June 2008

The new millennium saw a complete sea change in indian movie music scenario. New genres of songs got developed and they are quite popular. These new genres have their own loyal fan following. The new genres were fusion, pop music, remixes and hip-hop to name a few. Though the seeds of these genres were planted in 90s itself yet they bloomed completely in new millennium. Pop music was the new genre in 90s which caught the fancy of new generation of music afficianados who were looking for new changes. Some of the renowned singers in pop music genre who started this trend were Baba Sehgal, Alisha Chinai, Biddu, Mehnaz, Sweta Shetty amongst others. ‘Made in India’ was the first pop album blockbuster in India. It broke all previous records in album sales. Alisha Chinai became the new pop queen in India. New music directors and singers kept coming with new albums and public took them readily. Baba Sehgal with his unique mix of hindi and English also became popular with his album ‘Thanda Thanda Pani’.

This success of new genre gave rise to the culture of Punjabi and Bhangra songs. Daler Mehndi was the Bhangra king in 90s. Every song of his was a blockbuster. His songs were a beautiful mix of Bhangra and pop. This surely made Bhangra a pan India phenomenon. The success of new genres resulted in the not so well defined “filmi sangeet” because filmi sangeet had also started to incorporate new genres of music. This new phenomenon of alternative music coupled with new wave of India cinema has resulted in an interesting business and creative milieu.


The success of “Maine Pyar Kia” and “Qyamat se Qyamat tak” gave way to chain of melodious music. Unlike a relatively barren 80s, 90s produced mind boggling numbers. In fact, many movies were advertised as musicals which proved very crucial in those movies earning good revenues. Movies like Saajan, Sadak, Dil hai ki Maanta Nahi, Dil wale dulhaniya le jayenge, Raja Hindustani had soothing music and this gave a great boost to the sagging Indian music industry.

The other effect of these musical hits was big money started pouring into acquiring musical rights. Music rights of movies like ‘Taal’, ’kuch kuch hota hai’ were sold for astonishing sum. This became a winning formula for movie production houses. Having good music sold for substantial amount resulted into earning good revenues even before the release of the movie.

New millennium further continued this tradition. Musical blockbusters kept hitting the theaters and music was as important to a film as like any other thing. This also gave opportunities to many new musical talents and music directors. A R Rehman was the biggest musical sensation in 90s. He kept giving one hit after another. He is also credited to work with many international names and brought glory and worldwide recognition to Indian music. Singers like Udit Narayan, Sonu Nigam, Abhijit, Shaan. Sunidhi Chauhan also made their mark in musical world.

As Indian music entered into 60’s and 70’s, the standard of music definitely improved because of new recording techniques and technological advancement in other sound systems. Quite a stable era, Indian music kept flourishing with some immortal songs. Singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kishor Kumar, Mohammad Rafi etc were firmly established and they kept producing everlasting songs. Though few new music composers like R D Burman, Kalyanji Anandji and Laxmikant-Pyarelal arrived that further boosted the qualitative competition in the Indian film industry.   These new arrivals resulted into better film music.


With the arrival of 80’s and 90’s, industry witnessed new changes. India saw debut of television of India. Initially there was one channel called Doordarshan which was government owned. Doordarshan affected Indian music industry in both ways. Like earlier people used to listen to film songs through radio. But doordarshan gave these songs a visual medium to reach amongst the masses. Now people could listen to songs as well as see the visual effects. Now Indian film songs had more mass appeal. But at the same time, because of television the rush for theaters line reduced a bit. It affected the movies’ revenue to a certain extent.


In 80’s Indian film songs had lost little bit of sheen. But as 90’s approached movies like “Maine Pyar Kia” and “Qyamat se Qyamat tak” were major hits and so were their songs. Songs from these movies gave a new lease of life to Indian film industry.

During the initial period of Indian cinema the major film centers were Bombay (or Mumbai), Calcutta (or Kolkata), and Madras (or Chennai).  Bombay was the foremost amongst them because of its financial muscle and national distribution capacity whereas Calcutta and Madras were well-known for their regional films. Through out the 30s, Indian movie industry worked that way. With the arrival of 1940s and 50s things started changing a bit. Music was considered the soul of the Indian films. They had to be there. Another change was many independent producers started making their mark in Bollywood. At the same time, era of playback singing started knocking doors. Every movie was working so some formula which guided certain number of songs in movie depending upon the genre of the movies. Many new musicians, music directors and singers began making their mark.


Unlike earlier time where actors and actresses themselves had to sing, now they had the option of lip-syncing. Playback singers’ started singing songs for actors. Notable playback singers who managed to make a mark in that era are K L Sehgal, Hemant Kumar, Talat mehmood, Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta Dutt, Shamshad begum, Begum Akhtar and Asha Bhosle.  Prominent music directors are C. Ramchandra, Naushad, Shankar – Jaikishan, S. D. Burman, and Madan Mohan. These singers and music directors started a new trend in film industry and their songs and music is still popular amongst masses. They are credited to produce soulful music which still lingers on in our memory.

The purists have often questioned the artistic quality of the Indian film songs. Though, we must accept they are immensely popular. Wherever we go in India we can hear these popular movies songs coming from loudspeakers in every function. Its biggest strength lies in the fact that it appeals to every genre and every age group.


 It all had started in 1930’s. Indian’s first speaking movie was “Alam ara” which conincidently also heralded the arrival of Indian film songs. A new musical genre had started to take place. Indian film songs started being major parts of movies right from the beginning of indian motion pictures. Even in first decade of Indian movies; 1930-40, every movie produced in that time frame had almost 10 songs on an average. In that duration regional movies were also released, mainly in Bengali and Tamil which had songs as well.


The famous music directors of that era were Anil Biswas, Pankaj Mullick, Keshavrao Bhole to name a few. These people can be called as trendsetters. The unique thing was the concept of playback singing was not there during the initial period of Indian cinema. The actors and actresses of that period sang their own songs. In fact, most of the actors like Baburao Pendharkar and Bal Gandharva etc were chosen because of their singing talents. 

As mentioned in the previous article, Indian film is so deeply associated with songs and dance sequences. There are very few Hindi movies without songs. The history of Indian film industry can be traced back to 1930s and since then songs have always been integral part of movie industry. Only few movies, mainly Art movies, have tried to run without any songs. Though, lately many films have started not to have any song sequence.


One of the major characteristics of Indian movie songs is the fact that it has adopted various styles from all over the world. If we see deeply Indian songs is well formed culmination of all known styles and genres of music. Hindi film music has tried to integrate elements of not only Indian classical, folk and devotional music but foreign music as well. We can find several film songs that have created using tunes of western music, Japanese as well as Arabian music. Now a day even a glimpse of Latin music can be seen in many songs.


Amongst the most famous indian movie singers have been K. L. Saigal, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey and Mukesh. Lata Mangeshkar and her sister Asha Bhosle are the most well known female playback singers India have produced. These two have dominated indian playback singing scenario since many decades. It comes as no surprise then along with her sister Asha bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having sung more songs than anyone else in the history

In India, film music is one of the most popular streams of music. In fact, in Indian context music is most frequently connected with film music. Music is an integral part of Indian movies. No Indian movie is without music barring few recent exceptions. Whether its Popular Hindi movies or Tamil or Telgu or any of the other Indian languages, songs are the soul of Indian movies. Indian movies are so full of music that Indian films are most often described and understood in the West as “musicals”, because they are rarely without songs. Other popular and known forms of music are Ghazals and Qawaalis.


Ghazals can be described as smooth and beautifully worded elegiac compositions that that adhere to poetic qualities. Ghazals usually have subjects like love, melancholy, loss, memory, and broken hearts etc. Ghazals are soft, smooth Meaningful classical compositions which tug at the heartstrings. Few of the famous Ghazal singers are Talat Mahmood, Mehndi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Gagjit Singh to name a few. Qawaalis on the other hand also has love as the main theme but here it is more of divine nature. Here love represents, love of humankind for the divine, almighty, the superpower. Qawaalis have a tremendous fan following. One of the famous qawaali singer was Late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who established a world-wide reputation.