Article by RKahlon – It was the night of January in Punjab many years ago. We were basking in the glory of newly found youth afloat the air of the dream career. The concept of college festivals was new to us and we were completely thrilled at the idea of watching with only friends some famous singers perform for the college crowd which often goes raucous during such celebrations.
He was comparatively new. Or may be not too new for others who kept themselves updated with latest happenings of the Punjabi entertainment. It was a different case with me and many others. We were fresh from a grueling series of exams and listening to the popular Punjabi music around was quite a quaint concept. To me and many Hindi film and cricket stars fancying teenagers, he was noticeable because he resembled the latest cricket sensation of the time, Shoaib Akhtar.
The earliest image of him with some of us has to be that of a thin frame beneath a white transparent shirt drenched in the rain acting ‘cool’ with the model in the song, also made famous by Nasibo Lal (neendran nahin aondiyaan). It sounded routine. Not something which could guarantee him a firm place among the fans like today.
Then from somewhere we heard the next one – ‘pind paira lagda’. This time he was covered under a thick opaque black vest doing the ‘bhangra’. The song was catchy. It suited those times of the state. An immediate amusement with people like us. The blacks and whites have followed the man of his own rules, own ideas, own fans and own critics since then.
He was the first singer I ever saw performing live after entering my college life. That January night whose images are still vivid in my mind. He looked nothing like a Punjabi singer. We were used to see colored silk dresses of Gurdas Mann, Hans Raj Hans and Sardool Sikander those times at the big nights. Some sported intricately embroidered ‘sherwanis’. Pathani suit was a favorite too for the performances. This guy standing in front of us was wearing a branded green jacket and a pair of faded jeans. He was nothing like others. Quite an odd guy. Who else could jeer at one silent section of the crowd by yelling, “ਹਾਏ ਨੀ ਨਰਸੇ, ਨੀ ਮੇਰਾ ਦਿਲ ਤਰਸੇ”, inviting a thunderous roar from another section drowned in the night (men will be men, ha!!!. He knew how to entertain the ‘people who matter’. Even then. Even now. Who else could attempt this audacity in front of everyone and completely get away with it? He gained some black stars and some not-white that night.
Then we heard that the “young singing sensation Babbu Mann is suffering from some Leukemia”. Every heart prayed for the ‘pind paira lagda’ guy. Oh, was a rumour! Spread by some jealous soul. Ah well, anything is possible in Punjab. Some whiteness stopped shining around him. The guy was about to become a curious entity with more rumours and more controversies. More people to paint him an absolute white and quite a number to paint otherwise.
He is known for experimenting with his looks.
Like a fanatic young cousin told me once, “you know he has written that song ‘ਮਿੱਤਰਾਂ ਦੀ ਛਤਰੀ ਤੋਂ ਉੜ ਗਈ’ for his girlfriend who left him and married some London based guy”. It could be entirely possible. We have had an Ataullah famous for the stories about his love and love songs. But then, Ataullah’s pain seeped from his voice. Isn’t it?
“So for whom did he sing ‘one night stand?”, was my genuine next question.
“ਲੈ ਹੁਣ ਇੱਦਾਂ ਦੇ ਗਾਣੇ ਗਾਉਣੇ ਪੈਂਦੇ ਆ ਲੋਕਾਂ ਲਈ”, the defensive cousin tried to convince me hard. Hard. Hard to believe that BM can do nothing wrong and his every action is just a need. A desperate need.
Well!!! Yeah… ਇੱਦਾਂ ਦੇ ਗਾਣੇ. Everyone sings. Yeah right!!!!
Doesn’t matter though. Every star has right to do everything to become more popular. There is nothing wrong in trying new arenas.
So, ਮਿੱਤਰਾਂ ਦੀ ਛਤਰੀ was sung for some obscure unknown girlfriend who ditched him and married some London based guy. Get it. Get the story.
He had to clarify the drug addiction allegations by leaving a permanent impression in the song “sardar” – ਮਾਨ ਨਸ਼ੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਰਦਾ….. something next in the line. But he stunned one and all with, “ਕਿਸੇ ਸਾਲੇ ਦੀ ਭੈਣ ਸੇੰਟੀ ਹੋ ਗਈ ਹੋਣੀ ਮੇਰੇ ਤੇ ਤੇ ਅਗਲੇ ਨੇ ਗੱਲ ਬਣਾਤੀ” – something like that. Quite gutsy, and interesting, eh!!! Again, to the roar of a crowd of Punjab youngsters ready to lay their lives for him. People who matter. The crowd in front of whom he promised that – ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦਾ ਪੈਸਾ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਵਿਚ ਹੀ ਰਹਿਣਾ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ. ਫਿਲਮਾਂ ਅਸੀਂ ਬਣਾਈਏ ਤੇ ਨਫ਼ਾ ਕੋਈ ਬਾਹਰਲਾ ਖੱਟ ਕੇ ਲੈ ਜਾਵੇ??? – can not write the exact word used for ‘baahrla’ due to some social chains. We are not BM after all.
A sketch of Babbu Maan on a student’s desk. His fans love him to extremes.
The king of fanboi-sm grabbed more eyeballs with – ਇਕ ਬਾਬਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੀ – but the reason of this fame he has to share with those two babas who over-reacted immensely at what was just another song. Had there not been a reaction, the action would have been dulled. Ah, there were these youtube wars between the followers of ‘babas’ and followers of ‘babbu’. Punjabis residing in villages, abroad, Canada, US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Chile (a little known destination for Punjabis though), (and if there had been any in Antarctica, he too would have jumped to the defense of one) started uploading their own comments and view points as if you tube had struck a deal with them. “This is a video response to ABCDEFGH” was the new toy for newly gone tech-savvy Punjab. Full time entertainment for the silent watchers. A passionate issue for passionate followers of both the sides. Did Babbu apologize from Babas, I do not know. I never followed it. Just heard him again on some live platform talking some not so good words about them.
His films do best business inside Punjab despite being weakest technically. Amusing again. He could give his followers a taste of steamy scenes in Rabb ne Banaiyaan Jodiyaan but they would always be reminded of his ਪੰਥ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ (a term his fans seriously use) he did by making ‘Hawayein’. His latest film has a controversial name. Notwithstanding that, he has now set a new record. Not releasing the music of the film before the release if what we heard is right. A man of his own rules. Own actions and own results with every move stranger than the previous one.
The humble beginnings of Babbu Maan are known to everyone.
While few people think not-white about him, no one can ignore the fact that he is a terrific live performer. He knows who he has to entertain and how he has to do that. May be it is just his inbuilt personality. Who knows?
Is he married or is he not? Everything about him is strangely ambiguous. Much to the pleasure of his fans, and curiosity of those who paint him not-white. May be many points about him have been missed, but how many words can describe a person who is a – curious case!!!
Love him or hate him, you just cannot ignore him in the present scenario.
The most famous sticker in Punjab… Babbu Maan
P.S. – Fans, this is not his criticism, please read patiently and understand it in depth. And Punjabiportal has not written anything here. (The line has to be added. Much compulsory even if taking his name). Best wishes to him and you all for the forthcoming venture.