BollyWHAT?'s TOP 20 SOUNDTRACKS:

1. Dil Se ±
2. Asoka #
3. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam *
4. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge!!
5. Daag (1973) **
6. Taal ±
7. Pakeezah >
8. Raja Hindustani <>
9. Dil To Pagal Hai ??
10. Devdas *
11. Doli Saja Ke Rakhna ±
12. Jeans ±
13. Umrao Jaan ^
14. Zubeidaa ±
15. Lagaan ±
16. 1942: A Love Story ()
17. Gadar ??
18. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai !!
19. Dil Chahta Hai ***
20. Thakshak ±

Composer key:

± A.R. Rahman
# Anu Malik
* Ismail Darbar
!! Jatin-Lalit
** Laxmikant-Pyarelal
> Ghulam Mohammed
<> Nadeem-Shravan
?? Uttam Singh
^ Khaiyyam
() R.D. Burman
*** Shankar Ehsaan Loy

 

 


BOLLYWOOD BEAT:
a short guide to the filmi music scene

Rumor has it that when the director of Hollywood's Moulin Rouge fell in love with the "Chamma Chamma" song from China Gate, he tried to contact the "singer" -- actress, and lip-syncher extraordinaire, Urmila Matondkar.

     Of course, we doubt that BollyWHAT? visitors are so clueless. Most of us have long since accepted that the siren's voice belongs to a geriatric, and that the hunk's melody issues from the lips of a pudgy, balding fiftysomething. But how easy it is to forget -- and to forget, too, that in Bollywood, successful playback singers and composers wield as much clout as hit actors.

 MUSIC DIRECTORS

   Nadeem-Shravan: Party to murder?

Nadeem-Shravan   Nadeem and Shravan are the songwriting pair who have penned hits like Raja Hindustani, Ek Rishtaa, and Dhadkan. They also star in one of the music industry's biggest scandals:  Nadeem Saifee has been implicated in the 1997 mafia murder of film producer Gulshan Kumar. His Indian passport has been revoked, and he is currently residing in London, where a British court has denied an extradition plea by Indian authorities. Despite the enforced separation, the duo continues to work together. Nadeem explains, "We keep in touch over the telephone; besides, [when] the producers come here we discuss work and compose music together here in London." (source; music.indya.com)

   Having once publicly promised never to lift a melody, the pair recently came under fire for a track from 2001's Kasoor that sounds suspiciously like Celine Dion's Titanic ballad. Such talk exasperates Nadeem: "There are seven music notes.... there's bound to be some similarity somewhere between what has come and what's going to come. I try my level-best to make sure that we do not sound like any previous composition. But sometimes it just so happens that some notes do sound familiar. There's bound to be some flavour, some cheeta, of the past in the present. That's unavoidable." (source: music.indya.com)

   Anu Malik: don't borrow money from him!

   Anu Malik agrees withNadeem's take on allegations of plagiarism: "Eventually all music is permutations and combinations of those same Anu Malikseven notes. No music director is original, but I became a favourite whipping boy to the press. If you hear R D Burman, Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad saab, all great composers, they're 'inspired...' Aur mere saath, 'copy' word aa gaya. [And with me, the word 'copy' is used.]" (source: music.indya.com)  For such a prolific composer, it is perhaps inevitable that his scores vary dramatically in quality; yet fans find it difficult to credit the same man that scored 2001's exquisite Asoka with 1999's massive dud Jaanam Samjha Karo.

    Recently Malik has featured in headlines for reasons more nefarious than plagiarism. A Delhi businessman has filed a complaint against Malik and his brother, alleging that when he asked repayment on a loan he had given them, they sent goons to threaten him. Malik denies the charge, but legal action is pending.

   Jatin-Lalit: At war with Karan Johar!

   Brother duo Jatin-Lalit wrote their first film score in 1989, but it was 1995's Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge that thrust them into stardom. Karan Johar, who worked on that film as assistant director, subsequently hired them with spectacular results for his 1998 directorial debut, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The duo then signed on to score his follow-up film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.

   While the brothers did score several of K3G's songs, they had a serious falling out with the Johar after he signed on two other composers to write "Deewana Hai Dekho," "You Are My Sonia," and "Say Shava Shava" -- the film's biggest hits. Lalit told G Magazine about the pair's experience working on K3G: "Well, there was a lot of tension. We were not comfortable at all. We would understand if the final result was fantastic but that is not the case. What others have done, we feel we would have done better. We think we were on the right track. But Karan did not. So there was a definite difference of opinion there. We feel cheated." The loss, we fear, may be Karan Johar's!

   A.R. Rahman: The New McCauley Culkin?

   Though A.R. Rahman now sells more records than Madonna and Britney combined, he began his career composing music for commercials -- surprisingly undistinguished employment for the boy who'd won a scholarship to pursue a degree in Western Classical Music from Oxford University, and had played with maestro Zakir Hussain on stages worldwide.

   Rahman's first break in the film world came from South Indian director Mani Ratnam, for whom he composed the score for the Tamil film Roja. This, as well as his soundtrack for Ratnam's subsequent film Bombay, were dubbed into Hindi and became huge hits. He then began to receive assignments in Bollywood, and his first composition for a Hindi film was 1995's smash success Rangeela.

   Rahman has recently come to the attention of international musicians, recording a single with Michael Jackson and co-composing the British (and now Broadway-bound) musical Bombay Dreams with England's Andrew Lloyd Webber. As a result, his film compositions have stalled -- but in light of criticism regarding his recent soundtracks, the break might be a beneficial one. In January 2002, he admitted to Tatanova.com, "I think my first film Roja was very futuristic. After that I have tended to be repetitive and stereotypical because most of my films had numbers which were dance-oriented."

    Interestingly, Rahman was born Hindu, his birth name 'A.S. Dileep Kumar.' When his sister recovered from a near-fatal illness shortly after his parents' visit to a Muslim place of worship, the entire family converted to Islam.

  Other notable composers include...

  The trio of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is one of the up-and-coming forces in Bollywood music, having signed for a high-profile Hollywood/Bollywood co-production directed by Willard Carroll of "Playing By Heart" fame. Shankar Mahadevan, one of the members of the trio, is also renowned for his playback singing, which is ably demonstrated on the trio's hit soundtracks for Dil Rajesh RoshanChahta Hai and Mission Kashmir. Meanwhile, Ismail Darbar, who was "discovered" while playing violin for Jatin-Lalit's 1996 Khamoshi soundtrack, has written four soundtracks, two of which -- Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas -- have been hailed as instant classics. Rajesh Roshan was born to a famous music director and has successfully continued the tradition, composing some of his best scores for his brother, director Rakesh. Arguably his most notable score is 2000's Kaho Na Pyaar Hai, since the movie also served as a vehicle for the now-mythic acting debut of his nephew Hrithik. Sandeep Chowta can't thank actor and kinsman Sunil Shetty for his success: he did it the hard way, landing in Mumbai with little more than $400 and a dream. Director-producer Ramgopal Varma took a shine to Chowta and has used his tunes to great success in films like Satya, Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, Jungle, and Company.

    And in conclusion, you may ask, where are all the women? Certainly not with the next group...

 LYRICISTS

  The recent death of Anand Bakshi elicited a wave of grief from a nation that grew up singing to his dreams. Born in pre-Independence Rawalpindi (now part of Pakistan), Bakshi penned the words to some of Bollywood's most popular soundtracks of the '60s and '70s. More recent works like Mohabbatein, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, and Dil To Pagal Hai have impacted a fresh generation and ensure him a prominent place in film history.

Gulzar  Gulzar is another famed lyricist who hails from what is now Pakistan. Born as Sampooran Singh on August 18, 1936, he and his family were forced by the upheavals of Partition to migrate to Delhi. Widely considered to be the finest film lyricist living, his verse for the soundtrack of 1998's Dil Se attests to his poetic genius.

   Javed Akhtar, the son of famous poet and film lyricist Jan Nisar Akhtar, has scripted lyrics for some of Amitabh Bachchan's most famous movies, including Sholay, Zanjeer, and Deewar. He met his future wife, Honey Irani, while scripting the 70s film Seeta Aur Geeta, and their son, Farhan Akhtar, has recently made his directorial debut with the 2001 hit Dil Chahta Hai -- the score of which naturally boasts his father's eloquent and evocative prose. Akhtar is now married to actress and activist Shabana Azmi, and his former wife is planning her own directorial debut.

PLAYBACK SINGERS

   Only one name can begin such a discussion: Lata Mangeshkar, born September 28, 1929. Her voice has graced the greatest Indian films of the last five decades. She holds the Guinness World Record for number of songs recorded -- according to Guinness, over 50,000 at last count!

   A brief survey of her earlier recordings reveals a voice of surpassing sweetness and an incredible three-octave range. Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Pakeezah (1971) are two highlights of her unparalleled career. Nevertheless, newcomers to film music may wonder what all the fuss is about: in recent releases Mangeshkar's voice sounds markedly shrill. Devdas composer Ismail Darbar has stated in interviews that he does not even consider Mangeshkar for his own work because she can no longer comfortably handle the high notes he favors.

  Of course, Lata-ji herself might discourage you from listening to her recent releases.  Recently, she told interviewer Subhash K. Jha, "In my opinion, what's being made these days isn't really music. Actually we don't even have many music directors. Earlier, there were so many distinguished names who thought deeply about their music. They had the time and the inclination... Now it's time for re-mixes. I believe a new film album has re-arranged and re-recorded old film hits by me and Kishore Kumar. But I want to know what's the contribution of the music director in Dil Vil Pyar Vyar [a film soundtrack featuring new recordings of classic RD Burman tunes]. I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it again. There's nothing original about re-mix. You're just churning out what's already been done to perfection..." (Times of India, 9/29/02)

   Mangeshkar favors a return to traditional inspiration: "Right now we're too much into copying western music. I wouldn't say it didn't happen earlier. But back then even when western elements were adapted there was an essential Indianness about our music. Today, we're blindly aping the West. Look at the clothes, dances and gestures on television... It's becoming difficult to even reach the listeners. Music companies are in the doldrums. I remember a time when Rhythm House [a leading music shop in central Mumbai] would tell me that my RPM discs sold out the minute they arrived. Now listeners don't bother to buy music. They hear it all on television. " (Times of India, 9/29/02) Ironically, those listeners *are* hearing Lata Mangeshkar on television, and from the unlikeliest of sources: an American rap artist called Truth Hurts. The musician incorporated a sample from one of Lata's performances into the hit song "Addicted," and Lataji is currently in court, suing for a multimillion dollar share of the profits.

   Lata's equally talented sister, Asha Bhosle, struggled to emerge from the shadow cast by her famous sibling. The recent film Saaz was a thinly veiled account of the difficulties their relationship endured due to this tension. But Bhosle's voice assured her a rightful place in the limelight, as did her second marriage to legendary music director R.D. Burman. Never were her vocals more sublime than in the 1981 film Umrao Jaan.

Kavita K. Subramaniam   Kavita Krishnamurthy Subramaniam is the prime prospect to inherit Lata Mangeshkar's mantle of greatness. Praised by composers like Ismail Darbar, who lauds her as the only playback singer in Mumbai who regularly does riyaaz (drills in classical technique), she has distinguished herself throughout two decades of work with her mastery of intricate sequences and her comfort in the high end of the vocal range. Her performance in 2002's Devdas has brought her particular acclaim.

Udit NarayanUdit Narayan is, without a doubt, the reigning king of male playback singers. Born to a farmer on the border of India and Nepal, Narayan got his start singing for Nepali radio. When a scholarship from the Indian Embassy offered him the chance to study classical music at a prestigious school in Mumbai, he wasted no time in moving. But success did not come instantly. Only after years of study and several unnoticed recordings did he hit gold with his vocals for Aamir Khan in 1988's Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. Fans marvel at his versatility, but his trademark is his"golden smile," so called because, during upbeat songs, one seems to actually *hear* the smile on his lips.

  Kumar Sanu occupies a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for having recorded the greatest number of songs in one day -- 28 of them! Such drive helps to explain how a man who earned a BA in business from Calcutta University managed to perform a career about-face and become one of the top playback singers in Bollywood. His multilinguality hasn't hurt, either: Sanu sings with equal comfort in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Brij, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, and Punjabi.

Alka Yagnik   Alka Yagnik, the daughter of a classical singer, started singing for radio at the age of six. She shot to fame with her vocals in Madhuri's "Ek Do Teen" dance number from Tezaab. Along with Kavita K. Subramaniam, she is now widely considered to be the top female playback singer in Bollywood.

   Chitra is one of the only playback singers to work successfully in both Bollywood and South Indian films, where she dominates the competition. Her linguistic dexterity is awesome: she has recorded thousands of songs in Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Oriya, Telugu, and Malayalam. Most recently her performance in "Raat Ka Nasha" in 2001's Asoka earned a shower of praise from critics and fans alike. She is a particular favorite of composer A.R. Rahman's.

   Another singer who has worked a great deal with Rahman -- and who, indeed, owes him his current status as highest-priced singer in Bollywood -- is Sukhwinder Singh, who shot to fame with his vocals for Dil Se's "Chaiyya Chaiyya." Singh composes as well, having worked with Mychael Danna on the Monsoon Wedding soundtrack and penned lyrics for various songs including the Punjabi "Thaiyya Thaiyya" in Dil Se.

Jaspinder Narula hit paydirt with her vocals in 1998's Pyaar to Hona Hi Tha, and has continued to receive praise for her earthy renditions of hits like "Bumbro" from Mission Kashmir. Despite the demands of her flourishing career, she is also pursuing a Ph.D. in musical studies from the University of Delhi.

 Vasundhara Das  Vasundhara Das's English vocals for Rachel Shelley in Lagaan, and her performance in "Shakalaka Baby" for another A.R. Rahman soundtrack, Nayak, surely had you tapping your feet. But you're probably more familiar with her as the reluctant bride in Monsoon Wedding. One of the only people to have performed on both sides of the screen, her balancing act will be interesting to watch. Even as she protests that singing is her first love, the international success of Monsoon Wedding ensures that acting offers will continue to pour in.
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