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Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar: 25 years of scintillating music

Fresh, effervescent, and inspiring, the music of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar was one of its biggest strengths. On the 25th anniversary of the film's release, we take a look at one of the most magical soundtracks of the 90s decade. 

Shriram Iyengar

1992 was an epochal year for India. It was the last year before liberalisation truly arrived and changed the entire sub-continent forever. In many ways, it was also a year that a small sports film arrived to deliver a sensational soundtrack. Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992) was, in many ways, the predecessor to the current trend of inspiring sports movies. 

Directed by Mansoor Khan, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar was a coming of age Archie meets BSA SLR movie for every teenager in the 90s decade. Coupled with a peppy soundtrack shot stylishly, it became an important film of the decade. 

The film was also the Mansoor Khan's second directorial with nephew Aamir in the lead. It was Mansoor Khan who launched the star in his Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988). Like QSQT, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar too had a stellar music score, composed by newcomers, Jatin-Lalit. 

The first song of the film arrives as a declaration of youth. 'Yahan ke Hum Sikandar' is a brilliant peppy number that is both uplifting, and hummable. 25 years from the release, the song still has the ability to lift spirits with its light touch. In an interview in 2000, Jatin Pandit said, "In those days, there was the concept of team work between music director, lyricists, actor and director. But now the work is separated."

In Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, the music composer duo found the perfect vehicle in the versatile Majrooh Sultanpuri and Mansoor Khan. It was Mansoor Khan and the veteran poet who defined the uplifting lyrics for a song about rebellious youth. 

It was the second song of the film, Pehla Nasha, that truly was an iconic number. Choreographed by the film's assistant director, Farah Khan, and picturised in the lush tea valleys of Ooty, it remains a cult classic. Incidentally, the song was composed by Jatin Pandit for his wife, with just the lyrics, 'Pehla nasha'. The song was also the first to be shot in slow motion, setting the template for a million music videos that were to follow in the '90s. The sight of Aamir Khan in a red sweater remains the most iconic moment of the film. So much so that many of the film's music cassettes (another retro symbol) carried that very image on the top. Add a Pooja Bedi having a 'Marilyn Monroe' moment, and you understand why teenagers went crazy for the album. 

Aamir Khan went on to shoot several hit romantic numbers, but this one remains an evergreen favourite. The song even got a remix 10 years down the line, proving that the idea of first love never gets old. 

Another factor that set the soundtrack apart was its combination of Indo-Western music. Over the next decade, Indian music saw a rise of influences from Western pop. However, Jatin-Lalit's soundtrack arrived to a generation of Indian audience that was still unfamiliar of this pop phenomenon. To them, songs like 'Jawan Ho Yaaron' for instance symbolised the perfect synthesis of these two elements. In an interview, Jatin Pandit, "For instance, Aditya Chopra will surely go for Indian-based music. Then Mansoor Khan, for whom we composed Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, likes a blend of Indian and Western melodies."

Or this song that precedes the above one, as the perfect 'rich boy song', replete with English lyrics, dancers in suits and top hats. 

Incidentally, Jatin-Lalit would compose another number, similar in style, format and even context, for Shah Rukh Khan in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994). 

This does not mean all the songs from the album have aged well. Take this for instance, 'Shehar ki Pariyon'. The situation, a celebration that brings together all the members of the colony, the traditional clothing and the music, might seem out of context for anyone today. In addition, the idea of 'Shehar ki ladki' seems redundant in an age where globalisation is all pervading. 

The year 1992 was an epoch for Jatin-Lalit as well. The two would compose another hit soundtrack for Akshay Kumar's first film as a leading hero, Khiladi (1992). It would put them on the same standard as the other two duos in the industry, Anand-Milind and Nadeem-Shravan. But the success of the soundtracks depended on the success of the films. As Jatin Pandit would, "No. In fact, the music gets wasted if the film is not good. If the film is good then the longevity of the songs is high." It is here that Mansoor Khan's film played a major hand. 

The story of the underdog's rise to success paralleled the growing strength of India. People identified it as a sign of the times. It was easy to identify with, and left the audience with a sense of hope. Jatin-Lalit's music was the icing on the cake. 25 years later, it continues to remain so.