From Melody to Dev D

Conventional ‘melodies’ were replaced by experimental music, as Bollywood became ‘cool’.

2000 The end of ‘melody’
Nadeem-Shravan had cracked it. The ’90s had belonged to the composer duo, who churned out chartbuster tunes, one album after another. After a brief hiatus, the duo had come back to Bollywood in 2000 with Dhadkan. Almost instantly, the music created new records.

But with Taal in the last year, A R Rahman had proved that conventional Bollywood melodies were giving way to a new sound – where experimentation would lead the way. The dawn of music directors like Vishal-Shekhar and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy on the scene, who gave equal importance to music production, as they did to composition, all signified a complete overhaul of ‘conventional’ Bollywood music.

2001 The Bhatt film formula
The signs were there, right from the time of Kasoor.  A high-pitched romantic number with a catchy hook (‘Kitni bechain ho ke’), a male sad song with deep vocals (‘Mohabbat ho na jaaye’), and a female sad song about unrequited love (‘Zindagi man gaye ho tum’). Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt’s films had worked out a distinct music formula at the time of  Kasoor, that they’d replicate every year, in every movie, even if the composer and singers changed. So, in the years that followed, Anu Malik gave a similar sound in Murder, Pritam in Gangster, right up to Toshi-Sharib in Jashn. You could identify a Bhatt-film song from a mile away, but that’s not a bad thing.

2002 Kaanta laga
If the Bollywood music industry was ever in peril, it was in 2002, when remixes threatened to replace the ‘mukhadas’ and ‘antaras’ with different variations of the phrase ‘Let’s party’, and some turntable effects thrown in for good measure. Shefali Zariwala became the face ... or.. err.. butt of the remix revolution, when she starred in the music video of Kaanta laga, thong firmly in place. Pristine Hindi songs like Chadhti jawani acquired a new meaning, the moral police had a field day, and DJs minted money with Non-stop remix albums. And we found out that even Bappi Lahiri can be plagiarised, when he sued R ‘n’ B singer, Truth Hurts for remixing his song Kaliyon ka chaman in his single, Addictive!

2003 The Return of R D
It had to happen. After RD Burman passed away in 1994, his mad orchestrations, wacky experiments, and penchant for using unusual musical instruments to create songs that broke out of the typical rhythm-based Bollywood routine, could never be recreated by any other composer. A lot of remixes came and went, but the Panchamda sound had been lost forever. Until Jhankaar Beats and Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar came. Vishal-Shekhar’s break out album, Jhankaar Beats was an ode to the legacy of Panchamda, and was rooted in his sound. And Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar went the whole mile, recreating 14 of Burman’s best songs, in the voice of the present generation. The Pancham flavour was back!

2004 Zip, zoom, dhoom
Move your body, shake your ass’, did you say? That was the domain of the ‘foreign’ singers, that we caught glimpses of, on late night shows on MTV. Music videos, did you say? Only the Indipop world of Sunita Rao and Baba Sehgal had that. Car music, did you say? Well, unless you call Kanta laga car music... In 2004, Pritam changed all that with Dhoom machale. With Thai singer Tata Young at its helm, the song was singularly responsible for the zipping ‘Hinglish’ songs we hear on every track now, the trend of music videos, and the much-abused phrase, ‘international collaboration’.

2005 Kajra re
There’s something about Kajre re (Bunty Aur Babli). Maybe it is the sight of a droolsome Aishwarya Rai performing trademark Bollywood ‘thumkas’, in a ravishing, sexy avatar, that men had so-far only dreamed about. Maybe it is the father-son duo dancing with abandon. Or maybe it is the reinvention of the qawwali by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Gulzar, that helped the song pip Omkara’s Beedi (2006) as the item number of the decade. We think it’s Aishwarya!

2006 The phenomenon called Himesh
He came, he sang, he conquered. In 2005, Himesh Reshammiya was unwittingly encouraged to sing title song for his Aashiq Banaya Aapne. The song, which had a ‘sufi flavour’, became a rage across India. And an idea was born – that took shape in the form of a 23-song debut private album, Aap Ka Suroor, by Reshammiya, who exploited his nose to sing, swallowed his tears for beautiful models, who ditched him in music videos, and wore a cap to hide his bald patch. The sale of caps reached an unprecedented high, Reshammiya was signed on for a big-budget movie that would explain ‘why he doesn’t smile in music videos’ and ‘nasal singing’ found a synonym. And a phenomenon was born.

2007 Chak De India
Last decade, India never really had a sports movie that set our pulses racing and made us bite our nails in excitement. Lagaan, in 2003, changed that. But though Lagaan became the toast of our nation, we still didn’t have a sports song, which would inspire patriotism in us and motivate us to kick some ass. And then came, Chak De India!. The movie moved us and inspired us in all kinds of ways. It didn’t do much for Hockey, but no one complained since, coinciding with the year T20 became huge, the song became the national chant for supporters of the Indian cricket team at matches. India had found a sports anthem.

2008 Jai ho Rahman
In retrospect, after Roja (1992), every year can just as easily be called the ‘year of A R Rahman’. Heck, if the 2000s were to belong to a musician, it would be called the decade of Rahman. Yet, 2008 was special because, for the first time, Rahman churned out as many as five Bollywood soundtracks, with each one hitting the right notes. From Jodhaa Akbar and Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na, to Ada, Yuvraaj and Ghajini, Rahman covered just about every genre from historical to contemporary romance, to masala Bollywood, showcasing his versatility and mind-boggling range. Then, just before the year ended, there was Slumdog Millionaire. And world music will never be the same again.

2009 Dev D 
If there was one song that could have been singularly responsible for driving audiences to the theatre to watch a movie in 2009, it would easily be ‘Emosanal attyachar’ from Dev D. Amit Trivedi’s radical 18-song soundtrack that turned every Bollywood stereotype on its head, with a fresh, edgy sound, could well be Bollywood’s first rock opera. Aided by Amitabh Bhattacharya’s wacky lyrics, that incorporated a bi**h somewhere, and a wh**e elsewhere, Trivedi’s music signified the dawn of a new era in contemporary Bollywood music – that’s driven by sweeping orchestrations and extraordinary experimentation. And after the exquisite Iktara in Wake Up Sid, you know that Trivedi’s just getting started.


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Songs that rocked 2009!

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