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Tough time for ghazals!

With changing trends in Bollywood music, is this age-old genre in peril?

music Updated: May 26, 2012 20:06 IST
Soumya Vajpayee

Ghazals like ‘jhuki jhuki si nazar’ and ‘hothon se chhoo lo tum’ belong to that rich repository of Bollywood songs that just refuse to get old. Yet, in the last few years, Hindi cinema seems to have almost forgotten this deeply romantic musical genre.



Ghazals in Bollywood have declined over the last two decades. So have audiences’ tastes evolved, or is the change a reflection of the concerns and moods of our films? Ghazal singer Hariharan says, “Due to the change in the character and expression in films today, ghazals are becoming endangered. The word ghazal means ‘a peaceful conversation’, but filmmakers and directors today go with aggressive sounds over subtle expressions.”



Music director Salim Merchant has another reason. He says, “Ghazals are fading away due to lack of initiatives by contemporary filmmakers. Even if we come up with a ghazal composition, it is rejected and labeled ‘old and boring’.”



As a result, ghazal singers, who were once in big demand in the film industry, now survive through live shows and albums. “In Bollywood, the focus has shifted to more fast-paced music,” says Hariharan, adding that the massive commercialisation of Bollywood and the influence of international trends hasn’t done this genre any favours either.



“Ghazals require a lot of practice and time. Today, there’s hardly any time for ‘riyaz.’ With technology, things have to happen quickly. What took three months earlier now takes just a day.”



What made ghazals endearing back in the day was the range of romantic emotions they managed to convey. Salim reasons that since romance as a genre is still the mainstay of Bollywood films, there is still scope for ghazals. “Even today, there are enough points in a movie where a ghazal can be fitted in but filmmakers are not ready to take risks.”



Music composer Ehsaan of the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy trio is optimistic. He says, “The form, just like folk music, is deeply rooted in the Indian culture. So there will always be an audience for it.” Salim says the responsibility of defining what’s trendy also lies with music-makers. “Even if it’s a young film, we should have the guts to put in a ghazal because it’s we who influence the tastes of the audience.”