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Where are the women singers in Bollywood? Music industry reacts

The number of solo songs sung by women playback singers is getting fewer; heres’ what the music industry thinks about it.

music Updated: Mar 31, 2018 16:58 IST
Samarth Goyal
Samarth Goyal
Hindustan Times
Bollywood,Music,Neha Kakkar
Most female singers call this trend a sad reality and hope that it will change.

In a big departure from days when women used to dominate the playback singing scene in Bollywood, more songs in Hindi films are now being sung by men, as per a recent HT research. Sample this — in 2017, while men got to sing 126 songs, solo songs by women were only 56 — less than half.

Bollywood music albums didn’t always look like this. HT analysed more than 24,000 Bollywood songs from the 50 highest-grossing movies of every year since 1950 and discovered that the share of songs sung by women is constantly on a decline. Take, for example, the solo, that most versatile of Bollywood’s musical forms. While it continues to be a part of Bollywood films, today, only one in every four solos is sung by a woman. Contrast that with the 50s and 60s, where they sang three in every four.

Here’s what Bollywood’s women singers have to say abut the trend:

“I agree that women singers are getting less playback songs. I really don’t know why that’s happening, but I am really hopeful that it changes soon,” says singer Jonita Gandhi, who has sung The Breakup Song (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, 2016) and Sau Tarah Ke (Dishoom, 2016). “It’s a sad reality. But if you see closely, you will realise that all the production houses, or at least the big production houses are all run by (male) actors. So, that monopoly will always exist. There are a lot of duets happening, but very few songs which are sung by only a woman,” says singer Neha Bhasin, popular for her numbers Dhunki (Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, 2011) and Jag Ghoomeya (Sultan, 2016).

Singer Neha Kakkar insists that there has been “no decline”, and adds that “numbers are misleading.” “I have been getting a lot of offers to sing. So if anything, it is me who did not decide to sing those songs, for a variety of reasons. But, I am very happy in the space that I have created,” says the singer who has sung songs such as Kar Gayi Chull (Kapoor & Sons, 2016) and title track of Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017) . Singer Sunidhi Chauhan admits that the number is going down, but argues that one cannot expect the number of songs to go up “ just for the sake of it”. “ I would love to sing more songs, obviously. But honestly, it depends on the film and its script,” she says.

What do Bollywood’s male musicians think? Music composer Amit Trivedi, who composed for the film Secret Superstar (2017), in which all songs were sung by women, agrees with Sunidhi’s perspective. “In Secret Superstar, where the film is about a woman singer, there will naturally be more songs sung by a woman,” he says. Singer Amaal Mallik says the problem lies in the scripts “which don’t allow composers to use a woman’s voice often.” “Until a situation or story doesn’t need a song sung by a woman, a music composer cannot force it just to increase the number. The effort then, would be artificial and in vain.”

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First Published: Mar 31, 2018 16:46 IST