Changing tunes: It’s time for music documentaries to get into the spotlight

Apr 15, 2023 06:42 PM IST

With Indian documentary, The Elephant Whisperers, clinching an Oscar this year, industry insiders hope it will give a push to the genre, especially music documentaries

There is no denying that the popularity of documentaries in the OTT space has grown significantly in the past few years, especially since the time Indian projects started getting noticed internationally. And one sub-genre, which seems to be ready to take a flight to higher heights is emerging from the music world.

Recently, a docu-series project based on the life of Yo Yo Honey Singh was announced (PTI)
Recently, a docu-series project based on the life of Yo Yo Honey Singh was announced (PTI)

“The growth of music documentaries is necessary right now. Music is a very unappreciated art form. People respect music, but the highlight always goes to the actor, and music takes a mild backseat, even though music is the first thing that starts the process of any film. When it comes to music documentaries which talk about the life of a musician, or a concert film, they covers the hardships to be a musician and to be in the music industry,” says singer Benny Dayal, adding, “There is a lot of thought process which goes into making music. Now, with the streaming scene and numbers, it has become a very competitive scenario, so it is really necessary that we speak about the life of musicians and the hard work they put into bringing different and diverse tunes.””.

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After the recent rise in popularity of music biopics such as Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, the focus has shifted to music documentaries. The narrative is also undergoing a change as they are no longer restricted to just concerts and life stories. They also throw light on the trappings of being a celebrity, and sometimes capture the album production process.

Be it J-Hope in the Box, which is about his journey as a solo artist, or an inside glimpse of Ed Sheeran’s life with Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All, or Taylor Swift opening up about her battle with media scrutiny with Miss Americana, or Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me giving us a revealing portrait of Selena Gomez and her struggle. That’s not it, there are documentaries on concerts as well such as Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé, which is an in-depth look at her celebrated 2018 Coachella performance.

Close home, in India, Shut Up Sona was one such project, and recently, a documentary based on the life of singer-composer Yo Yo Honey Singh was announced.

Opening up about the growing trend, Shut Up Sona director Deepti Gupta shares, “The coming of music documentaries in India is very important in India because of the way music business has become”.

“The big labels are not supporting the artists the way they used to. Earlier, we used to have certain channels to play music, which have just disappeared… With the change in the nature of business, there is no access to stories of an artist, and the internal making process. The glimpse into the music is very important, and it is a positive trend. Also, because we are a music driven nation, with a good independent music scene despite the presence of Bollywood. These documentaries also give a chance to explore different angles, like Shut Up Sona was a piece on female artists.There is Prateek Kuhad, Sona Mohapatra, RajaKumari -- all these people stand for something different. Music documentaries as a genre is something we look forward to,” she adds.

Explaining it further, producer Guneet Monga Kapoor, who is backing Honey Singh project, says, “Music is becoming more and more independent and it’s popularity is gaining massive inroads... This wave has given us iconic personalities from the music industry who transcend the space of being singers to being public figures who are adored and loved immensely. For us, Honey Singh is one such persona whose life has been written about in so many aspects, but I feel this story needs to be layered and told in a way to have a better, deep dive understanding”.

However, not every story has the potential to work. “Documentaries are getting a lot of traction in the world, and Honey Singh is a fascinating personality with lots of ups and downs. That aspect makes the story interesting, his journey from being a superstar to an underdog,” says director Mozez Singh.

Singer Lizaa Malik, on the other hand, feels one should forget the authenticity of the story. “Our part of the world is super late to gain popularity. The most important thing the makers must keep in mind is that in the race of being commercially successful, we must not tamper with the facts and turn it into fiction… If we are making a documentary then we must keep the essence alive,” she ends.

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    Delhi-based Sugandha Rawal is a movie buff, and writes on Bollywood, Hollywood, Television, OTT and Music for the daily entertainment and lifestyle supplement, HT City.

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