IT’S BEEN ANOTHER YEAR, GODDAMN IT. How do these things sneak up on you like this?
…They don’t, you say? They shouldn’t, you say? Time flows faster as you grow older, you say? Shhh. Let me have my plans.

Yep, I said plans. Ladies and gentlemen, guess what Cain did? She got a goddamn job and moved to Bombay, that’s what she did. Among such adventures as gaining and losing a semi-long-term partner, getting stuck in Chennai over her birthday…and falling hardcore, and I mean hardcore, in love with psychedelic trance. I’ve been a busy, busy girl. So yeah, I now live in the city of my dreams, and I’m not one, as Shakespeare would have it, to ‘stand on ceremonies’, but today I will knock on all the wood I can.

Thus it is that I stand before you, again, this August twenty-third. Older, a little. Wiser, a little. Enraptured, as ever, with all my heart.

Happy birthday, Cat of all our hearts. Hope you like this offering, as always.

So, hey. I’ve never aimed to be exhaustive, even in my most prolific days on this forum – but I have been remiss in one particular area: I never did review that fan favourite that came out just after Jannat 2. Oh, you know, the one we were all so hyped about – the one that took networks and charts by storm, the one that lent some joy to the dreary 2012 summer days and then breathed life into the autumn that followed. You know the one I mean.

Yup, it’s Maahiya Re – or as the world calls it, Abhi Abhi (Jism 2).

We all remember this, I’m sure, more viscerally than we do many other new releases; Maahiya Re was a drop in a drought in a way few others have ever been. I remember, over the years, some of KK’s sudden comebacks after months of radio silence; Kya Mujhe Pyaar Hai was one, Khudaa Jaane another, and of course who can forget the end of the 2009 producers’ strike with the climactic sweetness of Aaya Re?
…Still, this one was somewhat special. It was a highly hyped Pooja Bhatt release, for one; this meant two very important things. One, that promos were guaranteed to air for an entire monthbefore the soundtrack went live – and two, that KK, her long-time, publicly-averred favourite, would receive top billing on her playlist.

Now, whatever else she may or may not be – shrewd businesswoman, staunch feminist, sex-positivity pioneer – Pooja Bhatt most definitely knows how to play a crowd. Sex sells, after all – and hey, if you slip some lessons about autonomy and empowerment in there too, you just might get away with it. That is, if you have the first thing any film can provide to snare its audience: a refreshing, compelling soundtrack. And in this regard, she knew exactly what she wanted.

My point, of course, as ever, is the following: no one does seduction better than KK does seduction. And that no businessperson could really have foretold the reasons Maahiya Re works.

Abhi abhi toh mile ho;
Abhi na karo chhootne ki baat…

The score is simple, clean and lovely. Nude piano chords begin the song, layered in the next measure with double acoustic guitar leads. The drums only start when he appears, which sets the stage nicely: the pace belongs to him.

And did I say seduction? This sweet, mellow tone that can barely hide the vibrancy that lies beneath it? Not exactly the idea one has of seduction, is it – this is not Chekhov’s sweet-talking ‘boa constrictor’, not the social game-player with a goalpost in sight, not the honey-drenched lover boy outside a bay window with a guitar. This is KK’s own variety of seduction: plain and simple honesty.

It is a variety of seduction that many men and women tend to underestimate.

Abhi abhi toh pasand aaye ho;
Abhi abhi roothne ki baat…

This could easily be sweet talk if it were anyone but KK saying it. Written thus, baldly, on a page, it reads like a textbook lovers’ quarrel – a trifle made into a mountain by the insecurity that attends most newly-minted affections.
It’s not, though. This isn’t a plea; he says it gently. Almost kindly – as though insecurity was never a concern; as though roothna isn’t literal anger or petulance but a metaphor for something greater. KK takes this song in the first two lines and turns it straight into an existentialist masterpiece. Suddenly abhi could mean anything, any period of time as long as it seems like yesterday; suddenly roothna doesn’t mean anger but questioning this life, this love, or oneself. Suddenly it’s rational – and his down-to-earth, grounded tone makes sense. This is about more than a lover leaving – this is about perspective, and about yearnings deeper than the body will ever know. Fear, and longing, and the need to be known and loved, and the dual terror of being unloved – and of being loved for something you’re not.

These are the reasons that lovers want to leave. These are the reason that friends want to leave. These are the reasons that people want to leave – sometimes, this life entirely.

Abhi abhi toh roshni aayi,
Abhi abhi muh chhupaane ki baat…

Contemplative. This is a conversation born as much from introspection as observation; this is that quiet, serene mode of being that is the very definition of empathy. Abhi abhi toh roshni aayi –he’s not coaxing, not trying to persuade; he’s just speaking to his lover of simple ideas he knows with certainty to be true. Simple ideas such as this: however long it’s been, time’s not up yet. The sun’s still rising. You don’t have to stay, but there’s more to discover; I know you’re wondering if you should leave, but trust me today: it is worth staying.

Abhi abhi zindagi shuru hai;
Abhi abhi tham jaane ki baat…

Aaand there we are: takeoff! KK’s a glider, here; he’s coasting, but never forget the power he holds – and never forget the deep respect he’s treating you, the lover, with: he wants you to stay, but he never for a moment puts any pressure on you to do so. There is no pleading, no emotional blackmail, no relationship-brand reverse psychology; instead, he’s simply stating his belief, and handing you the agency to decide.
KK says, there may be a time to leave, but I don’t think it’s now. KK says, I don’t know your reasons, but I respect them, and here, my love, are mine. KK says, What we have is not worth throwing away on an insidious feeling of doubt, whether that’s doubt of love or life or yourself.
And KK says, again: It is worth staying.

Hum toh haare, maahiya re;
Moonde naina, neend tihaare…

The lines that drove us all insane – but they’re so much more than romantic sweetness. KK is the best at this narrative tension, this making you believe you know what’s coming and then gently pulling the rug from under you. Only when he’s made it abundantly clear that he knows the fears you’re facing and he knows the decision is yours, made sure you yourself know the decision is yours, does he finally say what he’s wanted to all along: I’m yours, however you want me. You know I’m yours.
And isn’t that what every lover wants to hear?

Think about it. It would have been so easy. So easy just to start with this. To say, please, I love you; please don’t go. But KK’s character didn’t do that; he chose the harder way instead. He chose to say I respect you enough to know you can understand this: this is why I think not that you should stay, but that it would perhaps be worth your while to stay.

And this is why KK’s seduction is always so much surer than any other’s behind the mic: he chose this interpretation of this character. He could have wheedled, could have begged, could have sulked – none of those would have been inappropriate to the lyrics. Instead, he chose to say I respect you before saying I love you.
And hey, let me tell you, respect is sexy. It’s easy enough to be aroused when you or the other person are a simple vessel for pleasure – but that moment is fragile, and easily betrayed by the crash that can come afterward. Respect is something many fail to communicate among themselves – even if it’s really there, that lack of communication can play absolute havoc with a person’s mind; and, as we all know, the brain is the largest sex organ. A little genuine reassurance goes a long way in easing the burden on a lover’s mind – and that easing of burdens and restraints is so very much the key to making love like lovers do.

Respect is sexy. Consent is sexy. I cannot conceive of anyone, ever, who isn’t excited by their partner’s pleasure. (If there is such a person, kindly tell them they’re a selfish ass.) And KK has known this ever since he was a young ‘un – witness Aaja Gufaaon Mein (consent), Jeena Kya (respect), and Yaaron (oh, so much of both). My point is, this is how to seduce. There’s O’ Mama (and Door Se Paas), passionate, ravishing, claws and teeth; there’s Labon Ko (and Teri Tamanna), sweet sweet respectful dirty talk; there’s Aasraa (and Power Ballad), unintentional seduction by intensity; and then there’s this – absolute honesty, absolute commitment, absolute empathy in the moment – and the promise of consistency in these absolutes to come.
This, my friends, is seduction by respect. And this is the kind of love that doesn’t leave. Doesn’t want to. The kind of love that will find a way to stay.

Teri baazuon mein meri chaahatein samaaye,
Teri dhadkanon ko meri dhadkanein sunaaye,
Teri khvaahishon se meri khvaahishein rihaa hai;
Teri karvaton se meri daastaan bayaan hai,
Kya sukoon, kya junoon, humnavaa…

…Okay, are these the most beautiful lines ever or what?

They’re also the sweetest in the song, and in light of the confession that’s finally, finally come, they taste so much the sweeter. KK’s character finally gets to wax lyrical to his partner here, to say what’s really in his heart without having to temper himself with reason. And he says this:
You are my lover.
You are my love.
You set me free.
And you embody all that is best about me.

Kya sukoon, kya junoon, indeed. Not many feelings lie among the holiest known to humankind – and I use the word ‘holy’ to mean sacred, beloved, treasured, pure. Not many feelings do – the blissful high of creation is one of them; the flow state is another; the rapture and ecstasy of music that hits you in just the right spots is a third; the cascading humility and wonder of standing at the base of a mighty mountain or the edge of the inexorable ocean, yet a fourth. And among these purest feelings of all, these highest callings of the consciousness of what we call the human race, is the feeling of watching someone you love breathe, move, live, and knowing that for a moment – or two – or several – they trusted you enough to let themselves be yours. However long that instant lasted – remember, time is relative, as long as it seems like yesterday – that for that instant, their very movements told your story. And that for that same little while, your very limbs, throat, pulse points, bones, told theirs.
You see, seduction by honesty? Also by its very nature demands that you be vulnerable. That you allow yourself to be hurt, and trust that the other will see you and love you for that very capacity to be hurt. That’s what makes you human, after all. That’s what makes you you. And that’s what makes love and life so very dangerous: because to love wholly, as KK does – as his character could never do if he himself did not – because to love wholly, as KK does, one must be willing to bare one’s entire soul, and run the risk of it being destroyed.
Some strike lucky, there. Some not so much. But hey, if one never takes the risk, the odds are zero, right?

Abhi abhi dil ki suni hai,
Abhi abhi zamaane ki baat…
Abhi abhi baatein ruki hain,
Abhi abhi dohraane ki baat…

Ah, now here’s a difference in tone – and look how telling a difference it is! The rhythm’s fallen back to the way it was – the murmur of the pianos, the soft shimmer of the cymbals – but KK isn’t nearly as down-to-earth any more, and it shows. The softness in his voice now isn’t empathy, it’s humour – he’s gently pointing out the hypocrisy there is in fearing the world the moment one starts to find happiness outside it; in trying to think one’s way again and again around a truth one already knows. He’s already told you he thinks it’s worth staying a little longer; this is why.

There’s time yet. The sun’s still rising. For madness’ sake, speak not of caution now.

Abhi abhi aavaargi aayi; abhi na karo sambhalne ki baat…
Vo subah toh bevajaah ho, ke guzre bin tumhaare jiski raat…
Vo subah toh bevajaah ho, ke guzre bin tumhaare jiski raat…

You know me; you know what my favourite line is. You know it. You have to. It’s so gloriously mad, so easy to interpret as ‘I do not see the point of living without you’, and it so easily could mean exactly that – or a more directly physical, sexual meaning. And yet there’s so much more to it than that.

But hey, I jumped the gun. There’s also talk of aavaargi. And yes, there’s existential wisdom in this, too. There’s a reading of this line that’s plain romance, plain ‘don’t stop this lovely madness now when it’s only just begun’ – but so much of this honest, vulnerable seduction happens at a deeper level than plain romance.
There’s a sense of impermanence about this track – a complete lack of any promises, any speculation, anything that implies the existence of anything beyond the immediate past and now. And this impermanence brings with it a curious sort of freedom – the freedom that comes with acceptance. Once you realize that anything is possible in the future, and that the only thing you can control is now – you stop worrying about what happens next. Stop gambling on what happens next. And start thinking only of what your heart tells you to do, right in this moment. And if you, reader, ever reach this state, you will know that very often what your heart tells you to do is be nice. Give, whether it’s in currency or kind or, yes, generosity in love – the most underrated of generosities. Try that sometime. Stop, and give. And give to the person closest to you, for it’s often that person who is most in need.
Abhi abhi aavaargi aayi – love is madness, isn’t that what they say? And yet – you know, it kind of isn’t. Madness is the tiniest fragment of love – if it turns out to have been love at all. What love really is is this, my friends: Love is what happens when the madness fades. KK’s character knows this, and knows, too, that sometimes, love is the courage to wait until the madness fades. The courage to see what happens next, and to make of it what one can and will.

And then there is vo subah toh. Delicious, wonderful sentence of glory. Sung with a passion and conviction that only KK at his most lost-in-the-moment can achieve. A line that could mean he doesn’t see the point of living his life without her – a simple surface reading – or, on the more risqué side, that a sunrise when he’s spent the night with anyone but her is pointless. But there’s a third idea to these words somewhere: that it would be pointless for the sun to rise on a world without this person in it. That whatever happens between the two of them, this world itself would be the poorer for lack of her.
And if that’s not the purest form of love – the most selfless form of love – I sure as hell don’t know what is.

Teri baazuon mein meri chaahatein samaaye,
Teri dhadkanon ko meri dhadkanein sunaaye,
Teri khvaahishon se meri khvaahishein rihaa hai;
Teri karvaton se meri daastaan bayaan hai,
Kya sukoon, kya junoon, humnavaa…

Hum toh haare, maahiya re;
Moonde naina, neend tihaare…
Hum toh haare, maahiya re;
Moonde naina, neend tihaare…

And he repeats the fact that he loves her wholly, under the guise of admitting defeat. Perhaps he fought the idea of falling in love; lord knows it’s hard to accept, hard not to question relentlessly. Or, well, he could have fought the thought of needing someone. Or fought to prevent himself from getting hurt. Whatever battles he was fighting, he’s decided he’d rather be here: exactly where he is, now.
Thus does the simple refrain fade to the musical catchtune, a reversal of the intro to neatly end the track. A track, again, that could have been simple romance had it not been for KK, who took it straight past the alley of sex and turned it into making love with abandon. Via a philosophical detour, because that’s just how he rolls, isn’t it. (And hey, that, too, is what we love him for.)

This, then, is the letter and the spirit of Maahiya Re:

Love is surrender.

Respect is sexy.

Sometimes, the moment really is enough.

Generosity is not what you think it is.

Love doesn’t have to make sense – but everything else does.

And finally – even if, in the end, it turns out that it wasn’t worth it, that doesn’t mean you’ll ever want to change a single second.
And maybe, just maybe…that’ll make it worth it after all.

Happy birthday, KK! You will always be loved as wholly and as unconditionally as you, yourself, love. Your legions stand as proof of that, and indeed as proof that love can stand against every damn thing the world can throw – and hold firm.

Love, always.

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