Music 2011 – Art Hits its Lowest Tide

If ever there was a year in which all Best Music awards should be withheld, it was 2011. 

Music in 2011 was at its lowest ebb in a sharp and unhealthy reversal from the promise shown since “Dabangg” and other films last year. No music director of substance emerged (only Raghu Dixit, who can never be a regular in cinema, scored a promising “Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge” that was till not exceptional), ditto lyricist or singer. It is indeed a matter of shame that no music composer of substance has emerged since Pritam a decade ago, ditto singer Shreya Ghoshal, and there is no songwriter (lyricist) of the caliber of even the lesser names among legends that has come in. And yes, where is the super male singer after Sonu Niigaam and KK emerged in the ‘90s? After all, isn’t it shocking that the only male singer of substance in the last ten years is Rahat Fateh Ali Khan from across the border?

Talking of lyrics, the nadir was reached this year. As a music analyst uncannily but aptly echoed this writer’s own private opinion, “It’s like this: the benchmark icons for our legends were vintage writers like Pyarelal Santoshi (incidentally Rajkumar Santoshi’s father), Pradeep and Dinanath Madhok. The next lot was inspired by the legends — Shailendra, Majrooh, Sahir, Rajendra Krishan and Anand Bakshi. But now the benchmark is Gulzar with his quirky phonetics, smartly obscure metaphors and verse that impresses the susceptible but has little substance and no depth, and cloaks a lack of genuine brilliance,” he says. 

“With trends moving towards a mix of Sufism and Punjabi words, when you hear words, phrases or sentences that you do not understand, you think that there must be something ‘solid’ in them.”

The music scene this year was far from strobe-lit. What can we say about a year where the (strictly comparatively) best scores were Ram Sampath’s “Delhi Belly,” Pritam’s “Desi Boyz,” “Dum Maaro Dum,” “Mausam” and “Tell Me O Kkhuda,” Himesh Reshammiya’s “Bodyguard” (three songs with a fourth by Pritam), Anand Raaj Anand’s “Double Dhamaal,” Raghu Dixit’s “Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge,” Sohail Sen’s “Mere Brother Ki Dulhan” and Sachin-Jigar’s “F.A.L.T.U.,” besides the multi-composer “Yamla Pagla Deewana” and to an extent “Murder 2”? 

Against this, a horde of mediocrity was unleashed topped by “Don 2” and “Patiala House” (by leagues the worst scores of the year), with “Ra.One,” “Rockstar,” “Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap,” “Game” and “7 Khoon Maaf” to follow.

All we can say is that the late Jaidev’s music in the colorized version of “Hum Dono” deserves the “Only Great Score” award this year, ditto the late Sahir for lyrics, though they were songs in which singers as diverse as Shreya Ghoshal (“Teri Meri” /“Bodyguard,” “Ooh La La”/ “The Dirty Picture,” and “Naghma Gungunane Ka” / “Tell Me O Kkhuda” among a few others.

On the lyrics front, Sayeed Quadri (“Dil Sambhal Jaa Zaraa” / “Murder 2”), Shabbir Ahmed (“Teri Meri” / “Bodyguard”), Sandeep Nath (“Raat Mujhe” / “Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster”) Irshad Kamil (“Sau baar” / “Yamla Pagla Deewana”), Sameer (“CharBbaj Gaye” and “Percentage” / “F.A.L.T.U.”) and Javed Akhtar (“Nazar Se Nazar Mile” / “Miley Na Miley Hum”) were the few truly good lyrics. 

In an informal chat with India-West, Pritam wondered why his music in “Mausam” did not work even before the film bombed and agreed quietly with my opinion — that most of the songs were in Punjabi!

The current composers went retro in a big way. After making derisive comments about the previous generation, they actually bought rights by paying in millions for the use of old songs (“Thank You,” “Dum Maaro Dum,” “Chalo Dilli, “The Dirty Picture,” “Shaitan,” “Bbuddah…” and more), often disfiguring the old ones with atrocious singing, bad add-on lyrics and music, raucous orchestration and irreverent use with scant attention to the relevance of the poetry and mood of composition. 

Says Anu Malik, “My generation of composers was often panned for parts of songs that resembled older film classics. But our producers never needed to buy rights of older songs to get the only or biggest hit on our soundtracks! If Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s ‘Main Jat Yamla’ was a huge hit in recreated form in ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana,’ my original “Tinku Jiya’ from the same film matched it in popularity.”

This was in stark contrast to re-creations like “Ooh La La” (“The Dirty Picture”), “Dum Maro Dum” (“Dum Maaro Dum”), “Khoya Khoya Chand” (“Shaitan”) and “Go Meera Go” (“Bbuddah…”) all proving either the most popular or only popular songs on those albums.

But in a year that touched rock-bottom, there was a saving grace: Himesh Reshammiya’s Rahat-Shreya duet “Teri Meri” from “Bodyguard” smashed past the jingle-makers’ over-hyped and overrated “creations” to become the most downloaded song ever of this year. Like “Mora Piya Mose Bolat Naahi” from “Raajneeti” and “Tere Mast Mast Do Nain” from “Dabangg” in 2010, it proved that real melody with good lyrics can never die, though good songs need successful films and skilled marketing. And yes, the numbed audience did accept certain terrible songs based on the merchants’ marketing skills.

Here’s sending a silent prayer up for a musical 2012 with the return or new arrival of true-blue film composers, lyricists and singers. There’s only so much trash that we can take. 

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