Thursday, June 11, 2009

From Dard-e-Dil to Dard-e-Disco

Preface: On op/ed on the demise of Indian music. Please note that I am not attributing Karan Johar as the first to use the dreaded concoction of a language below but rather one of the key contributors to the trend of said concoction as a "must have" in each modern-day album...

From Dard-e-Dil to Dard-e-Disco: The Evolution of Hindi Film Music

The ‘When’ and ‘How’ of the transformation of those romantic ditties we once cherished into present-day Hinglish anomalies, minus the ‘Why’…

By Sabrina Siddiqui

Do you ever recall the dreamy duets of yore with your favorite hero and heroine running around trees and through the fields of Switzerland in gay abandon, and subsequently heave a sigh of exasperation at the current state of Hindi film music? Perhaps you wonder when popular wordings along the lines of “tu mile dil khile” turned into “with you, my dil just khils”? Ok, maybe that abomination of a lyric is yet to surface, but it is only a matter of time, my friends!

The truth of the matter is, or so we are led to believe, love songs are out, and disco beats are in. Now we have no problems with dance numbers, and they are by no means new to Hindi cinema. Shammi Kapoor did a “yahoo yahoo” almost 50 years ago in the film that more or less defined his career (Junglee, 1961). Everyone from Amitabh Bachchan to Rishi Kapoor knew how to shake a leg under multi-colored disco balls, and let us not even get started on Mithun “Disco Dancer” Chakraborty.

But who said that the audience no longer wants the soothing, classical Indian percussions that accompany lyrically pleasing love ballads? I, for one, can recall the early incorporation of that must-have Hinglish number, but I cannot for the life of me remember when it became the mandate for every other track on an album.

First off, as is with most modern-day contrivances, you can point your fingers at usual suspect Karan Johar. What started with a simple You Are My Soniya in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) continued in his 2003 reworking of Pretty Woman and mother of all disco songs to follow, It’s the Time to Disco, in Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003). And yes, he merely produced the latter, which was actually directed by Nikhil Advani. And double yes, Shankar Ehsaan Loy were behind the music. But the more important yes, Johar was likely behind the major shot calling, including that of the final music product.

So we embraced the frivolousness that is typically associated with most Dharma Productions’ films, but little did we know that it marked somewhat of a turning point in Hindi music. Because what has followed is five years of ever declining quality of music, said to be catered to a larger (read: global) audience without taking into account the fact that no one ever asked for a ban on the simple and solid tunes about pyaar, ishq and mohabbat.

If my memory serves me correct, the Salman Khan/Sushmita Sen/Katrina Kaif starrer Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya (2005) took the trend to new heights, where all but two songs on the entire album were spared the insertion of Hinglish, deliberately silly lyrics. I will repeat here that this is not an attack on the notion that poorly written dance numbers are fun. Yours truly has those absurdly catchy item numbers from Billu Barber (2009) on repeat on her iPod.

Instead, it is somewhat of a cry for at least some soulful, meaningful music. Because A.R. Rahman is just about the music industry’s own version of a bailout, and even he wants to prove to the world that Pappu Can’t Dance. At least in his case, the tune is subject appropriate and not the summation of his entire album.

In summary, somewhere music directors are missing the cue that many of the most popular songs today remain the Hindi/Urdu-penned, rustic-feeling compositions that most of us have grown up on. Let us not forget that Haule Haule and Guzarish/Kaise Mujhe were the unanimous standout tracks from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Ghajini (2009) respectively. Or the fact that among the top three best-selling albums of the last decade lies one of the greatest gems to have come in recent times, Veer-Zaara (2004), an accumulation of the Late Madan Mohan’s unused tunes dating back to decades prior to his death.

We the people are fine if the music is meant to get us Rocking and Reeling, but an old-school musical intervention is also of the utmost need.

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