When "Alam ara" was released in 1931 it created a revolution of sorts since it was a "Talking" film (hence the name - Talikes!). It also had songs picturised on the main characters. From 1931 to 2007, the hindi film music has come a long long way, passing through various phases like simplicity, classical, western, Rock'n roll, Disco, to the current generation of Hip hop etc. Who were the people who gave the film music its form and substance? Who were responsible for it evolving from one generation to another? Lets take a look at them.
1. ANIL BISWAS - He arrived on the scene in 1936 in a big way with "Achhoot Kanya" and the famous song Main ban ki panchchi. This was probably the first hindi film with a full fledged orchestra for its songs. Thus we need not say that the western influence in film music began only in 1970s! This was also the era of K L Saigal, Pankaj Mullick, C H Atma, R C Boral, Noorjehaan, Surendra etc. The music of this era was heavily classical oriented which required formally trained singers. Unlike today's era where even glaring imperfections in voice can be easily masked by technology, then the voice and its inflections had to be perfect. Also we saw "Nasal" voices in that era.
2. THE GOLDEN ERA - It will be a blasphemy if I name only one of the composers of this era, since ALL had an equal role to play in immortalizing this period enshrined as the golden era of hindi film music (From 1950s to 1960s). The protagonists of this period were Naushaad, S D Burman, Shanker - Jaikishen, O P Nayyar, Madaan Mohan, Roshan, Khayyyam, Jaidev, Kalyanji - Anandji, Laxmikant - Pyarelal etc. The last two of ourse continued well into the Disco generation also. In this era for the first time, pulse of the general public was catered to. Thus, apart from classical influence, we also saw heavy rock roll, pop etc. Who can forget S-J's rollicking songs composed for the maerick Shammi Kapoor? All composers at some time or the other DID delve into western music to fuse with the Indian sounds. The resultant music was a heady mixture of Folk, Classical, Western clasical, rock n roll and pop. Thus we had "Laaga chunari main daag" based on Raag Sindhu Bhairavi, "Merra naam chin chin choo" a cabaret song, " Nain lad gayee hai" a folk song and "Thundee hawaayen, lehraa ke aayen" based on western classical, just to name a few!
3. R D BURMAN - He arrived on the film music scene with Chhote nawaab" in 1967. With "Teesari manzil" in 1968 he replaced all others from the top position. His ascent marked a new era in hindi film music. The sounds changed completely towards western orchestration with synthesizer and guitars featuring heavily, in complete contrast to Tabla, Harmonium, sitar etc of he golden era. RD was probably the first composer to experiment with unusual sounds. For example who can forget the opening bars of "Chura liya hai tumne..." played by striking a glass with a steel spoon? Or for that matter the background rhythm in the song "O manjhi re" in Khusboo where he used bottles filled to different levels with water and then blowing into them? In the song "Mehbooba, mehbooba" from Sholay, the opening notes were produced by RD blowing over the top of empty glass bottles! All this is not to tale away the credit from other composers like Kalyanji-Anandji or L-P. They too gave memorable hits in the 70s and 80s era. But you must realize that they gravitated to this genre only AFTER RD proved his succes in this genre.
4. BAPPI LAHIRI - Blasphemy again? Hardly, I would say. The man who gave us sensible, sensitive tunes like "Dheere dheere subah hui" based on Raag Ahir Bhairav or "Zid na karo" from Lahoo ke do rang was also single handedly responsible for ushering in the Disco era in the 1980s. So what if culturally, even in the west, Disco is considered the trashiest of all genres? Bappida captured the mood of the people and revelled in the adulation of public. Thus followed Disco dancer, Tarzan, Saheb, Namak halal and a score of some mediocre songs too. This era then gradually degenerated into trashiness (not that it is any better today !) due to most composers cashing on the disco rage by producing synthesizer sounds with crude lyrics to titillate the front benchers of cinema halls.
5. A R REHMAN - In 1994, Roja was released and film music once again was metamorphosed. Be it Western clasical, Indian clasical, Arabic, Reggae, jazz, rock, Pop, A R experimented with all types of music I think he can safely be credited with the next renaissance of hindi film music after R D Burman, which has made experimentation with other music genres more acceptable today. This has spawned the likes of Shanker-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Preetam, Himesh Reshammiya etc who are experimenting with Hip hop, Sufi, Rock n roll jazz etc. .
Though the analysis ends here, debate will surely take place as to which era was better, with the old timers swearibg by K L Saigal, middle generation by the Golden era and Gennext with Reshammiya etc. I personally favour the Golden era, though I am not that old! Why I like songs of this era I cannot explain satisfactorily. It will suffice to say that I prefer sentimental, classical based songs more than anything else, hence he preferrance to Golden era.
Mine is NOT an original article. In fact it is based totally on Luke Kenny's (Programming head, Channel V) article published in Hindustan Times on May 26th 2007.