I am a total product of Hindi film music - that's the only music I listened to when I was growing up. My exposure to international music or Indian classical is very limited. And I am quite ashamed of that.
Because my mother listened to the radio, I listened to all the songs of the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. I knew the words of all the songs of that period. So when my schoolmates were Whamming with George Michael or freaking out over Madonna, I was listening to film music.
Olden days, golden days
Shammi Kapoor's song were my absolute favourites. I was a huge fan and still am. When I grew a little older, I became crazy about Lata Mangeshkar's voice. I loved Madan Mohan's beautiful compositions for her in Mera Saaya.
As you grow, you begin to appreciate the songs more. At least two combinations of director-composer that were unbeatable-Nasir Hussain-RD Burman and Raj Kapoor-Shankar-Jaikishen. If we include contemporary music, then some of the Mani Ratnam-AR Rahman collaborations are outstanding.
I also listened to the awful 1980s music, the Tha thaiya, Ice cream khaogi, Tum tana nanana types. I think the ‘80s spoiled the music scene. Thankfully music got into a more sensible zone in the ‘90s.
But still, today's music does not compare with the old songs. You have to search really hard for that one great song of the year.
<b1>Kal, aaj aur kal
Today's item songs are fine. Some of them are great to listen to.. even I have used items in my films. But on the whole, music has lost its charm. Even from the music of my own films, I can say that I'm really proud of just one or two-the title tracks of Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai- but Kal Ho Naa Ho is my absolute favourite.
Even now when I hear a snatch of Mera kuch samaan or R D's music, a song of Umrao Jaan, it takes me to a different mood altogether. I became aware of Laxmikant-Pyarelal's music too - So gayee yeh zameen from Tezaab was among the last of the greats from the ‘90s. Those songs were in a class of their own.
Some how, the older directors had an inborn sense of music, although it is not a criterion for great film-making - at least it is not any more. Those times, those subjects are of the past - in the present, that ear for music is not required.
But think of the films of Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt, Yash Chopra - the music was great because they had a tremendous sense of music and lyrics.
Today, I don't think filmmakers are using music effectively. With the hang-up of world cinema some of them don't even want to have songs in their films.
In that sense, Rakeysh Mehra and
Rang de Basanti
showed the way - the film had songs and dances but there was no lip sync. It was path-breaking. I think that's the way to use music today. Unfortunately, most want to stick to the old format and don't even want to think of plausible song situations.
<b3>The way to go is to make musicals in the real sense of the term. Today, they stop whatever they are doing on screen and go sing a song somewhere else - that is not how a musical works.
I mean it's ridiculous that a guy is working or in the middle of a crisis and suddenly he breaks into a jig. In a musical, a song takes the story forward, it's a part of the process of telling a story.
Of course, we have to make compromises if we use song and dance in our films. But at least three-four films can be made in the style of musicals, can't they?
When we think like that, naturally we will think of innovative ways to use songs. I am not very proud of the way I used songs in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna - and now won't even be able to think of how to create situations for songs. I know I just won't - maybe I am older. Or wiser… either or both.