In 2013, Aashiqui 2, a (then-) faceless film (Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor had no hits before this) and the big-budget Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani both became musical blockbusters.


Interestingly, most new music makers who come cheap since are being expressly told to imitate or emulate Pritam, composer of the far superior latter score, but obviously the results lack that level of excellence or popularity. As for Aashiqui 2, it unfortunately also heralded a regressive trend whereby newbies are still told to make endless songs on the lines of Tum hi ho and Sun rahaa hai na tu in musical, lyrical and vocal feel!

A still from movie 'Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani' and 'Aashiqui 2'
A still from movie ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ and ‘Aashiqui 2’

And that’s what, essentially, is the main template of music(k) that is being forced on us today! There are three more role-models (sic)—The Yo Yo Honey Singh kind of song with tasteless verse referring to baby and daaru, monotonous music, gimmicky singing and—usually—crass visuals, and the overdone (mis)use of Sufiana songs and Punjabi folk. The former has both incomprehensible and ungrammatical words, while the latter revels in a deliberate lack of newness and imagination!

Music label honchos now shockingly overrule even film directors and decide the music content of the film themselves, that too based on their own perception of what works in the market. The needs of the story come last, if at all! And when one such song in 10 or 20 succeeds for a short while (that too almost always due to marketing), they delude themselves that they are always right!

And what do we mean by music content? Well, it includes selecting the voices, the word-suppliers—oops, we should say lyricists!—and those who compose the right beat-based hooks—oops again, we mean tunes!

Ironically, in this rush for quick-fix songs, a few exceptional filmmakers still focus on the old-fashioned musical needs of a film, never needlessly pander to trends, and look at aesthetics as well as commercial appeal. Then, when a film like this flops (like Citylights), even these makers get cold feet!

The nadir is reached when budgets are reduced to a fraction for this profitable (for the film’s business) entity. So many filmmakers misguidedly splurge on stars who cannot guarantee their film even an opening, which great songs always can!

A still from movie 'Tanu Weds Manu Returns' and 'Gabbar Is Back'
A still from movie ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ and ‘Gabbar Is Back’

Filmmakers also spend exorbitantly on marketing, sets, technology and needless audiovisual razzmatazz, under the delusion that they are making nationally or globally hot cinema. They forget (or never accept) that successful Indian cinema is still about good storytelling, with music as that part of the narration that substitutes for ‘dialogues’.

This misplaced economy is killing film business as surely as night follows day. Good music can add anything from 20 crore up to the business to a film today. Look at how easily Ek Villain and 2 States crossed 100 crore, matching mega-star Salman Khan’s Jai Ho! or Akshay Kumar’s Holiday, which just scraped through. And check how Happy New Year and Bang Bang! under-performed despite mega-stars, vis-à-vis a Kick.

Gabbar Is Back’s lack of a single good song has left it gasping to reach Rs 90 crore when it could have crossed Rs 100 cr. weeks ago. Piku saw this misplaced economy in full fettle: a guitar-strumming musician-lyricist-singer may come in a great (read low!) budget, but this lack of wholesome songs with sensible words stopped this lovely film from being a super-hit.

And in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, good—not great—music was not exploited well, in the name of ‘realism’ despite the many other unreal things shown! The focus was only on two ‘item’ numbers, Banno and the half-filmed Ghani bawri. Four more songs were placed in the background in segments, while the best track O saathi mere was ‘replaced’ by its instrumental version in a key sequence. Proper exploitation of these songs within the film along with correct promotion could have made TWMR end week one at Rs. 90 crore instead of the present 70!

As for the latest small releases, Ishqedarriyaan and Welcome 2 Karachi, the right musical buzz could have given them face-saving openings!

– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.

Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar

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