As Bollywood completes hundred years of its existence this year, it is time to look back and see what brought the greatest character to this century long journey of evolution and success. Without a single doubt, it is the music of Bollywood that stands out as its single most important characterizing feature…
Foreigners often wonder why Indian movies have so many songs. For many, not used to the perennial musicals of Bollywood, music may appear to be an unnecessary obstacle to the flow of the story. To them, it is unfathomable, as to how, on the verge of the climax of a plot, out of the blue, the characters suddenly begin to sing their hearts out. Thank god, the Indian audiences knew better, for otherwise, the humanity would have been deprived of one of its biggest treasures. A treasure, so precious that it can be used to defined the word “invaluable”…. that is Bollywood music.
The Scientific Basis of Well-being from Music
Scientists still do not fully understand the impact of music on human psyche, neither do they fully understand the impact of poetry on human health and well being. As a physician, I can confidently say that our rational knowledge is still far away from understanding the scientific basis of human entertainment and these refined arts. As a lover of music and arts, I can also say with equal confidence that music, poetry, literature and arts represent the highest faculties of human evolution and existence. What is provided by the nearly seven decades of Bollywood music is not just entertainment, it is a sense of well-being and a kind of harmony that connects the human perception with objective reality, in the process, creating avenues of human realization that we are yet to understand or explain.
The Economic Value of Music
Value or utility is a concept well recognized in economics, though often undermined by its corporate sponsored experts. Economics used the word “good” because it is supposed to make people better off. Music is definitely such a good. What matters most in economic analysis of music as a good, is the ease with which audio-visual recordings can be preserved, circulated and broadcasted today at minimal cost, thereby making the marginal cost of consumption of music by another person extremely low, far lower than the cost of its production. This is what makes music such an invaluable commodity.
The Evolution of Music in Bollywood
Music evolved right from the moment sound became a part of Bollywood with Alam Ara, released in 1931. Ever since then, it is the music of the movie that precedes the movie in terms of popularity and reach. It is also the music of the movie that far outlasts the movie in popularity and reach, echoing perennially, often for decades after people have almost forgotten the movie itself. Bollywood music has become the single most popular genre of music in India ever since then. In fact, its reach has spread far and much beyond India. Bollywood music echoes around the globe, and not just because of the Indian diaspora.
Bollywood music originated with a few small and not very ambitious steps to begin with. The singers were the actors, who were there primarily for their looks or acting. But soon, all that changed. There was one Kundal Lal Sahgal, who could match the best classic singers of his time, and his singing abilities made him the first superstar of Bollywood. Then there was Suraiyya, another singer actor who attained great stardom. It was just before some great playback singers took charge of Bollywood.
Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mannade and Mukesh are some of the great names that contributed to the rich treasure of Bollywood music. More importantly, there were many great music composers too, led by S D Burman, Naushad, Madan Mohan and a score of others who made Bollywood what it has become in these hundred years.
As the industry celebrates hundred years of its existence, it is time to salute the greats who made Bollywood what it is today. When that is done, the creative musical greats of Bollywood will be among the foremost to be recognized !!