intact; or even given it something fresher. What Dogra has done is change the entire track and merely call it a reinterpretation of the original which it clearly isn't.
© Nayantara Parikh Photography
Honestly, I don't remember when was the last time I heard Monica Dogra actually hold a legitimate tune. Was it for her background score in the Deepika Padukone-Imraan Khan starrer ‘Break Ke Baad'? It was called Dooriyaan Bhi Hai Zaroori and while I don't really count Monica Dogra in the league of breakthrough female singers in the country, this was honestly the closest she came to showcasing her vocal prowess which was still something. From then on, she shifted to the indie vibe and the independent scene; raised some crowd-sourced funds for her album, received some flak for it, and performed at large number of music festivals where she was seen wearing bohemian attire and gyrating to hypnotic music on stage.
Monica Dogra is a performer. She is average on screen; but, she's bloody good in her music videos and on stage. She has that element about her—the looks, the moves, the attitude. She flaunts it too. But, she's also what's largely wrong with the so-called independent music scenario in the country. You see, Dogra stands for the typically self-entitled female performer who calls herself a pioneer female in the industry, time and again, simply because she has some international roots somewhere from the past; who also uses a lot of her physical attractiveness and sexuality to give more ‘meaning' to her music. Where does that leave the other, real female artists who are making real music and deserve the kind of exposure that right now only a Dogra is privy to? The only reason she sells is because of that and the fact that she's been a regular face in the festival circle, acted averagely in indie movies—the only one worth boasting of was her stint in the Aamir Khan starrer, ‘Dhobhi Ghaat'—and judged India's first English-singing reality show. To that latter one, too, I could think of many others who'd have been more well-deserving than her (Anushka Manchanda, anyone?).
© Facebook/Monica Dogra
So, yes, Monica Dogra is largely glorified by the men in the industry, for her fashion choices, for her amicability and for her being able to portray herself as the ‘first of her kind'. In a recent interview she gave to the same radio channel, 94.3, she went ahead and called herself one of the ‘only women' in her field, to paraphrase. If by that title, she means the only woman rapper who remixes music or produces tunes that are largely electronic and goes on to a prose narration throughout, while wearing over-the-top accessories, physically enhancing attire and doing gravity-defying stunts, sure. However, that makes her, like I said, merely a great performer.
There are many other female artists in the scene who are way better at music than Miss Dogra; however, Dogra seems to be the only one who gives the audience what can only be called a ‘flavour'. But, music is more than just flavour Miss Dogra; it is food; it is ingredients and it is nutrition for the soul. Unfortunately, her latest track, Naraye Mastana—much like most of her previous ones—lack the wholesomeness of what qualifies as music.