In the Netflix web series Guns and Gulaabs, we see the character of Arjun Varma playing the cassette of Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai while driving to Gulaabganj. He immediately discards the cassette as it was a version with Jhankar Beats. What were these beats? Let’s go back in time.

Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai was a 1981 film when HMV was the most dominant label in the Hindi film music industry. Music India (now Universal Music Group) was a significant player too. There were multiple small companies that were trying to get a share of the pie.

One gentleman found a clever way to enter the market using an existing loophole in the copyright law. While HMV and Music India kept the prices of their tapes fairly high, this person re-recorded the songs on cheaper tapes adding western beats to them.

He would then sell these cassettes at almost one third of the price of the original ones. These were the soundtrack with “Jhankar Beats”. The beats were mostly produced using an instrument called the Roland SPD-11, a version of the octopad, a portable drum.

Although the resulting output was not musically pleasing, especially for the purists, the jhankar beats cassettes were selling like hot cakes. The attractive lower prices made these cassettes more accessible to a wider population.

These cassettes were not only sold in Tier 2 cities in large numbers, but auto and Fiat taxi wallahs in Bombay particularly played these jhankar beats cassettes extensively. They were heard a lot in inter-city and inter-state buses too.

The gentleman who captured the market using the legal loophole was none other than Gulshan Kumar. He established the company T-Series in 1983 and soon built an empire. Point to note is that he started selling music without paying any of the musicians.

These cassettes with jhankar beats were in high demand in festive seasons such as Navaratri and Ganesh Chaturthi when people wanted to dance to upbeat songs. The 80s and early to mid-90s saw booming business for pirated soundtracks with jhankar beats.

Other companies like Venus, Tips among others also joined the bandwagon by adding jhankar beats to the soundtracks. T-series doubled up their game by adding super jhankar beats.

However, better remixes done by people like Bally Sagoo put the Jhankar Beats out of business. Gulshan Kumar with his business acumen captured a few other segments of the market by then.

While T-series shifted its focus to remakes of old Hindi film songs and recording parodies of Hindi film songs for religious festivals, it forced HMV to release an economy edition of the old classics at a much lower price.

Jhankar Beats carried its legacy into this century too. In Sujoy Ghosh’s eponymous film in 2003, three music loving friends compete in a popular music contest called Jhankar Beats. The film was a tribute to RD Burman, who also gave music in the film Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai.