“A FEW years ago, we kept hearing this refrain that close to 70 years after Independence, nothing is happening in India. Especially with the younger generation, who had more expectations and greater anxiety, but no context of the past. These are interesting times, a lot is being contested about our history, and there’s a lot of data, but not a lot of knowledge,” said Seema Chishti, Deputy Editor, The Indian Express, during the launch of Note by Note: The India Story 1947-2017, at Title Waves bookstore in Bandra, Mumbai on Friday.
Along with Sushant Singh, Deputy Editor, The Indian Express, and Ankur Bhardwaj, Editor, Business Standard, Chishti has co-authored what writer and academic Srinath Raghavan has described as “an emotional history of the Indian republic through the Hindi film song.”
Published by HarperCollins, each chapter of the book focuses on a year and one Hindi film song that captured the mood of the nation at the time of its release. “I would call it a travelogue of India’s journey over the last seven decades, and the Hindi film song occupies a unique position in India’s cultural history as a reflection of the times, and also as an influence on the years to come,” said Singh, who went on to talk about how some years, such as 1984, proved to be more difficult to portray through one song, than others.
Note by Note was released by lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar, along with screenwriter, comedian and lyricist Varun Grover, film historian and writer Bhawana Somaaya and Raghavan.
“People have dismissed Hindi cinema but if you take a look at just the villains of the past 70 years, you will know the socio-economic history of India. Same with its music, it was always a part of the narrative. I keep getting asked, why aren’t today’s songs like before? I ask them, is the film’s story like what it used to be,” said Akhtar.
“I think our society is a bad influence on our cinema. Do you think films like Do Bigha Zameen, Sujata and Bandini would become hits today? No. When Salim Khan and I wrote about the ‘Angry Young Man’ in the 1970s, it happened because of the times we were living in, people needed a vigilante. Today, in this free economy, people don’t need each other like they used to, and that is reflective in our films and music too,” he added. “What happens with music is that you think of a song, and it immediately connects with you at a personal level. I want to stress on the importance of this book because it is important for us to take care of our history, in a time when it is being revised, and not many care about how did we get here, whether it is in cinema, or in our ongoing history,” said Grover.