Saturday, April 23, 2011

Did Bollywood Kill The "Musicals" Genre?

By Anant Mathur (April 23, 2011)

It used to be that songs in a Bollywood film were interwoven with the story and mood of the character(s). But nowadays we find ourselves with not musicals but their namesakes in which club-like-environments are created for videos of the songs which have nothing to do with the narrative. I'm not saying all films are like this but a majority of them, especially the so called BIG BUDGET BLOCKBUSTERS, certainly are. Many times songs which are shown in the promos are not even in the films and are just used as marketing strategy to lure the audience into cinema halls. Most times the songs shown in promos are used as title sequences in the film and have no connection to the story.

What can we expect when the top Dance Directors, Singers and Music Directors in the country are more interested in Judging TV shows or Directing, Producing or even acting in films than Choreography and Music. With all the talent in Bollywood jumping on the chance to become judges on reality TV shows (for more money), this leaves them less time to be creative in films and is hurting the industry far more than they realize. The industry that gave them their bread and butter deserves more respect from these artists.

In the days when films mattered - Choreographers, Music Directors, Lyricist, Singers, Actors, Producers, Directors and Writers - all sat in a room and discussed the best possible way to move the narrative forward with a song sequence. In recent times, I can only recall films like Lagaan, Devdas and 3 Idiots where the songs actually moved the narrative forward, but then again these films weren't made in 6 months. It takes time and good collaboration to make a great film and anyone who's churning out films every 6 months is not doing full justice to the story. Even in a nice story like "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi", where music should be the backbone, the songs pop out of nowhere. The less said about releases of this year the better, methinks! 

If Bollywood is to continue with musicals there needs to be a more effective way of portraying the Song and Dance sequences otherwise the songs are just distracting and take away from the plot points in the stories. We all know how good Hrithik Roshan and other Bollywood stars can dance, how about doing something new for a change? Perhaps it's time for Bollywood to follow in Hollywood's footsteps once more and rid the films of songs, so at least the stories can be enjoyed without distracting interruptions.

Several years ago, I saw an interview with a prominent actor from the Indian film industry in which he stated he doesn't see a future for songs in Hindi films. At the time I laughed it off and though how ridiculous - Bollywood films without songs is like the moon without moonlight or smoke without fire - it just can't be. But the shape Bollywood films are in today, perhaps it's time to rid the films of songs before the genre is completely lost. Only when a film can truly be declared a musical, with the songs being part of the narrative, should this genre be attempted. Let's not dishonor a genre which has brought so much joy into our lives over the years. 

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved

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