Sunday, 9 September 2012

Bollywood Music - When the Part becomes bigger than the Whole

One of the biggest differences between Bollywood and every other film industry (including Hollywood) is Bollywood music. Right from the first "talking movie" produced in Bollywood, Alam Ara (1931), songs have been an integral part of Bollywood movies. In fact, just after Bollywood experienced sound, a movie Indra Sabha had as many as 69 songs. While the numbers later came down, the quality continued to grow and reached a stage where Bollywood songs virtually became the only form of popular Hindi music in India.

The importance of Songs and Music in Bollywood not withstanding, they were still a part of the movie itself, the commercial success of which was the ultimate goal for everybody. Good music was always the best form of free publicity and often an assurance of success, yet what invariably mattered was the success of the movie itself.


As Bollywood grew bigger, as more and more money poured in and as the stakes became larger, the importance of music also grew, but perhaps not in the same proportion. Musicians and singers were given better remuneration, but they were never the superstars like the lead actors nor as important as the director and producer. The trend has continued, even though a lot of water has flown under the bridge and even while the whole complexion and identity of Bollywood is undergoing a metamorphosis.

All this while, there is one thing that few seem to have realised. Bollywood songs have gradually outgrown the movie industry in terms of both reach and longevity. The music of the fifities and sixties continues to be as popular as it was then, even though the movies, or least most of them, have long been forgotten and left to wildreness. Few classics apart, the movies of those days cannot attract many visitors, but the music of that day continues to remain favourite with the masses, rich and poor alike, and continues to regale them as the best and probably the healthiest form of entertainment available.

With passing time, phrases like the "Golden Era" have been coined to highlight the sophistication of the music created in those times. Growing number of musical tributes and all-song-channels are further testimony to the longevity and reach of Bollywood music, which never seems to fade away from public memory. With easy availibility through internet, the process is bound to grow further.

Even if people do not remember the movies, they cannot have enough of Bollywood music of yesteryears. It is a classic case, where part has become bigger, outlived and overshadowed the whole.

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