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The decline of film music

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

The decline of film music

While, technically, quite a few aspects of the film industry 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. 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.

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. 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). 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.

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. And, finally, Bappi Lahiri turned out to be their favourite composer. He delivered instant music, something their first choice hero 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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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