But, why the song and dance??

My Vietnamese friend was reminiscing how when he was a kid, friends, family, neighbours would all gather together with a projector watch a Bollywood movie and spend a very happy couple of hours together. Now all he really remembered of those times were the songs and elaborate dances. And, then he asked with a little snigger "Why do you have all that singing and dancing in the movies??" The better for you to remember them, my dear.

But, seriously if I had bothered collecting a dollar everytime I was asked this question, I would be a very rich, happy papaya. A recent interview with Ms. Rai had her grimacing when asked the same with her characteristic i-never-answer-what-i-dont-rehearse frown "It's just our culture", she said, slightly rolling her eyes, "it makes you smi-ile, it's fun!!". Way to go, Ash! I admit I dont have a good answer either, but then I dont live and breathe Bollywood.

I'm hardly the average B'wood cinephile, I mostly hate the large-scale extravaganzas, I watched Devdas in 45 mins, and I hate melodrama and overt sentimentality. I started thinking about the magic of songs (& dances) in the movies after watching Veer-Zaara last night. And, after thoroughly enjoying it.

Taken apart, this movie should have irritated me A LOT. It started with shots of SRK's pink-lipstick covered lips, followed a structure so totally similar and shamelessly copied from DDLJ that at times I flashed on Kajol instead of Preity, endless, pointless rain, had the theme of sacrifice which annoys me no end and let's not even get started on the entirely forced theme of Indo-Pak bhaichara.

But, taking the sum of the parts, the wonderful acting by the leads, some canny choreography and cinematography and the absolutely hummable song numbers so favorably affected me that I hardly noticed these irritants at all. Even Anupam Kher mouthing 'dilchasp, bahut dilchasp' only had me mentally grimacing willing to disregard the cheesiness because the rest of the movie pleased me so much.

Would the movie have been the same without the songs? I doubt it. The only person who delivers without having a single song is Rani Mukherjee and that's because she has a character-backed role. Sure, some songs are pointless, introduced because there's a catchy tune and the directors wanted to liven up a flagging movie, but at times when they're done right like in Veer-Zaara, the songs carry so many themes that they're an integral part of the movies themselves. Someone reading subtitles would not understand.

So, in Veer-Zaara, you have character development with the song where the rebellious Preity sings 'Hum To Bhai Jaise', 'Lohri', 'Kyun Hawa' and 'Aisa Desh Hain Mera' which are beautifully shot and indicate background, the people, the country, the customs, 'Main Yahaan Hoon', my favorite, which beautifully shows newly awakened love and the omnipresent lover, 'Do Pal' which talks of heartbreak and separation and the visually dramatic 'Aya Tere Dar Par Deewana' which is of a besotted lover willing to die for his love

'Jaan-o-dil vaar doon main, zindagi haar doon main,
jaise shamma pe marta hain parwana'

And it does help that King Khan is at the top of his game here. I've never been one of his admirers, but have to admit he looks gorgeously handsome (when he forgets to add the lipstick) and made even my cold heart miss a couple of beats when he crooned intently

'Main tumhaare hi dil ki toh awaaz hoon
Sun sako, toh suno, dhadkanon ki zabaan
Main yahaan hoon, yahaan hoon, yahaan hoon, yahaan...'

Kya romance!! Sigh.

I do understand the role that the songs play but why include them in the movies in the first place? Is it a hangover over from the times when a movie promised 3+ solid hours of entertainment and an industry now too profitable to ignore, is it because of the huge musical tradition that dominates Indian culture, or is it because as Ms. Rai simplistically points out that shaking that boo-tay makes people smile??? Anyone have any answers here?


avdi said...

Hehe to the comment on Ms Rai/Bachchan and her ajeeb way of answering that makes her look so arrogant.

Why do hindi films always have songs? Dunno, I think we follwed the 50s hollywood format and never just let it go. It got into our genes.

Recently some filmmakers have tried to 'rationalise' the insertion of songs by using stage shows in the movies or background songs. par.. gana bajana to chahiye.. Hum to aise hain bhaiyya..

couchpapaya said...

avdi - oh yes gosh thanks for reminding me! some people behave as though singing in the rain or even moulin rouge was unheard of ..... u know i think i'll try ur line next time - we are like that only :D thanks avdi!!


S said...

Frankly speakind am not bothered until and unless songs start coming-in in the narrative. But yes I do love songless movies or movies like RDB where the songs have been into narrative.

AIsh *am stiffling my giggles* u know the less I say the better it is :D

Veer Zara, I had loved the sings a lot but movie I felt was a bit long and somehow I found the sacrifice stupid and I mean 20 saal tak jlt?? Nah!!!!

But PZ had looked damn good and SRK too in parts.


WhatsInAName said...

I think I am OK with songs and dances if they havent been added for the heck of it. The point to be noted is that some film makers still believe that audience is dumb! grrr
My recent movie was Jane Tu and I have loved all the songs and the dances :) They sort of gel with the story and make it more lively!
I like avdi's reply! Hum to Aise hain bhaiyya :)))

Mama - Mia said...


i guess we continued with the musical concept so long that we didnt even realise there could be movies wo songs!

i guess it also means more money through soundtrack business!

plus the songs aparently help geneerate the hype. M says its rare that a movie with great music is totally crappy! :)

if i see any angrezi movie also, the list is soo long and i wonder kab the itte gaane! then you realise they have been used as background score rather than a seperate element!

so many movies are now sensibly placing the songs and even using the hwood funda of using em as background score!

meanwhile what will we dance to, if they dont keep coming up with occassional Pappu cant dance saala?! ;)



couchpapaya said...

S - oh yeah, that fav hindi movie theme sacrifice, was pretty stupid. also cldnt figure out their original ages, if SRK was let's say 35/36 max he shld be < 60 and his overacting totally killed me. he just looked bearable in the songs :)

WIAN - i loved avdi's reply too! will use it next time. jaane tu is good?? will watch then .... seemed a bit teenybopper types when i saw the trailers.

abha - oh i totally agree and i enjoy well-done songs as much as the next person. i just wish it was easier to explain to others :S


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