Monday, 20 May 2013

The Generation of Items...

The legendary film director Martin Scorsese wrote “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.” Starting from the first feature film Raja Harishchandra (1913), Indian Cinema has gone through numerous transformations.  Now that Indian Cinema has touched its centenary year, we can analyse each and every period starting from pre – independence. But my article won’t be focusing on the cinema as a whole but on its one of the important aspect – Film Music. The journey of Hindi film music started with its feature in first sound film Alam Ara(1931) by Ardesh Irani which featured seven songs.

Music, be it the title track or the songs or even the background score forms the most important part of the cinema. No movie can be completed without having music or at least a background score of its own. It gives life to the movie and makes it livelier in front of the audience.  The songs in the movies are intelligently crafted with proper lyrics which would suit the script of the film.  The impact of Bollywood music in a global scale has been immense. It has created a separate genre for the music lovers all over the world.

As per the film historian Partha Chatterjee, “the Hindi film song cut through all the language barriers in India, to engage in lively communication with the nation where more than twenty languages are spoken and ….. scores of dialects.” There was a Golden era of music in movies. Starting from the music director S. D Burman to his son R.D Burman was considered the time where the Hindi Film music touched its successful peak. Every song was considered to be a hit back then, and still it is considered to be the age where the Hindi Film Music couldn’t have been better.

Indian Film Music saw its first Pop Music Revolution in 20th Century following the already established pop culture in the west. It gave birth to Indi-Pop music starting with its popularity in the 90s by many eminent singers like Alisha Chinai, Remo Fernandes, Usha Uthup, Shaan, Baba Sehgal, Lucky Ali, KK, Palash Sen and many more. Being a huge Music fanatic, Indi- Pop had its own effects in me and I considered it to be the turning point of Indian Film Music in India. With the influence of International bands and singers, Indians created a perfectly different Genre in Hindi Film Music itself with would gather huge popular demand and eventually it did. If 60s and 70s was the Golden Age, then 90s was completely dedicated to the Youth.

Eventually, Indian Pop culture was succeeded by the Rock culture which came in 2000 and stayed with us for a long time. Old Hindi Movie classics were remixed to attract the younger minds. But more recently that also became a part of Indian film Music history with the advent of “Item Song” numbers in the Hindi films.

Mostly the film industry has gone through the transformation and now it is considered to be the “Entertainment Industry” with the rising events, endorsements, award shows etc. It is the huge commercialization which affects the structure of the film. Even if the film not doing so well in Indian Box office, but has a popular Item number , can relieve the producers from suffering huge loss. The actresses doing an ‘item’ number gets paid more than the actress in the lead role of the movie. It is a new concept which has not only effected music industry but also psyche of all groups. They prefer ‘item’ music to any other form of music which is a shame because they refuse to listen to good music.
The negative aspect of these ‘item’ songs is the vulgar portrayal of women in the music. Although it doesn’t promote rape and humiliation but it does corroborate the view. The film makers doesn’t realize the long term effect of such ‘item’ songs which corroborates a patriarchial view of the Indian society and tarnish the already degrading position of women in our Society. Critics call it a bold move but that doesn’t stop the film makers from producing them.

Laila, Chikni Chameli, Munni, Sheila- they now dominate our national consciousness. A girl wearing raunchy clothes and dancing in front of number of men and being their entertainment now may be a normal sight to see in television these days, but I feel it degrades the efforts of those musicians which create good music or those musicians whose efforts brought music revolution in India in 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

We should always welcome the new but not at the cost of losing the old. As the course of History goes, nothing lasts forever. So may be the “Generation of Items” will come to an end and will give birth to something different and positive than showing the obscene portrayal of women in the television. But then such revolution is yet to come and we have to live through the “Generation of Items”.

Sharanya Kundu

@sharankundu on Twitter

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