Topic started by Naaz (@ 184.108.40.206) on Mon Mar 10 14:42:37 EST 2003.
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.
It is thanks to TFMpage DFers that I have become familiar with the soundtrack albums of new releases such as Julie Ganapathy, Udhaya, Baba, Kadhal Virus, Gemini, and many others. Of course, it is also true that Indian Cinema sang just as soon as it learned to talk, and hence the vitality of songs in the scheme of south-asian celluloid imaginings.
While songs may have been an effective narrative device, it is something that has become more and more archaic and less and less relevant to the nature of story-telling these days. This might also be because of the absence of "genunine" story-telling in Bollywood/Kollywood churnings. As a result "songs" have become both redundant and recycled (in keeping with "reused" plotlines.)
Here are few concerns:
1. Would Tamizh cinema lose its "escapist" motivation if songs were minimised or dismissed altogether?
2. Are songs (and the music industry) detrimental (or a burden) to effective, mature screen-writing and narration?
3. Is the Film Music Industry complicit in the sad state of affairs with regards to "plotlines" (eg.love stories, love triangles, love-lost-and-won and other such ventures) - and would ridding films of songs make for a more rewarding (intellectually) product?
4. In a country that produces 500+ films a year, would it be too much to ask for 100 films (in all languages put together) to be without songs? It is not like there haven't been Tamizh films without songs, but usually these have not been great draws at the box-office.
5. Is the insistence on the "song and dance" routine in tamil/hindi cinema a ploy to keep things as "status-quo" (read as: from growing up)?
6. With music videos, indipop, and other "visual" songs having carved a non-film niche for themselves, will the viewer really be deprived if the hero/heroine/sister/brother/mother didn't break out into a song about love or lovelessness at every given opportunity?
Please share your views. It would be great if you can also state with examples appropriate moments for songs or songs that have been effectively used to further plot in Tamizh films. Also don't hesitate to be frank about your views on the rank commercialisation that has become another overarching motivation in the Indian/Tamil/Hindi Film and Music Industry.
Thanks for your input and insights in advance!
- From: Prabhu (@ 220.127.116.11)
on: Wed Mar 12 03:22:58 EST 2003
Naaz, a few maiden overs are inevitable when a thread is started on Monday :)
Unlike the western world, where music is very much a part of the curriculum, Indians grow up without much understanding of the basics of music. Hence individuals pursuing a career in music are very much part of a minority. For the exceptional among this bunch(read KVM/MSV/IR/ARR), there was no proper stage to showcase their talents. It was the advent of the film industry that provided a platform for them. Once movies started in the 30s we had lot of devotional/patriotic movies, and that influence was seen in the works of our early MDs.
1. I feel music is not really 100% 'escapist element' in our movies. By nature and tradition, our society has strong moralistic stereotypes - 'good MUST win over evil'. Perhaps thats why our festivals have always been loud and ostentatious. We are taught to be escapist! As a result, when a a charismatic star knocks out a gang of villains, the natural sequel to celebrate this event will be a song like "Pothuvaaga..."!
This of course, varies with how the director runs the story as a whole. Personally I find songs a distraction when I see the work of a fabulously creative director like KB.
2. Songs as a deterrent to mature movie making is indeed true. Still it depends on the situation. But fact remains we've had too many great MDs and very few great directors. While watching Johnny, it was quite mundane to return to the story after IR's rollicking songs. But in a classic like Mouna Ragam I found Mohan's mournfully breaking into 'Nilaave Vaa'(gem as the song was!) a distraction as here was a rare director whose style could hold its own against giants like SPB and IR performing on the same stage.
Still, I loved Kannalaney in Mani's Bombay ..the story starts with a serene suspenseful scenario where an unseen chemistry works between A.Sami(not Aasamy!) and Manisha without really taking effect...as Aravind longs for another meeting, we are kept in suspense as to how long Manisha will remain unresponsive..till the magical moment when Kannalaney comes forth, Chitra on song! That was a great example of a song conveying an idea better than a dialogue.
Waiting for others to bring forth new points...
- From: Naaz (@ 18.104.22.168)
on: Wed Mar 12 10:04:02 EST 2003
Thanks for saving this thread from the "non-starter" category! That's a relief :-)
The distinction I was attempting to make was between "escapist" and "realist" cinema, and how all aesthetic and artistic considerations seem to genuflect to commercial interests.
I can't imagine a film like S. Balachander's "Andha Naal" having songs. I admired the way songs were used as both narrative and character voice in Rudraiyah's Aval Appadiththaan (compare this to his Gramaththu Adhiyayam, and the difference is "artistic integrity"). Balu Mahendra's employment of this device is characteristic and individual (but sometimes he does have an extra or the heroine sing too!) and even the lip-synch moments in his film have a certain "realism" (eg. Kokila, Olangal, Yathra - how surprising - all non-tamil films?) - and then there was Veedu, stark and abrupt (even in returns!) without a song. It added to the final moment.
Songs are a necessary evil - and can often be turned into smart arsenal - if handled with restraint. You are right about that.
Regarding your first point: Singing as Narrative (minstrel, choric, operatic) is an indispensable part of many ancient cultural/literary traditions the world over. It is essentially "religious" (liturgy, sthothrams, muezzin's call) and that is why the notion of "divinity" and "music as cleanser/purifier" is so inextricably attached to it. Of course, most of the verses are also from the holy text, and there is no "escaping" that! :-)
Don't get me started on Mani Ratnam and his use of songs though...that would be asking! :-)
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