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Interpretations Of Hindi Film Music

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Arnold (1992) even found that Hindi film song has been an identification mark for Indianness. According to her, Hindi film song provided all Indians with a distinctly national, modern, popular music with which they could identify and which reflected, in the intent of its composers, the striving for a new Indian nation and national identity.

While trying to explain the eclecticism found in Hindi songs, she made some fundamental observations: the first concerns the musical basis of Hindi film song, such as its musical structure and vocal style that comprises fundamentally Indian elements; the second relates to additional factors such as scale patterns, rhythms and instruments that differentiate individual songs and draw upon any number of foreign and indigenous music. She cites two examples of the Hindi film songs where the film music directors Salil Chaudhury and Vasant Desai make a few alterations in the Western based instrumental music compositions and integrate them with the classical Hindustani music.In order to explain the eclecticism in the native film song compositions, she cites the work of music director Ghulam Haider who first introduced his native Punjabi folk rhythms and effervescent musical style in the early 1940s.

Manuel (1988) interpretation of Hindi film music is based on Marxist and neo-Marxit theoretical interpreatioins and look similar to the theoretical works of post-crtical theorists such as Theodore Adorno of Frankfurt School. According to Morcom (2007), the studies of Arnold (1992) and Manuel (1993) are similar though we found clear separation between these two author‘s works. Arnold (1992) has based her work on modernist terms whereas Manuel has laid his ground on post-critical theory. In fact Arnold strongly opposed any interpretation to Bollywood musicals based on Adorno‘s post-critical theoretical frame work. Manuel (1993) has also examined how film music has impacted on folk-music (p 55-59) besides attempting to explain the re-use and recycling of tunes within and between many genres of South Asian music.

Apart from these two major studies, a number of smaller works on Hindi film musicals have been carried out though their sample size is very small. For instance Skillman‘s (1986) historical survey of Bollywood musicals has covered the same terrain that Arnold had swept in her work. Similarly Cooper (1988) discusses the use of the song from the perspective of a film director such as Guru Dutt. At the same time, Beeman (1981) examines Hindi film song in comparison with the music of Hollywood films. Barnouw and Krishnaswamy (1980) study of Indian film narrative though did not delve on film songs exclusively often differed to film songs too.

Ray (1976) has written appreciably about the fusion skills of Indian music directors. Like Cooper (1988), Chatterjee (1995) too discusses the how the director combined the music with the narrative in the film Awaara (1951) directed by Raj Kapoor. Kabir (1991) has also produced a lot of literature, though some of it was never published, on film songs in relation to their importance to Hindi cinema. Booth also discussed the use of film songs in the music of Indian Brass Bands (1990 and 1992). Marcus attempted to relate film music in the context of its appearance in and influence of Biraha (1993 and 1995).

Gopal and Moorti (2008) in their collection of essays on various aspects of Hindi film songs, showing their growing contours as global and mass culture, have once again reinforced the post-critical theoretical aspects of Hindi film music.

Though Morcom recognized in her book –Hindi Film Songs and the Cinema-that many universities in India have done several dissertations on film music, she regrets that none of them has ever had the chance of being published (2007: 9). She points out that Professor Pradeek Kumar Dixit has completed the first ever dissertation on this subject in 1978 at Banaras Hindu University. Dixit is perhaps the first Indian author to situate the film music on modernist and traditionist foundations, and probably the first to describe the uses of the sources of Indian classical music, Indian folk music and Western music in Hindi film song style. Sinha (1991) and Dasgupta (1998) were some researchers who in a limited way had discussed the use of music in Hindi films songs. Whereas Dasgupta discussed how Indian music has been an inspiring force for people to learn music in India, Sinha centered her work on how Naushad‘s music has been so contributing to the Indian film music. She mostly focused her study on how Naushad had produced hybrid genres of music by combining folk and classical styles, instruments and Western style orchestration to create mood and effects relevant to the drama and setting of the songs.

Vasudevan (2000) characterizes the hybridity of Hindi films by identifying the combination of Hollywood realist continuity codes that propel the linear narrative forward with the static visual codes such as tableau, the iconic forms of address, and pre-modern Indian cultural codes of looking. According to him these different cinematic codes convey meaning in different ways and create different effects. He further notes that song sequences tend to contain more stasis, more iconic framing and tableaux. Morcom (2007) says that if the music of song relates to narrative, then these different narrative styles may help us understand musical style in songs better. For most of his interpretations to Hindi film songs, Morcom was dependent directly on the theoretical frame work enunciated by Brooks and Elsaesser (1991) on the role of music in melody.

Dutta (2009) in her study of how technologies negotiated nationalist identities through ‗ hybridization‘ of music in Hindi films songs have identified that films like Laggan (2001), Kal Ho Na Ho (2003), Swades (2004) and Rang de Basanti (2006) have produced music that combined folk, traditional, classical besides Western classical. She has also found that folk, traditional and classical have been vaguely demarcated against Western classical and have been in direct correlation with the narrative of the film. She says that ‗Music very clearly becomes a cultural marker of difference through the quotation of a putatively western classical music in respect of scenes that relate to cantonment of the British in the film Lagaan (2001).

Hughes (2007) has found that music recording companies and their products prefigured, mediated and transcended the music relationship between stage drama and Tamil cinema. He was of the view that music recording industry not only transformed Tamil drama music into a commodity for mass circulation before the advent of talkies but also mediated the musical relationship between Tamil drama and cinema, paving a way for creation of film songs of a new and distinct popular music genre.

Jha (2003) in her work described the songs in pop in Indian film, as meta narratives, allow the spectators to create meaning within the larger, scattered, melodramatic filmic space. Consequently, she says, they provide insight into an otherwise incoherent narrative. Jha holds the view that song-and-dance sequences, which had already been part of the formulaic device for Hindi cinema, became one of the key transmitters of India culture, since the music industry and the consumption of music on the radio heavily relied upon films to produce music as commodity. Drawing upon Vasudevan‘s thesis of popularity and reception (1998), the multiple positions from which its performance is conducted, Jha concludes that cinema constitutes songs, along with other para-narratives as narrational instances of its own authority. According to Jha, the Hindi film songs are viewed as working extradiegetically both within the filmic space and in the material world. The particular dialectic that exists, says Jha, between the two spaces anticipates a revisioning of the function of melodrama and its relationship to the film, the songs and the spectator. Using this as a spring board for her research, she tried to investigate the relationship between women and cinema, and the articulation of post-colonial nationalism through song spaces in Hindi films.

Skillman (1986) has been critical of a number of facets of Indian musicals. Firstly he could not agree to the same singer singing for various characters. Citing example of Lata Mangeshkar‘s stupefying phenomenon in which her singing histrionics covered a number of heroines and young or adolescent future heroes, Skillman writes that Indian audience are not concerned with either the voice of the character in the film or visual enactment of the things. He is of the view that Indian audience are only concerned with first, how well a singer renders a song, rather the logic of what a character sings. He pointed out that audience place emphasis on the context, action and emotion being expressed and not whether it is appropriate to the character. The sentiment, according to him, often the character expresses is the reflection of audience‘s emotion. He made a very general observation that Indian audiences identified with film songs more instead of classical music and were fascinated by the instrumentation. He concludes that film song is popular Indian music and has achieved the status of transcending through cultural, religious, linguistic, caste and class barriers by appealing to the ethos common to all Indian traditions and societies. In other words, he described the film song in India as a bridge between the traditional and the rapidly developing modern society.

Using the revolution the voice and artistry of Lata Mangeshkar have brought about in Hindi film industry, Srivastava (2004) explored how her voice has lent stability to the voices of female actresses affording identities through a number of elements of Indian modernity incuding nationalism. He also tried to interpolate Lata‘s music phenomenon over the cultural politics of Indian masculinity. According to him, Lata‘s voice is one important index to explore a nationalist discourse in which a woman as a sign had fluctuated between the poles of the mother and the sexually dangerous being. He had explored these through the career of Lata Mangeshkar. Regarding Lata‘s vibrant voice and its impact on market orientations of both films and cassettes, Srivastava quotes the words of Manuel:

If vocal style (aside from the language) is the single most important marker of aesthetic identity, then it can be argued that Lata‘s singing voice has instituted a very specific identity for Indian womanhood, one which has almost no precedence in traditional forms of Indian music.

Many critiques believed that Lata‘s melody became the ultimate measure of sweetness in a woman‘s voice and her mimics could hardly be distinct from her. Scholars like Deshpande (2004) however differed attributing some of the Western terms like falsetto to Lata‘s voice by Srivastava. Deshpande has virtually dissected every statement of Srivastava (2004) and dismissed the contention that Lata came to be the representing voice of women identity in India.

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