Thursday, August 23, 2007

Music vs. Film: How Bollywood can never match the poetry of Indian music

Some months back, at Juwey’s Café in Male’, Narco and I were having a conversation. We were reminiscing the days when Hindi music was original. That is when Hindi music used its local and traditional and original instruments like sitar. For me, Hindi music died after “1942: A Love Story”. Yash Chopra’s efforts at reviving it with Madan Mohan’s music in “Veer-Zara” wasn’t a too successful attempt in my view.

Though I loved the music of “Fanaa”, for me, the Hindi music era was pre-“1942: A Love Story.” Now mostly Western instruments are used. And as a family member once commented to me, the use of Western instruments have resulted in the loss of the rustic and sentimental mood of Hindi music, which actually defines it (I listen to heavy metal too but that’s no excuse to ignore the creativity of other cultures as some of my friends seem to do by making racist comments about Hindi music).

I long for the days when I could hear songs like “Ek Rasta Hai Zindagi” from “Kala Pattar” or “Tere Chehre Se” from “Kabhi Kabhie”.

The only person who has been able to still preserve the Hindi feel of Hindi music with Western instruments is, ironically, Mahesh Bhatt and co. Though I hate his plagiarizing of Hollywood films, I cannot help but like the music of Bhatt productions such as “Jaanam” (“Dil Kyon Dadak Ta Hai”, “Mera Dil Ka Pathaa” etc) and “Paap” (“Lagan Lagi Tumse”, etc).

The conversation with Narco centered around the fact that while Hindi music composers were great masters, their counterpart filmmakers don’t have a clue about the art of filmmaking. In fact, Bollywood, like our local Muhamma Kalo, are abusers of the art form we call film, “filmmakers” who want to squeeze every dime out of our pockets with their sorry productions.

I told Narco that while I like listening to Hindi music, the videos and the films’ songs that go with it, don’t go with it at all. I think the problem is that Bollywood filmmakers don’t have a clue about film as an art form. Even Sri Lanka, which has a mostly video industry that is even poor compared to our Dhivehi video industry which consists mostly of plagiarized Hindi productions, won a prestigious Cannes award a few years back.

If anybody disagrees with me, consider this: Bollywood churns out more than 800 films a year, and hardly any of it makes it to an international film festival, save “Lagaan” and “Monsoon Wedding” quite recently. As Al pointed out, you can’t say that films like “Water” and “Bend it Like Beckham” are Bollywood productions because they were made by filmmakers who were raised in other countries. That will be like claiming that films like “The Sixth Sense” by M. Night Shyamalan, who grew up in Philadelphia, are Bollywood films!

But countries like Iran, where filmmakers have to struggle in order to produce less than 20 films a year, almost all the films make it to international film festivals, and even are quite popular and commercially successful. In fact, films like Iran’s “Children of Heaven” is still counted by many of my film-loving friends as one of their top ten favorite films of all time. Bollywood’s much hyped directors like Farhan Akhtar (whose credits include “Dil Chahta Hai,” “Lakshya” and “Don”) should get the message that it is the message of humanity which resonates with audiences and have made Iranian films both popular, commercially successful and at the same time art films. Iranian directors have got it right because they always explore in their films what it means to be human.

Before concluding this post, I would appreciate if anyone can facilitate for me to have access to or get the following songs which I have been desperate to get for several years:

- All the songs of the film “Prem Rog” which stars Rishi Kapoor and Padmini as the unfortunate widow. I especially want the songs “Mohabbat He Kya Cheez,” and that song about the bees which I forgot but you see Rishi running after a white-clad Padmini in it.

- “Mere Liye Zindagi” from the film “Mera Jawab” which I think was Meenakshi and Jackie Shroff’s first film

- “Aathey Mujhe Thu Rulaa Gaee”. I forgot the name of the film but this song stars Sunjay Dutt and Anita Raj (I liked her then and wonder where she is now. She had a nice and modern looking hairstyle even then).

- “Mohabbat Karne Vaalonko Baharo Thum Dhua-eyn Dhoa” from the film “Lovers” starring Kumar Gaurav and Padmini. This film is quite interesting to analyze. It came out in the early 1980s and was directed by Gaurav’s late father Rajendra Kumar. In it, Padmini is a Christian girl who takes singing lessons from a Hindu woman. She falls in love with her teacher’s Hindu son, played by Gaurav. In the climax of the film, both Padmini and Gaurav give up their respective religions so that they could be together. How wonderful. As I’ve always believed, natural feelings like love cannot be overwhelmed with things as fake as religion. One of my family members, who is now quite religious, at that time said that he liked it because he thought it was a very progressive film even at that time. Predictably, it was a flop in Indian box office. There is another lovely song in that film which starts like “Aa Mulagaathoan Ka Mausam Aa Gayaa.”

- Naziya Hassan’s original “Boom” album. Almost all the songs made it to the film “Star” starring once again Gaurav and Padmini and directed by our good Rajendra in the early 1980s.

- All the songs from “Qurbani” starring Zeenat Aman, Vinod Kumar and Feroz Khan.


- Hilath

1 comment:

aindhy said...

You make an excellent point. Additionally I’ve noticed that, while songs formed an important part of the narrative in the golden age of Hindi Cinema, today's films RARELY contribute to the plot/narrative of the film - much like the current comic relief roles in Hindi films. Viewers can feel free to take a bathroom break OR cue (fast-forward) those bits and they'd still not miss an iota of the 'plot'.

And when it comes to plot - you're right - they (and even Hollywood) tend to be too formulaic OR predictable (because it's too formulaic?). Iranian films (and Children of Heaven is a wonderful example) seem far from formulaic... they're, as you've said... very human... but I also think that one of the reasons we enjoy them so much is that they offer a very different perspective... story telling wise at least... when compared with what's mainstream.