Raj Bansal & Pritam tell us how great songs can make or break a Hindi film
Pritam and Raj Bansal tell us how great songs can make or break a Hindi film ( Photo Credit – Instagram )

It’s crystal clear. Correction: It has always been crystal-clear. But the industry and its wise guys (I mean that in American parlance) are myopic about it.

Good music is missing, and the results are out there for all to see. And that’s not just my opinion but that of almost every Hindi film devotee. Filmmakers are looking out for that all-elusive missing factor that has created a dip in the film business but have forgotten the age-old magic of great and situational music that not only acts as the first magnet for a film but also dictates its repeat value and, thus, business!

A big film gains significantly from good songs. History also shows that ‘faceless’ (with a non-star cast or low-budget) movies survive on great songs. Extreme examples of the latter are Rattan (1944), Jai Santoshi Maa (1975), Aashiqui (1990) and even the dubbed Roja (1993).

While music has been missing as the USP of a Hindi film for around eight years now, comparing 2023 and 2024 is enough to show how songs can influence movie fortunes.

Veteran Rajasthan distributor and exhibitor Raj Bansal says, “Good music is among the principal requirements for a successful film. And even one good song can boost a film. Teri Baton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya’s melodious title-song has been an asset to a film that started slow but has had a steady run.”

Bansal points out to the 2023 mega-hits. “Pathaan has just two songs, but they were good. Jawan’s music was decent. The older Gadar’s songs were used with great effect in Gadar 2. And Animal had some nice songs too!”

In lamentable contrast, the biggies this year—Fighter, Yodha, Maidaan and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan have not been able to do anywhere well as expected. Shaitaan may have done well on merit, but would have definitely done (much) better if it had better music, as shown by the business done by musical supernatural thrillers in the past. Bhool Bhulaiyaa’s 2022 sequel, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, had to largely rely on the re-creation of songs from the original.

Composer Pritam says ruefully, “Hindi filmmakers no longer consider music to be important. There was a time when two songs were added to Love Aaj Kal (2009) to replace montages with background music, because I suggested it to director Imtiaz Ali. The result was Aaj din chadheya and my personal favourite from the film, Aahun aahun. But today, the demand is for multiple song-makers. In contrast, look at Southern films that are termed as a ‘S. Thaman musical’ or an ‘Anurudh Ravichander musical’. That is the respect they and their music get! And the films too benefit!”

The weapons to correct the long-standing malaise are all around, in talented film composers, lyricists and proper playback singers, rather than fly-by-night song suppliers, word-fitters and gimmicky voices sans genuine emotional expressions. When will filmmakers rise to the occasion and fall back on time-honoured traditions that respect audiences? As Hrishikesh Mukherjee, himself trained in classical music, had told me, “I think songs are an unreal part of our cinema. But since the audience wants them, I try to have good music in my films.”

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