Saturday, January 10, 2009

Remembering some numbers...

Around 1992, two singers made their debuts in the Bengali music scene - Suman Chatterjee and Anjan Dutta. Their repertoire was a significant departure from the traditional Bengali music (that seemed unchanged since the death of Rabindranath in 1941). Have written about Suman here
Suman was the first and undoubtedly the more talented of the two. But Anjan Dutta also made a decent enough mark - and continues to do so through the soundtracks of offbeat Bengali films, some of which he directs as well. 
Anjan Dutta's debut album's biggest hit was typical Bong melodrama. A young man has got his first job ("Starting-er ora egarosho debey, tin mash porey confirm...") and he calls up his girlfriend - Bela - to convey the good news. As a routine, the girl's family is planning to marry her off to a better settled alternative. But the boy feels that his stock has improved with this job and the girl should refuse the arranged match. But there are muffled cries at the other end despite his plaintive cries ("Chup korey, keno? Eki Bela, tumi knadchho?"). Maybe the girl has not been able to resist the family pressures. 
The 'title' of the song was Bela Bose's phone number - 2441139 - which is also the recurring line of the song... "Eta ki 2441139? Bela Bose, tumi parchho ki shuntey?
What Anjan Dutta did not realise in the times of pre-historic telephony that millions of youth in Calcutta would be enthused enough to try out the phone number. The phone number really existed and was the home number of the editor of a Hindi newspaper, Dainik Vishwamitra. The poor fellow screamed blue murder as calls came in 24x7, asking for Bela Bose. He was interviewed by a gleeful media and he became bit of a pop icon. I attended at least three quizzes during that time where this bit of trivia was asked as questions. 
A rather contrite Anjan Dutta apologised to the gentleman and explained that he was trying out several phone numbers which would fit the metre of the song and 2.4.4.1.1.3.9 sounded just right. The damage was done and Vishwamitra had to live with it.  
Check out the listing here! More than a decade after 7-digit phone numbers have ceased to exist in Calcutta, 2441139 still has an official status on the 'net. 
Bela Bose lives on... 

In 1982, a film called Yeh Vaada Raha came out, which starred Rishi Kapoor, Tina Munim and Poonam Dhillon. A long story about the film is narrated in Part II, Q6
The film had a hit song - Tu tu hain wahi, dil ne jisse apna kaha - that (like so many other RD songs) got remixed in the late-90s and was released with a snazzy new video. The music video was set in a phone-sex call centre, 'manned' by three ladies wearing pink vests and hot pants. In the dead of the night, three young men call their number and the ladies sing the song (for their benefit) while dancing sensuously (for our benefit). 
The call-centre number as mouthed seductively by one of the ladies and shown flashing on the back wall of the call centre was 022-6400895.
Needless to say, the prospect of finding ladies scantily clad in pink at a non-ISD number was enough for millions of hormonally-charged engineering students to dial it and chat with the Sexy Sirens a.k.a Nubile Nymphets. Except that, the makers of the video anticipated this. It was the Bandra Police Station's number! 
In those days, Bandra did have 64 numbers (264 now) and this pre-historic page even lists 6400917 as one of the Hill Road Police Station numbers. Whether it was really one of the numbers (possible) or a prank by the makers of the video is a little too late to verify right now. And I am not going to dial the number, for sure! 

Channel V did a hilarious promo for one of their shows (which I could not locate on YouTube) in which an elderly couple vouch for the show by saying how even their bowel movements (!) are better after watching it. The promo winds up with the gentleman rattling off a telephone number for those wanting more information from him. So far, so good... 
Except that the number was the new office number of a V creative guy, who had quit recently. So all through the day in his new job, the guy would get calls from random people asking for the old man. Eventually, the guy got fed up enough to come back to Channel V.
This is as much as an urban legend as you can get. Nothing is verifiable but then, Channel V is like that only! 

Which brings me to the latest addition to the Accidental Numbers in Showbiz - 9820189743. One Dr Surekha Verma had this number till it surfaced on the bicep of Aamir Khan in Ghajini as Anthony's phone number. As she says, Aamir Khan placated her with apologies and gifts before changing the number to 9880189743 in the later prints of the poster. 
I though Aamir, the consummate marketer that he is, missed a major trick by using any random number as tattoos for the film. He could have put numbers which could have manned by staff, trained to mouth clues and sending people on a Ghajini chase (maybe, culminating in a meeting with Aamir himself). 
But then, Surekha Verma wouldn't have been remembered for 15 minutes...

6 comments:

White Magpie said...

I wish Aamir had put moi number..I would have loved the gifts and the snazzy phone he gifted her..

Gautam Ghosh said...

then there was the Upen Patel mouthing a mobile number (9820420420) in 36 china town which hormonally charged girls kept calling - which belonged to Dr Neeraj Dubey, a pathologist :D

wisdomwearsneonpyjamas said...

Dipta, I LOVED this post! Keep cracking up throughout. Hoo boy, really needed this!

greatbong said...

Only you could write a post like this. Awesomely awesome. Hats off !

Rahi said...

There was one more number that became highly controversial when attached to bollywood.

Dia Mirza's number in RHTDM happens to be a Delhi number, the owner of which is irritated taking calls for her from expectant boys.

But I don't know how can people be so foolish to not think that the number is fake like everything in the film. Or is this just a publicity stunt. can u shed some light on this?

Nilendu said...

Read this -- I found this fascinating -- "a lot of 80s fanatics" :)

http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/02/02/ebay.jennys.number/index.html