Bollywood Hungama
Last Updated 17.01.2019 | 2:30 PM IST
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Book Review: The History of Indian Film Music

Brilliant. In one word that’s the best way to describe ‘The History of Indian Film Music’ which indeed is a chronicle at it’s best. The book takes a reader through a musical journey right from the 30s till the end of 2009 and brilliantly captures all the relevant details that would satiate the appetite of a music lover.

Did I just say ‘relevant’? That’s right. And this is where the essence of this compact 130 odd pages book lies. Putting together a book which is required to capture the musical journey of 80 years gone by is certainly not joke. In fact it could easily put the author in a dilemma around what to take or leave. Should there be all the details captured and hence make the effort come close to being an encyclopaedia? Or should there be certain highlights and lowlights captured in plain text and presented to the audience? Choosing any of the two options is perhaps an easy task and though the time taken in completing any of the two jobs can well be expected to be similar, the difference lies in what an average reader would like to know. What’s difficult though is to take the middle path where the presented material is neither so elaborate that it ends up being a text book by itself and hence alienate itself from a majority of music lovers, nor should it be so compact and limited that a reader ends up with a feeling of emptiness.

This is why the effort of author Rajiv Vijaykar need to be lauded because he not just dares to take the middle route but also come up with the kind of results that would make one nod in appreciation. He does something that would have sounded impossible to begin with i.e. fit in all in those 130 pages and come up with such an interesting write up that would make ‘The History of Indian Film Music’ a collector’s delight. What’s better is that he comes up with such an interesting presentation of the music from the years gone by that you end up greedy while turning every page and wish to go ahead and complete the book without any break. Truly, this is one of the best efforts that one has seen from a writer who has dared to fetch a big piece of history through his research.

It is this research that makes you admire the material that one gets to explore in ‘The History of Indian Film Music’. There is a lot to pick and choose from and Rajiv plays it all smartly by dividing the different phases and trends gone by through his ‘decade’ approach. So what one gets to read are chapters that go as ‘1930 – 39: The Birth of Film Music’ till way up to ‘2000 – 2009: Low Tide’. All through these chapters, he seldom takes sides or allows his own love for music cause an interruption or any unnecessary bias. Instead, he states facts as they were and adds exact details (where available) around time, place and people.

As a reader, one’s interest area may differ from chapter to chapter.For a historian, the chapters from the earlier decades may be of more interest value since he may either wish to test the author’s knowledge or his own. Also, from sheer nostalgia perspective, it’s fun to go through the times when Hindi film music was still at its infancy stage and trends were being created rather been followed. For the younger generation though, while anecdotes around the music from the New Millennium may sounds a little familiar, the middle portion of the book is bound to make for an interesting read since 60s and 70s are widely regarded as the golden period of Hindi film music.

However, Rajiv doesn’t just limit his research to highlighting the best parts of the musical era gone by in terms of composers, lyricists or singers who made their mark. He even brings to fore the changing trends and also presents the ‘reason’ and the ’cause’ theory for that.

Not just that, he also elaborates on the change in technology that facilitated the emerging and brings in elements like piracy, video boom, remixes, cover versions, re-dubbing etc. which in their own ways defined the music in a particular time period. Pretty much in synch with the times, he also highlights the part around mobile ring-tones being a great decider of the Hindi film songs in the current times which pretty much signifies the way music has come a long way over the decades.

Expectedly, there are elements other than core music which also find a well deserved place in the book. Relationship between people associated with the creative field has always held an utmost importance in the Hindi film industry and that element is also brought to fore as one flips over pages. For time immemorial, partnerships have been formed between composers, lyricists, singers and of course film makers and quite some detailing is done in the book around the coming together and falling apart of relationships. Though this was always the case and would be there for decades to come, interestingly it has been observed that this was more prevalent in the 50s, 60s and the 70s when friendship and closeness was in line with creativity.

This is why names like Shankar Jaikishan, Raj Kapoor, Lata Mangeshkar, Naushad, Kishore Kumar, Lakshmikant Pyaarelal, Mohd. Rafi and of course R.D. Burman find much more mention that many of their other contemporaries.

While the write-ups are interesting enough to entice reader into checking out what’s next to follow, the highlight of the book is the ‘Did You Know’ section that concludes every chapter. Interesting trivia is shared with the reader which mostly stays true to it’s ‘did you know’ headline as majority of it turns out to be a real surprise and unheard of. A lot of it could have been shared here in this review but it would be worth to check out the book by itself to relish its true flavour. In addition, there is a summary added to each of the chapters as well where many of the highlight compositions, films and artists find a worthy mention.

There have been quite a few books written in the past about the route taken by Bollywood over the years gone by, both from the film and the music perspective. While some have been interesting, many have turned out to be really boring due to their text book flavour. However, for those who are really looking for a reference guide when in search for quick and compact ‘relevant’ information, this is the one to reach out for. Don’t miss it. And yes, store it. If you are a true Hindi film music lover, it may just come in handy some day.

Price: Rs. 350/=


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