Remix is B-Town's quickfix mantra

Vinayak Chakravorty

Mar 26, 2019 18:27:35 IST

When music hits you, Bob Marley once stated, you feel no pain. You would perhaps do a rethink on the late reggae legend’s words after sampling a lot of what Bollywood passes off as songs lately. When new-age B-Town music hits you, you might feel the need for aspirin.

The intent of Hindi film music is arguably different from that of Marley’s majestic oeuvre. A mass market-driven film industry demands saleable songs for pre-release hype. What rankles many music lovers, though, is that hype seems to be the only reason for songs to exist in mainstream Hindi cinema now.

Once upon a time composers and lyricists were adept at balancing saleability with melody and poetry, and songs defined plots. The words of Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shailendra, Gulzar, Javed Akhtar or Anand Bakshi, and the tunes of Naushad, SD Burman, Shankar-Jaiskishen, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, RD Burman or AR Rahman — among many others who have defined Bollywood’s best music — lent as much heft to a film’s popularity as its stars, as did the timeless voices of Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle, Mukesh or Manna Dey. Occasionally, Bollywood also created scope for the class of Pandit Ravi Shankar or Ustad Amir Khan.

Contemporary Bollywood has all but given up on great melody. With the exception of Arijit Singh or Amit Trivedi in recent years, one would struggle to come up with a name in the current music industry who might, just might, triumph the test of time.

New-age filmmakers contend times have changed, that society overall is less receptive to poetry and melody — especially the classical forms. Bollywood has, in turn, been in sync with the trait, so film music charts nowadays are ruled by club remixes of old Hindi dance numbers or Punjabi pop hits. Sure, there is a quota of Bollywoodised Sufi numbers that represents filmi melody today but that genre, too, is also hardly original fare. In any case, Bollywoodised Sufi is a minority stock.

A reason that popular music experts forward is the fact that content in Hindi cinema itself has become less receptive to poetry or poetic ideas. Veteran poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar, speaking to the media at a literary meet in Kolkata a while back, pointed out how there was “more razzmatazz than emotional depth in stories” lately, so the situations for songs are not emotional either. “Tunes that writers get today are not conducive for poetry. The tempo is such that words do not get the space to breathe,” said Akhtar.

The quickfix alternative is remix. A random look at gaana.com’s Bollywood top 50 chart for the week ending January 26 reveals four of the five biggest current hits are remixes. Tanishk Bagchi’s Aankh marey for the Ranveer Singh-Sara Ali Khan superhit Simmba features the voices of Mika, Neha Kakkar and Kumar Sanu, and is at number one on every chart right now. The song, rehash of a hit number from the 1996 film Tere Mere Sapne, merely amps up the tempo with techno beats and reveals very little creativity otherwise.

The same can be said for Chhamma chhamma in Fraud Saiyaan (rehashed from the 1998 release China Gate), Gali gali in KGF (the original number featured in the 1989 blockbuster Tridev), and Tere bin in Simmba (reinventing a traditional Sufi number, voiced by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan) — the other three remixes that occupy chartbursting space.

Dilbar in Satyameva Jayate, Laila in Raees, the Humma song in OK Jaanu, Lift teri bandh hai in Judwaa 2, Tamma tamma again in Badrinath Ki Dulhania, and Ruk ruk ruk in Helicopter Eela are among remix hits that define Bollywood soundtracks over the recent past.

Clearly, these songs are not aimed at securing shelf life. The objective is to generate noise (literally as dancefloor hits, and otherwise as marketing gimmicks on television and the net). Sense and sensibility is not an issue. Ishqwaala love makes sense perhaps after one is chaar-botal vodka down, the GenNow Bollywood poet would tell you.

Shift in filmmaking approach is perhaps what accounts for the trend. Most new-age Hindi filmmakers are influenced by Hollywood when it comes to filming, execution and storytelling styles. While that has made our films sleeker over the years, they have also taken away the subtler notes of creativity.

Poetry and music have been a direct casualty. Following in the footsteps of Hollywood filmmakers, our directors and scriptwriters are increasingly avoiding the use of songs to explain emotions or narratives.

Till even a decade back, Bollywood films had a song for every reason. There was a song when the hero wanted to play mischief with the heroine, one (sometimes two) to underline the moment(s) when they fell in love, one when they fell out of love. Other regular ‘song situations’ that screenplays readily accommodated would include buddy bonding between heroes, the sad ones that played when lovers were torn apart, and sundry festivals. Even scenes of verbal duels (between, say, hero and villain) made for feisty song and dance.

Back in the heydays of Bollywood music, it was unthinkable to have a Hindi film without at least half a dozen songs, often more. Filmmakers as well as the audience have evolved beyond that phase. If a story is engaging enough, new-generation viewers nowadays tend to get restless if songs disturb the narrative.

Average films lately have two to three songs, if at all. These numbers are more often than not used as part of the overall background score because, like a mandatory song count, lip-sync is also a dying phenomenon in our films.

Film music has been more about watching a song than hearing it in recent times. That makes the choreographer a fat load richer than the lyricist in Bollywood right now, actually.

Updated Date: Mar 26, 2019 18:27:35 IST

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