Formulaic Indian Cinema is pure escapism.
Thanks to LOVEFiLM DVD rentals - we over here at the Route79 darbar get a weekly dose of fairly recentish so-called “Bollywood” releases on DVD which we enjoy in glorious hi-fidelity DTS and Dolby Pro-Logic surround sound in our very own home cinema - which is what we call the main lounge/living room - because we don’t use that room for anything other than watching DVDs. Each sitting takes me back to the days when I used to spend practically the entire day sitting down with my Mum at the weekends - watching masala films and drinking endless cups of tea - with tissue-box close by!
One of the stranger things about the Indian Cinema industry is that the soundtrack to a movie tends to get released well before the movie itself. Well - that’s how it seems for those of us here in London anyway. Perhaps it’s because we get the soundtrack albums distributed to us on CD before the films are distributed for cinema showings over here? Anyway - the strangeness is because most so-called songs are especially developed against a “picturisation” - i.e. the director issues a brief to the commissioned composers, lyricists and playback singers - namely the context of the moving imagery i.e. the storyboard that the director wishes to project onto the screen for the song. And so - the song, music and lyrics are developed in accordance to the director’s aspiration. This has been the norm in mainstream Indian cinema since the year dot.
In releasing the soundtrack well ahead of the film - (especially if the music and singing is good) the producers create promotional hype in the build up to the release of the film - in order to maximise the box-office takings. However - in doing so the producers run the risk of listeners forming a mental “picturisation” of the songs that are different to that the director intended. To counter the risk of a disappointed public in this regard - the soundtrack of most mainstream Bollywood releases are characteristically “filmi” - which means that they have a certain easy-listening and catchy quality to them - and are generally composed, lyricised and sung by a very narrow selection of “dependable-as-ketchup” composers, lyricists and singers.
What amazes me is the sheer quantity and variety of filmi songs that work well within such narrow bounds. A typical formula will be a male/female duet with a steady ryhthm , medium tempo, uncomplicated use of instrumentation, and an emotional undertone of love, sadness and optimism - all in a tune that can get you tapping your feet and humming the tune on just the first listening.
Try this one by way of a good example - this is from the film Bardaasht - a track called Silsile Mulaqaton Ke - which is sung by the famously dependable Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik (who is a Mangeshkar/Bhosle legend-in-the-making) - and is composed by the famously reliable Himesh Reshammiya and lyricised by the famously predictable Sameer. Turn up your volume loud - and click on the play button in the Media Player below - it’s encoded at very low bit rate - so should be tolerable to those of you on dialup - and shouldn’t need to download again if you want to listen to the song again.