MUNNI and Sheela became history, as new item bombs like ‘Chammak Challo’, ‘Jalebi Bai’ and ‘Chikni Chameli’ blasted our senses. If they were taking a nap, out came lyrical blunder-showers that went ‘Ja Chudail’, ‘Tai Tai Phiss’, ‘Character Dheela Hai’, ‘Katiya Karoon’ or ‘Bhaag DK Bose’. In the end, a non-Hindi number called ‘Kolaveri Di’, written for a Tamil film in some hybrid lingo called Tanglish, became the biggest rage even among hardcore Bawly-wood music buffs.
For Hindi film music, 2011 was a total disaster. A quick run-down over the list of releases, and there wasn’t a single ‘great’ soundtrack. There were some good songs here and there, but only a smattering of them. Maybe the melodious ‘Teri Meri’ in ‘Bodyguard’. Or the infectious ‘Ooh La La’ in ‘The Dirty Picture’. The catchy ‘Daarling’ in ‘7 Khoon Maaf’. The rock track ‘Sadda Haq’ or the clap-along ‘Kun Faya Kun’ in ‘Rockstar’. The likeable ‘Senorita’ in ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’. The semi-classical ‘Saans Albeli’ in ‘Aarakshan’. The brilliantly-rendered ‘Bhare Naina’ or the Ben E King-inspired ‘Dildara — Stand By Me’ in ‘RaOne’. Or the rabble-rousing ‘Singham’ title song, which sounded like a cousin of last year’s ‘Dabangg Dabanng’.
However, these songs were few and far between. None of them could be described as an out-and-out classic. And an entire soundtrack of super-songs? No way. We didn’t even come a few miles close.
Among the lot, one may argue that soundtracks like ‘Rockstar’, ‘RaOne’ and ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ had their highs. But clearly, they weren’t anywhere near the best of Rahman, Vishal-Shekhar or Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. One may also claim that there was some kind of a different sound in ‘Shor In the City’ and even ‘Delhi Belly’ — never mind if the later was crammed with lyrics like ‘Bhaag DK Bose’, ‘Ja Chudail’ or ‘I Hate You (Like I Love You)’, whatever that means. Music director Pritam showed some promise in ‘Mausam’. But there again, there wasn’t one score path-breaking enough to set an entirely new trend.
If one looks at the previous three years, one finds a fair number of above-average or even outstanding soundtracks. In 2008, we had ‘Rock On’, ‘Jodhaa Akbar’, ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’, and for their commercial flavour, ‘Singh Is Kinng’ and ‘Dostana’. The next year had the brilliant ‘Dev D’, which exposed us to the supremely fresh talent of Amit Trivedi, besides ‘Delhi 6’, ‘3 Idiots’, ‘Wake Up Sid’, ‘Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani’ and ‘Kaminey’. Admittedly, 2010 was relatively weaker than the previous two years, but we still had some hugely-listenable stuff in ‘I Hate Luv Storys’, ‘Dabangg’, ‘Ishqiya’, ‘Raajneeti’ and ‘My Name Is Khan’.
So that brings us to the all-important question: what went wrong in 2011? To begin with, one definitely can’t blame the quality of films, as the year did have its share of movies that rose above the ordinary in terms of storyline or performances – examples being ‘Stanley Ka Dabba’, ‘The Dirty Picture’, ‘Pyaar Ka Panchnama’, ‘Delhi Belly’, ‘Shor In The City’,’Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, ‘No One Killed Jessica’,‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’ and ‘Rockstar’ (if only for Ranbir Kapoor). Despite its dragging second half, ‘Rockstar’ had enough potential to be a sizzling soundtrack, but was marred by some inconsistent singing by the otherwise-brilliant Mohit Chauhan, and maybe a surfeit of songs.
The dropping quality of Hindi film music can be attributed to a combination of other factors. For starters, both filmmakers and music directors were hell-bent on cashing in on what works. ‘Munni’ and ‘Sheela’ became a rage, so everyone wanted to project their own version of an item song. Street-friendly lyrics were accepted by the masses, so they came up with something as inane as ‘Tai Tai Phiss’ and ‘Character Dheela’.
The second factor might be the general change in the approach of composers towards film music. To begin with, many of them think — or are forced to think — of producing songs that may make for good ring-tones or caller back tunes. All they need is a quick-fix riff. Lyrics or any in-depth content are absolutely unnecessary. And if they don’t think of music for mobile phones, they think of doing songs that could work in television dance shows or which are ‘remixable’ for club-play, which again restricts their potential.
Reason number three is that even when they try and produce some serious music, they follow a predictable path by going in for what they call a Sufiana flavour. To begin with, it’s blasphemy to use the word ‘Sufiana’ for most of these tunes – ‘Sufi’ music is something very pure and having spiritual connotations. At best, these numbers use an orchestration and vocal arrangement influenced by that kind of music — the lyrics are anything but ‘Sufi’. Whatever it is, the moment they try and follow that genre, they end up sounding repetitive. Moreover, we’ve been having an overdose of that, and this is something that is likely to continue.
At the moment, one isn’t sure what’s in store in 2012 — ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu’ and ‘Kahaani’ seem promising. Hopefully, things won’t be as terrible as in 2011. Clearly, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the year gone by was one of the worst for Hindi film music. A year when the entire genre went ‘Tai tai phiss’. And for heaven’s sake, over the next few months, we’ll have to endure all those best music awards when none of the films actually deserved it.