Musicals Sans Melody! (Column: B-Town)


By Vinod Mirani

The recent musical dance drama films, where dance and music are meant to complement each other and enthral the audience, seem to be losing on both counts, music as well as dance, as both are loved in India.

Strangely, the musicals and dance films of late have been trying to show what the foreign music videos and even the music TV channels have been showing to viewers in India since their inception! Musical and dance dramas meant grand ethnic costumes, sets with grandeur and the songs and choreography to behold. It all looked so real, so mesmerising, and even inspired a viewer to take to music or dancing.


The fact is, these films are trying to be technically savvy, what with all sorts of computer effects available at the click of a mouse. This just amounts to the makers of such films imitating what they have been watching on music videos and music channels. But, if the makers have been watching these sources which inspire them, so are the people.

We have a few recent cases of dance music films. We also have many films, in fact, almost all films, which use remixed, superhit songs of 1970s and ’80s. They add a lot of sound and cacophony, which they think is a wizardry but it actually mutilates the original.

If one looks at Hindi films, you may call all of them musicals because music and melody were the mainstay of cinema entertainment. But, there were producers and directors who loved to make music-oriented films, no matter the billing. The music made the film work not the stars.


Hollywood made a number of musicals with its dancing stars. But, these Hindi filmmakers who made films based on dance and music, did not imitate Hollywood musicals. India has always had a rich culture of music in the form of folk and ragas and classical dance forms from various regions.

Justifying a musical was left mostly to female stars and, towards this end, the female stars from South India like Vyjaynatimala, Waheeda Rehman were sought after. Classical dancing was part of their growing up. There were many female stars, well-trained in classical dance, but Vyjayantimala bagged more assignments. Films like “Nagin”, “Amrapali”, “Sunghursh” and “Jewel Thief” to name a few. Waheeda Rehman got to prove her dancing prowess in fewer films, “Guide” being her carer milestone.

There was an era when some great musicals backed by dances were made. To name some: “Amrapali”, “Mughal-e-Azam”, “Chandralekha”, “Janak Janak Payal Baaje”, “Navrang”, “Barsaat Ki Raat”, “Nagin”, “Heer Ranjha”, “Laila Majnu”, “Love And God”, “Geet Gaata Chal”, “Alaap”, “Parichay”, “Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!” and many more. These are films where the music was the backbone.


The composers who kept melody going 1970s onwards included Madan Mohan, SD Burman, Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, RD Burman, and Ravi, with some intermittent contribution by composers like Ravindra Jain and Khayyam, besides RaamLaxman and Rajkamal.

A lot many stars (some from the South) followed, who were well qualified at classical dances, like Hema Malini, Rekha, Kalpana, Sridevi, Jaya Prada, Sudha Chandran, Madhuri Dixit and Meenakshi Seshadri. But, heroine-oriented dance films were not workable anymore. These dance exponents never got to showcase their talent.

Filmmakers had moved on to another kind of musicals sans dances.

A trend started when dance was not to be a part of a narrative. A musical was one where the protagonist was either a singer-performer or an exponent of a musical instrument or some such talent. So, every filmmaker who loved melody and knew it was a key to success worked on such films. Sadly, the number of such filmmakers was getting scarcer.

A musical would be a film where the emphasis was on music and dance, and the film’s theme revolved around these aspects. The main ingredient for such a film would be melodious music. When you think of filmmakers who had a penchant for musicals, the name of V. Shantaram comes to mind first. His track record with musicals was noteworthy with films such as “Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje”, “Navrang”, “Do Ankhen Barah Haath”, “Geet Gaaya Pattharon Ne”, “Jal Bin Machhli Nritya Bin Bijli” and so on.

Rajshri Productions emphasised on music. The banners’ musicals include “Dosti”, “Geet Gaata Chal”, “Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se”, “Tarana”, “Nadiya Ke Paaar”, “Maine Pyar Kiya”, “Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!”, besides having memorable musical score in most of their other films.

Producer-director Nasir Hussain had this angle about his films, where the hero wooed his girl with songs and, hence, all his films could be termed musicals. These include an impressive line-up — “Teesri Manzil”, “Pyar Ka Mausam”, “Yaadon Ki Baaraat”, “Hum Kisise Kum Nahin” and so on.

Yash Chopra had a yen for music and his track record is impressive with music in his films. From his first home production, “Daag”, followed by “Kabhi Kabhie”, “Silsila”, “Noorie”, “Chandni”, “Lamhe”, “Dil To Pagal Hai”, “Veer Zara” and “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” were all hits thanks to their music.

While the emphasis was on melody, some unforgettable musicals were made, which include “Shor”, “Karz”, “Abhimaan”, “Yaarana”, “Sargam”, “Aashiqui”, “Dayavan”, “Qurbani”, “Aandhi”, “Mausam”, “Jeevan Mrityu”, “Saajan”, “Deewana” and “Tezaab”, besides many more where the credit for their success went equally to the musical score.

Since then, what has changed is that music has now lost its melody, and is highly influenced by western trends as well as instruments. What is more, hardly any songs are sung by the actors on the screen, that is to say, there is no lip sync anymore. So, their relevance to the film or to the proceedings on the screen is lost.

What followed was a line-up of failed musicals, because either the theme did not justify the music or the cast was not capable of carrying it off. We had films like “Rock Star”, “Banjo”, “Taal”, “Secret Superstar”, “Fanney Khan”, “Radio”, “Rock On 2”, “Bhangra Paa Le” and so on. They were musicals sans soul and cause.

The latest example of a messed-up musical is “Street Dancer 3D”. Despite its popular star cast it never took off. Its 3D effect and technical wizardry only took the film to an unviable production cost of over Rs 100 crore. For its soundtrack, the film had all remixed numbers and not a single original composition.

This is not how a musical should be! Because, there can’t be a musical without popular music, songs which one hums while leaving the cinema hall.

@The Box Office

* The week saw six new releases — “Shikara”, “Malang”, “Hacked”, “Kaanchli: Life In A Slough”, “Yahan Sabhi Gyani Hai” and “Tanashah”. Of these, only “Malang” has some face value, although the film is marred by its content.

*Saif Ali Khan, who recently staged a comeback with “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior”, in which his work was much appreciated, isn’t so lucky with his new solo release, “Jawaani Jaaneman”. The film just could not draw the footfalls.

* Having opened low at about Rs 3 crore on Friday, the film has managed to collect only about Rs 19 crore in its first week.

* The other releases of last week were “Gul Makai” and “Happy Hardy Aur Heer”. Both films saw disastrous results.

* The only hit of the year 2020 so far is “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior”, which is enjoying a terrific run at the box-office. The film held strong in its fourth week to collect about Rs 18 crore, taking its four-week tally to Rs 248 crore.





Musicals Sans Melody! (Column: B-Town) 2

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