By: ASJAD NAZIR
HOW HORRIBLE SONGS HAVE BADLY HARMED HINDI CINEMA
Bollywood being built on a bedrock of magnificent music not only gave it a unique identity but also enabled it to stand tall internationally.
While other movie industries around the world were crushed by the Hollywood juggernaut, Hindi cinema withstood the pressure and flourished globally, largely thanks to the songs.
In recent years, Bollywood has fallen spectacularly out of favour and bad music has played a major part in that. While bad storylines, aging heroes, a lack of new talent and nepotism have been contributing factors, shockingly poor songs have also plunged Hindi cinema into its current crisis. When the industry went through bad phases in the past, excellent soundtracks generated excitement and still drew audiences in, to watch even the worst movies.
In fact, music played such a huge part in turning Indian films into hits, that even ordinary films like Disco Dancer, Aashiqui, Taal, and Ek Villain Returns became succeses thanks to the marvellous soundtrack.
In the past decade, the industry has almost completely run out of ideas when it comes to songs. This has not only taken away a significant marketing tool, but also badly exposed awful films that would previously have hidden behind a great collection of songs.
There have been many reasons why song quality has plummeted in such a spectacular way. First, there has been a lack of new talent coming through, who can create great songs with cross-generational appeal. While the few established composers remaining seem to have run out of ideas, most younger musicians are relying on studio trickery, silly rap, and cover versions. There have been many new interpretations of classic songs and nearly all of them have been awful.
Successful filmmakers of the past like Raj Kapoor, Subhash Ghai, Yash Chopra, and Vijay Anand had a great ear for music, as opposed to those producing or directing blockbusters today, who have little knowledge of what a good song should sound like.
This includes aging Bollywood heroes, who often take complete charge of a movie, despite being musically illiterate.
Another major reason why the quality has gone down has been due to music directors cashing in and singing more songs, instead of using full time professionals. Some still remain notorious for stealing melodies of songs. Another big loss has been banning Pakistani singers, which has lost Hindi cinema musical giants like Atif Aslam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
One of the things that is fuelling this fire of terrible soundtracks is the ‘big musical lie’ that happens on a weekly basis online. By pumping up YouTube videos with fake views or putting them on platforms with huge subscriber numbers, they give an impression the song is loved by hundreds of millions, but that simply isn’t correct.
Some of the songs are so bad that they do real damage to a movie ahead of its release. Recent flop film Vikram Vedha was generating a lot of positive buzz until producers released headache inducing song Alcoholia. There has been a similar story with bad soundtracks all year for high profile Bollywood film failures like Phone Bhoot, Thank God, Ram Setu, Liger, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Bachchhan Paandey and so many more.
The few bright sparks have been established singers like Shreya Ghoshal injecting energy into even lifeless songs thanks to their talent. There has also been a newer wave of singers like Asees Kaur, Arijit Singh, and Jubin Nautiyal, who have been able to bring a unique vocal texture, but all are being given sub-standard songs overall.
That is why there hasn’t been a great Bollywood soundtrack all year. There is a simple test to prove the point – how many 2022 Bollywood songs can you hum right now reading this? Next to none, right?
There are many areas Bollywood needs to improve on to get out of the abyss it finds itself in. If the industry wants to cling on to aging heroes, nepotism, and poor storyline, it should compromise by bringing great music back. That could be a step in the right direction and perhaps resurrect a half-dead Bollywood industry.