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Bollywood going back to Rustic disco

Ranjita Biswas, TWF, Bollywood Trade News Network
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Bipasha BasuEverybody's dancing to the rural tune these days in the popular music scene. Is it back to the village?

In the past year or so, something is happening quietly- or raunchily, in Hindi film songs. You an also call it the village voice taking over what was once reserved for westernized cabaret number, usually enacted by Helen or her followers. We are talking about the genre that's getting increasingly popular even among the suave, lounge-bar-hopping crowd. Go anywhere, or plug on the FM channels with their 24 hour hot favourites chart line-up, and you can't miss them: Sunidhi Chauhan's nasal rendering of 'Yeh to bata/dekhta hai tu kya' in KRAZZY 4 or Billo rani, kaho to abhi jaan de dun in DHAN DHANA DHAN GOAL

Perhaps it started with an audience put on fire by Bipasha Basu's gyrating to Beedi jalai le or was the trend set sometime back by Rajasthan's folk singer Ila Arun's rendition of choli ke piche with delectable Madhuri? The song created considerable controversy with its innuendoes. But now the listeners, or audience, are blasť enough to take on Mallika Sherawat or a Rakhi Sawant moving all over in the skimpiest dresses that go in the name of 'ethnic' and particularly like to tap with the rural beat.

Or think of OMKARA'S title track sung by Sukhwinder Singh that immediately brings to mind the UP/Bihar landscape. It is rustic and earthy, with typical accent of the land. But that's the attraction perhaps: it's as favourite in a plush drawing room in a posh Delhi flat as in outback.

Have we gone full circle then and going back where it began, our song and dance tradition? Why is it that instrument heavy western pop style songs are being given good competition by these so-called rustic even nautch-girl songs in this IT-savvy days? Hard to say. One may agree or disagree, but the song-heavy Hindi films have always claimed to be rooted to the soil. But the Hippy age 'Dum Maro Dum' and its clones in the 70s and 80s sometimes overshadowed so-called 'Gaon ka gaana'. However, in one aspect that is, in the item numbers, okay it's a newly coined term and concept which is as must these days in films, the music directors looked westwards. That has changed a lot. The song and dance routines which are part of celebrations in rural hamlets in UP and Bihar etc. have made effortlessly waltzed into sleek productions. And are the listeners lapping it up!

Or perhaps there is not much to be surprised about. As the economy surges, Indians are getting more confident, Bollywood has attracted even the honchos from Hollywood and NRIs in New York or London don't cringe from dancing to the steps of 'Bhangra' beat and in the process are teaching a thing or two to the entertainment moguls of the West.

One recalls that Satyajit Ray wrote in our films, their films, that he was often accosted by the curious about the pervasive influence of song and dance routines in Hindi films coming out of Mumbai which a Western audience often identified with as 'Indian' films ('Hindi films? You mean the ones with a lot of singing? '). But then, to someone familiar with Indian cultural ethos it is not so unusual either. The love for folk theatre and entertainment traditions spilling over to a modern art form like cinema that arrived in India under colonial rule is well recorded. With ALAM ARA (1931), the first 'talkie' in India, which had about a dozen songs, (an early Tamil film is said to have had over 60 songs) the trend only got stronger and continues with full force even today in Bollywood. As Ray forecasted, way back in 1976 in the same book, "...they are the only things which remain immutable in the face of global upheavals in the cinema."

Indeed, the marrying of the folk traditions of entertainment and cinema, and continuing to the 21st century as vibrantly, is nothing less than extraordinary, perhaps nowhere in the world it is so. Yves Thoraval (The Cinemas of India) rightly observes, "The encounter between [these] traditional forms of music and theatre and the technological progress made by Western cinema especially that of Hollywood is the basis of popular Indian cinema."

In the 50s and 60s when Bimal Roy, Raj Kapoor etc. were making films they used songs, so essential to Hindi films, in beautiful picturisations and their melody, their lyrics with the simple orchestra arrangements have retained their magic even in this age of huge ensembles and remixes. Those were also the years when music directors like Sachin Dev Burman; Hemanta Kumar Mukherjee brought their regional sensibilities to the Hindi film songs. Who can forget Sachin Dev Burman's rich timbered voice singing a 'Bhatiali' or a folk tune of his home state Tripura flowing into his Hindi film compositions?

So if one probes a little deeply, it does not seem unusual, rather welcome change of a fresh wind blowing in from the villages to the cities where the music composers sit huddled over their instruments evoking their muse to bring something new. And what's better inspiration than the rich folk traditions we already have? They are even incorporating regional tunes, beyond the Hindi belt and even a few lines of lyrics like folk tunes from Assam in Tate 'bohi bohi robi' (JAB WE MET). Baul tunes from Bengal have also peeped from time to time. And why not? Don't we remember the typical 'South Indian' tones in Mehmood's blockblaster Padosan?

So it is happy listening time- and composing time, with the rural and urban, at least in this field, coalescing quite melodiously. As for the dancing and the 'Jhatkas' on the disco floor, that's another story.

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