Tuned down: Is Hindi music suffering an identity crisis?

By Anita Iyer

Switch on any Hindi radio station, anywhere, playing Bollywood music and chances are you might end up listening to remix versions of  hit songs or an inspired version of a Punjabi folk track.

It comes as little surprise then that the film Luka Chuppi, released early this year, had a five-track album featuring rehashed music from the ’90s, including Punjabi songs. The formula to make music these days seems to be simple: Pick a popular song, get a music producer and rapper together and thrust the ‘brand-new’ song onto the listener with repeated air play on radio, TV and the Internet.

Within no time, the song grows on you and also becomes the junta’s (public) ‘popular track of the fortnight’ – because that is how short the shelf life of a song is these days. Chartbusters are changing faster than fashion trends. What was ruling the charts this week may get pushed into oblivion  when a new tune comes up the next week.

In the past year, there has been a deluge of remade songs like 1978’s Mungada which had Sonakshi Sinha dancing to a new tune, Paisa Yeh Paisa from Karz was revamped for Total Dhamaal, Gur Naal Ishq Mitta in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh…, Urmila Matondkar’s iconic Chamma Chamma in Fraud Saiyaan, Aakh Marey and Tere Bin Nahi Lagda in Simmba and many more. The list just goes on to prove that originality isn’t really high on the listener’s list.

But who is to be blamed if the audience is satisfied with what they are being served. “Filmmakers don’t have enough incentives to invest in good film music because today’s generation is happy with a quick fix. So, why bother to invest time and money in making a new song?” a music composer shared.

While Kalank’s music was promising, all you might remember is Ghar More Pardesiya and the title track. But did we really need so many songs in the recently released Bharat, De De Pyaar De or Student of the Year 2?

Unlike earlier Hindi films where lyrics of a song used to convey progressions in a sequence or depict a character’s mood, today’s songs are hardly situational. They seem forced into the story and eventually end up adding to the length of the movie.

The only music album with a difference this year would be Gully Boy. The makers managed to bring hip hop, the sound of the streets, into mainstream cinema. Yes, rap music has been around for a few years, thanks to the misogynistic lyrics of a few rappers like Yo Yo Honey Singh, Badshah, but hip hop (layered with political commentary) took centrestage in Gully Boy. However, it’s appalling to note that this is the only worthy album in the first half of the year!

Ask any Bollywood music lover to list their favourite albums from the past five years and you’ll only find them struggling with titles. From the clutter, only albums like Manmarziyaan, Andhadhun, Dhadak, Bajirao Mastani, Raazi, Tamasha, Padmavat, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Udta Punjab are among the top names that comes to mind. So, that would be hardly two or three power-packed albums in a year.

I remember a conversation with Bhushan Kumar, the head honcho at T-Series, who insisted that songs guarantee a good opening for films in the first week. Today, I wonder if the music label, at the centre of the remake game, still stands by their mantra. Are songs really driving people to the theatres? My guess is as good as yours.

While Hindi film music continues to thrive, it certainly is suffering from an identity crisis. Will it be able to restore its lost glory? Only tunes will tell.


Anita rolls her eyes every time an out-of-context song springs in a movie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *