Narendra Kusnur's music musings …


A MAJORITY of those reading the headline would instantly react: What rubbish! After all, from the beginning, songs have been an integral part of Hindi cinema. So what provokes such a ridiculous thought?

Well, this blogger recently saw Neeraj Pandey’s ‘Special 26’ and Subhash Kapoor’s ‘Jolly LLB’. Both movies are pretty enjoyable. The former is a suspense-filled heist drama, and the latter a satire on the legal system, complete with dramatic courtroom sequences. They have been well-received by both the critics and the public, and are definitely different from the run-of-the-mill movies one often endures.

However, both have two weaknesses. They have half-baked love angles which just don’t go with the main storylines. And they have a few unwanted songs, which simply mar their flow, almost like speed-breakers on a smooth highway. ‘Special 26’ even has a sizzling background score, but the songs by Himesh Reshammiya and MM Kreem fall totally flat. In ‘Jolly LLB’, music director Krsna’s songs just come and go unnoticed.

Such an observation has led to the question raised above. Must each and every film compulsorily have songs, whether or not they fit? In exceptional cases, why can’t filmmakers alter the rules if it’s for their own good?

Over the years, there have been very few movies without songs. The older lot includes J B H Wadia’s ‘Naujawan’ and B R Chopra’s ‘Kanoon’. Singeetham Srinivasan Rao’s ‘Pushpak’ (which was a silent film anyway) and Ramgopal Varma’s ‘Kaun’ didn’t have songs. Neither did Neeraj  Pandey’s successful debut ‘A Wednesday!. And the last one makes us think: if his debut film was successful without songs, why did he have to include them in his follow-up ‘Special 26’, when there was really no need?

There were also films which had only one representational song, or one tune with the end credits. In 1964, Sunil Dutt’s ‘Yaadein’ had Vasant Desai’s ‘Dekha hai sapna koi’. Earlier, films like ‘Ek Doctor Ki Maut’ and ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla’ avoided songs.

Examples of the past decade include Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Black’ (Monty Sharma’s ‘Haan maine chookar dekha hai’) and Nishikanth Kamath’s ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’ (which didn’t have any new song but used the old ‘CID’ classic ‘Yeh hai Bambai meri jaan’ at the end), Ramgopal Varma’s ‘Bhoot’ had a nine-track audio CD, but in the film, only Sunidhi Chauhan’s ‘Ghor andhere’ was used during the end credits.

What’s obvious is that all these films had narratives that didn’t necessarily require any song and dance. But then, such examples are few and far between. By and large, the idea of producing a Hindi film without songs or with only one song just doesn’t exist.

Even if one suggests that so-and-so film shouldn’t have songs, it’s unlikely that filmmakers will really obey. To begin with, there is a mindset that Hindi films must have songs. But in today’s scenario, there are other reasons why producers and directors will not do away with them.

A film’s music is always a source of revenue for the producer. By selling audio rights to the music label, he makes up for some of the money spent in creating the film, including costs incurred on producing songs.

Secondly, music is also used as a marketing tool. The audio CD is normally released a few months before the film, often at a party where the stars get media publicity. Snippets of the film’s songs are used as promos in various television channels. It’s a good way of creating awareness about the film without revealing too many details.

Thirdly, a few good songs can always keep a bad film alive. Even if the film flops, there might be additional people wanting to watch it just for the songs, or as is more likely these days, see their favourite stars dance to those songs.

The musician fraternity will naturally oppose the idea of having films without songs. And the stars need songs even after the film’s release, so that they can perform them at awards ceremonies or live shows. Keeping all this in mind, why would anybody in his right mind want to release films without songs?

Obviously, a whopping majority will not even think of doing such a thing. And one is not even suggesting that such a trend occur.

What we’re trying to say is that if the film’s subject is strong enough and any intrusion will affect the flow, songs may be unnecessary. This may be more applicable to films with loads of suspense, ones with a superfast pace or to a section of horror movies.

Even if one insists on using songs for any of the reasons mentioned above, one should use them intelligently, so that they blend with the script, instead of affecting the smoothness of the plot. It might even help using them in the background smartly. Or if one wants to release many songs, follow the ‘Bhoot’ example — record them and put them on a CD, but don’t include them in the film.

The truth, of course, is that many filmmakers feel songless films aren’t a safe option. Whether that is because of creative or commercial reasons, one doesn’t know. As such, only a handful of them have actually gone ahead and released such films.

That brings us back to ‘Special 26’ and ‘Jolly LLB’. However wonderful and enjoyable the films are overall, they’d probably have been better without the songs. We’re sure there are quite a few films in the pipeline, with offbeat subjects, and which don’t really need songs. That’s something that needs a bit of thought.


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