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News |  04 Nov 2019 12:45 |  By RnMTeam

The decline of film music as we knew it (Column: BTown)

MUMBAI: While, technically, quite a few aspects of the film industry in general have improved, one aspect - vital to many films - that has died a slow death is music.

Music has been a part of Indian tradition, whatever the occasion, good or bad, from birth to death and every event in-between. And this culture was adopted by filmmakers.

To this end, a lot of help came from the rich Indian folk culture as well as classical ragas. Almost all film music composers were well-versed with ragas and were inspired by the local folk music of the place they hailed from. The music composition involved the music director/s, lyric writer and a few musicians and the session was called ‘sitting'. This is where a song took birth and shape. The routine was to involve the lyric writer and the music director in the story, which was narrated to them.

The story of the film and the words written by the lyric writers were the driving force behind the music composers to help them create melodious songs. The song recording was serious business. Every music director/s had their favourite recording room, which was anything but a room. It was normally a huge hall that accommodated hundreds of musicians, segregated by the kind of instruments they played.

A song was recorded in one session. That is, when the recording started, the singers were supposed to finish it in one go. It was a great show of coordination between the composer, the arranger and a horde of musicians along with the singers. The arrangers were a special category. They conducted the orchestra according to the music charts.

Wonder how many so-called music directors today can make sense of musical notes or even know ragas or folk songs!

A good musical score not only helped a film become popular much before its release, but also inspired the choreographers when it came to filming these songs. The producers had a ear for the music and got the best out of their composers. They were a party to not only music sittings but also when it came to recordings. These choreographers created a magic on screen with a song, so much so that one song in a film was enough to draw repeat audience.

There were many examples but ones that come instantly to mind are: The song "Vaada tera vaada" from the film Dushmun (1971), or Jhoom barabar jhoom sharaabi from Five Rifles (1974), or Khaike paan Banaras wala from Don(1978) or Bindiya chamkegi from "Do Raaste" (1969). There were numerous such songs that helped a film draw a repeat viewer. This concept about the audience wanting to watch a film again and again is almost non-existent now.

These songs, which drew the repeat audience, worked magic. A section of the audience let itself go and threw coins at the screen and got down into the isle and started dancing. There was a time when the audience forced to repeat a certain number, which made the term ‘Once More' a part of filmgoing.

Usually, every filmmaker had his favourite composer as well as the lyric writer, and preferred to continue the association. Makers like Manoj Kumar and Dev Anand even went as far as to find non-traditional lyric writers who were not regular film song writers. But, they delivered.

The songs were meant to further the story, establish romance or express various other emotions of the story. The songs during a film in those days were described as ‘situational'. The term aptly describes their utility, due to which the songs meant something to the viewer and lived forever.

So, where has the film music gone, the music which is said to have no language barriers across states or countries!

It all started in mid 1980s when the South producers remade their local hits in Hindi but preferring to shoot in the South studios. They had no time to come to Mumbai for music sittings. They were known to complete their films within a tight schedule and, finally, Bappi Lahiri turned out to be their favourite composer. He delivered instant music, something their first choice hero, Jeetendra, could shake his legs on.

The era of relevant film music was coming to an end and functional music was taking over. Though, one can say that Nadeem-Shravan and Anu Malik did try to revive melody. But, there was no consistency there.

Nadeem-Shravan and Anu Malik both spent a lot of years in the film industry before they could come up with something worthy of being called film music. If they had it in them, they would have made an impact the day they got their first chance, like most of the music directors did.

The other thing about music in those days was that, the lyric writers were versatile and, notwithstanding the religion, could write ghazals, qawwalis, romantic and comic songs, and even bhajans.

All that is gone. Songs in a film are no more a part of the proceedings. Filmmakers don't even know how to and where to place songs in a film. More than a film, songs started to be used for the promotion of a film on TV promos. Now, even that does not help. The makers found an easy way to fit and justify songs into their films like one song in opening titles, one item song, one song playing in the background, depending on the situation and, phew, one finally in the end scrolls!

A variety of experiments started. Gulshan Kumar, the founder of T Series, created a music bank and used songs so collected for films for which he owned the rights. For, after all, Kumar had to make money from the music he bought. Another change that happened was that unlike the age-old system of a solo music director scoring the music, a film would have multiple composers.

In fact, one of the biggest musical hits, Aashiqi, happened because of Gulshan Kumar's music bank. He kept on recording songs but, once, when Mahesh Bhatt, heard this lot composed by Nadeem-Shravan, the idea of making a film around those songs took birth. Bhatt wove a story to fit in those songs, resulting into a musical hit.

Good music led to programmes like "Chhayageet" on TV, royalties from radio, as well as offered scope for their instrumental versions. Can one imagine an instrumental version of a single song from the kind produced nowadays! Music also gave birth to a lot of orchestra groups that performed on stage during festivals for a paying audience. Festival orchestras are gone but auditorium orchestras still exist and only on the repertoire of old songs.

Saregama (erstwhile Gramophone Company of India -- HMV) has the biggest collection of old Hindi film songs and they have been releasing these songs in various combinations over the period. Then, a company personnel, Avinash Mudaliar, came up with the idea of Caravan, a gadget in a wide variety of models, depending on the number of songs the model stored.

Earlier, music companies produced private albums for release on occasions like Navratri, Ganesh Chaturthi, the Ramzan month as well as Christmas. Now, that trend is as good as over.

The creativity has gone out from music composing. The music that accompanies a song is produced on machine, the singers render a song in pieces unlike in one go as was the practice. There is no teamwork. Lyrics don't inspire, and if a song gets a catchy ‘mukhda', there is nothing thereafter, meaning the rest of the words penned have little to say. Even if a song becomes popular, its value ebbs soon after the film is discontinued. Some tried to remix old songs for their films, which music lovers called murder of great songs.

The best example, besides the success of Saregama's Caravan gadget, are the TV talent shows where even participating kids sing mainly old songs. That is because new songs don't inspire like old-time melodies do.

@The Box Office

The week's new and only release, Ujda Chaman, is a film about a young bachelor boy gone bald, who is keen on marrying. Lacking face value, the film has not been able to draw opening day footfalls.

Housefull 4 had a weak opening weekend due to the pre-Diwali dull period. Even Sunday figures were less than Friday's. However, Monday onward the film took off, doing well through rest of the week to end its first week with a total of Rs 136 crore.

Made In China remained poor, peaking only on Monday and dropping with each day thereafter, to close its first week with a total of Rs 10 crore.

Saand Ki Aankh, another Diwali release, did a little better Monday onwards but in a limited way. The film managed to collect about Rs 11.5 crore in its opening week.

(Source: IANS)