Film songs are heard, and film soundtracks bought, only if the viewers gravitate towards the cinema halls. Since that did not happen in a year which produced more flops than ever before, the mart for popular music suffered.
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But there was the odd exception. The Tanuja Chandra-directed Lucky Ali starrer 'Sur' bombed, but the music by the hugely under-rated M M Kreem was a big success. The music for 'Sur' ensued from the awareness that Lucky was a non-film pop idol, and he was made to sing tunes that were in keeping with his style as a singer of his own songs. The songs clicked, and how.
Not that mainstream cinema did not have its moments. Ismail Darbar's songs for Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Devdas' had an inherent beauty and charm that have been matched by few in the last decade. Darbar ventured into the realm of classical music, and composed some really gripping melodies that will certainly live on in the memory of the discerning music lover. The Vivek Oberoi starrer 'Sathiya' had music by A R Rahman and, for those who had not heard the originals in 'Alai Payuthe', this album was a testimony of what Rahman could do when at his creative peak. Music director Anand Raaj Anand surprised everybody by composing a hugely energetic soundtrack for 'Kaante'. What Anand's effort proved was that bad music and action films need not be synonymous which is the case most often.
While the flop parade continued, 2002 will be looked upon as pretty unique in terms of the quantity of experimentation in small budget cinema. Somnath Sen's 'Leela' had some fine songs composed by Jagjit Singh; Ram Madhvani's 'Let's Talk' with the musical score by Ram Sampath owed its origin to thumri; 'Mr and Mrs Iyer' had Zakir Hussain singing for the first time while 'Everybody Says I Am Fine' which had music by Zakir as well was an epitome of sonic eclecticism.
Such albums signified the insightful filmmaker's search for the Big Idea, and not only in terms of the film's theme but the choice of music as well.
The year also had some small but interesting hits which owed themselves to the ability to compose simple old-fashioned melodies. 'Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi''s music by Jeet Pritam was a tribute to such simplicity, as was Nadeem Shravan's music for 'Tumse Accha Kaun Hai' which starred a couple of faceless newcomers. The soundtrack for 'Dil Vil Pyar Vyar' featured the cover versions of some R D Burman classics, but while many criticised the way the songs had been recreated, it too found its buyers.
In terms of the quality of music, 2002 was not a bad year at all. But it will be remembered best as a year in which several good songs got murdered by bad film-making.