When musicians Amit Kilam and Rahul Ram were asked to compose the score for Katiyabaaz, a documentary on power theft, the two nosedived into their rustic-yet-contemporary music world and delivered Kanpura. A folk ditty that hinged on the robustness of Ram’s voice and some quirky lyrics by Varun Grover had the filmmakers, Fahad Mustafa and Dipti Kakkar, refer to it as “the soul” of their film. The response from the mainstream was interesting. “It surprised us. The songs worked well and provided us with more compositional credibility,” says Kilam. If Katiyabaaz was anything to rave about this year, the additions to it are far and few. With Highway, Queen and Haider leading the pack, a couple of songs from Ek Villain and 2 States, the Spanish-meets-Punjabi soundtrack of Finding Fanny, and some from Khoobsurat — the year is more about the single tracks. Think Sunny sunny, Jumme ki raat and Baby doll. Compare this to last year when we couldn’t get enough of full-bodied film albums — Aashiqui 2, Lootera, Raanjhanaa, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Ram-Leela and D-Day.
Amid the din of EDM-heavy chartbusters and auto-corrected tracks, where has the soul of Hindi film music gone? “The music scene has become extremely commercial,” says lyricist-singer Swanand Kirkire. “The songs have little organic connect with the film and its emotions,” he adds. Bhushan Kumar, top boss of record label T-Series, feels that films deserve the music they end up with. “There are fewer romantic films or films with song situations being made that justify such songs,” adds Kumar.
Composing music for today’s audience has come down to creating a chartbuster and letting it carry the film. The hunt then is not for great nine songs in an album, but a catchy hook. “Everyone wants to create some sensation in order to get a good opening weekend,” says lyricist Raj Shekhar. Composer Amit Trivedi adds, “These days two things are a must in order to get a good opening, an appearance in Comedy Nights with Kapil and a foot-tapping party number.”
Paramdeep Singh, co-founder and Managing Director, Saavn.com, a streaming platform for popular music, says that film producers depend on the money they make by selling music rights to recover the budget of a film. Thus, a single chartbuster works. “When you say you like Ek Villain, you mean two-three songs from the film and similarly you associate Ragini MMS with Baby doll, and not the entire album,” adds Singh.
With albums giving way to singles, Bollywood is waking up to a new music marketing device. The physical sale of an album in a store is obsolete as the music of a film is released online. “Creating a lot of hype around each song leading up to the full album release has become a good way of making it a success,” says Singh. The strategy has worked great for them, he says, citing examples of Bang Bang and Happy New Year.
Sound wise, there is less melodic depth, a decay in lyric writing, mostly because multiple composers are creating one film album. Logistically, the unavailability of one composer for one single project has led to this. Even Rajkumar Hirani’s PK has three composers. Happy New Year, Kick, Ek Villain and Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya also used multiple composers. Juxtapose this with albums such as Highway, Haider, Queen, Hasi Toh Phasi and Happy Ending, which have one composer and a stronger recall value. “Having five composers and five different lyricists for five songs does not work. Where is the theme to a soundtrack? Everyone wants to make one sensation,” says Shekhar.
Even the industry opinion is divided about this year’s best music album. “Haider did not deliver. It’s good but then it’s not a comparison to Ishqiya or Kaminey,” says Kilam. Filmmaker Habib Faisal says, “I haven’t been able to figure out a method to this madness. To me, Aashiqui 2 was horrible music but then I don’t know why the music of my film Daawat-e-Ishq did not work because it was created with the same purity of thought as Ishaqzaade’s Pareshaan. In times when music has become more of a producer’s call, this year was more of duplication of the old and nothing new really came out,” says Faisal.