Tag Archives: movie

Songless Hindi Films

When we set out to build MySwar as a comprehensive catalog for music from Hindi films, we didn’t pay a lot of attention to films that didn’t have any songs. This became apparent during the discussion on Twitter, that followed when we published this trivia:

Thanks to the “demands” of a few music lovers (!), we decided to give a shot at listing all Hindi films without any songs. For now, this blog post will serve as the repository for this list. These films are catalogued on MySwar as well but not highlighted in any of the listings. This list is not perfect – some of these films may not truly belong here and we may be missing some. For example, Pushpak was a silent film and others like The Perfect Murder and Parzania are not Hindi films. If you know of any film that we should add to this list, let us know in the comments section.

Anyway, here goes:

  1. Naujawan (1937) – MUSIC: Master Mohammed
  2. Munna (1954) – MUSIC: Anil Biswas
  3. Kanoon (1960) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Salil Chowdhury
  4. Bhuvan Shome (1969) – MUSIC: Vijay Raghava Rao
  5. Ittefaq (1969) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Salil Chowdhury
  6. Rakhi Rakhi (1969) – BACKGROUND SCORE: B.M. Chandavarkar
  7. Sara Akash (1969) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Salil Chowdhury
  8. Uski Roti (1970) – SANTOOR: Ratan Lal
  9. Aashaadh Ka Ek Din (1971) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Jaidev
  10. Maya Darpan (1972) – MUSIC: Bhaskar Chandavarkar.
  11. 27 Down (1973) – MUSIC: Bhuban Hari (Bhubaneshwar Misra and Hariprasad Chaurasia)
  12. Achanak (1973) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Vasant Desai
  13. Duvidha (1973) – FOLK MUSICIANS: Ramzan Hammu, Saki Khan, Latif.
  14. Ankur (1974) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Vanraj Bhatia
  15. Mrigayaa (1976) – MUSIC: Salil Chowdhury.
  16. Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastan (1978) – MUSIC: Bhaskar Chandavarkar
  17. Chirutha (1980) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Salil Chowdhury
  18. Satah Se Uthta Aadmi (1980) – MUSIC: Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar
  19. Plot No. 5 (1981) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Salil Chowdhury
  20. Sadgati (1981) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Satyajit Ray
  21. Sazaye Maut (1981) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  22. Shodh (1981) – MUSIC: Shantanu Mohapatra
  23. Ardh Satya (1983) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Ajit Verman
  24. Godam (1984) – MUSIC: Dilip Chitre
  25. Holi (1984) – MUSIC: Rajat Dholakia
  26. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1984) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Vanraj Bhatia, ASSISTANT: Kersi Lord
  27. Kanoon Kya Karega (1984) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Salil Chowdhury
  28. Khandhar (1984) – MUSIC: Bhaskar Chandavarkar
  29. Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho (1984) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Vanraj Bhatia
  30. Party (1984) – No information
  31. Aghaat (1985) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  32. Andhi Gali (1985) – MUSIC: Buddhadev Dasgupta
  33. Damul (1985) – MUSIC: Pt. Raghunath Seth.
  34. Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Basu Chakraborty
  35. Genesis (1986) – MUSIC: Pandit Ravi Shankar
  36. Maati Manas (1986) – BACKGROUND SCORE: T.R. Mahalingam
  37. Massey Sahib (1986) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  38. New Delhi Times (1986) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Vanraj Bhatia
  39. Rao Saheb (1986) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Bhaskar Chandavarkar
  40. Zevar (1986) – MUSIC: Salil Chowdhury
  41. Pestonjee (1987) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  42. Pushpak (1981) – BACKGROUND SCORE: L. Vaidyanathan
  43. Andhaa Yudh (1988) – MUSIC BY: Ajit Varman
  44. Salaam Bombay (1988) – MUSIC: L. Subramaniam
  45. Susman (1988) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Vanraj Bhatia
  46. The Perfect Murder (1988) – MUSIC: Richard Robbins
  47. Raakh (1989) – MUSIC: Ranjit Barot
  48. Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989) – MUSIC: Sharang Dev
  49. Ek Din Achanak (1990) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Jyotishka Dasgupta
  50. Kamla Ki Maut (1990) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Salil Chowdhury
  51. Naya Zamana Nai Kranti (1990) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Navin Sharma
  52. Nazar (1990) – MUSIC: Vikram Joglekar, D Wood
  53. Dharavi (1991) – MUSIC: Rajat Dholakia
  54. Diksha (1991) – MUSIC: Mohinderjit Singh
  55. Ek Doctor Ki Maut (1991) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  56. Ek Ghar (1991) – MUSIC: L. Vaidyanathan
  57. Kasba (1991) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  58. Antarnaad (1992) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  59. Purush (1992) – BACKGROUND MUSIC: Milind Chitnavis, Tushar Bhatia
  60. Raat (1992) – MUSIC BY: Mani Sharma
  61. Sardar (1993) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  62. Woh Chhokri (1993) – MUSIC: Sapan Jagmohan
  63. Aranyak (1994) – No information
  64. Tarpan (1994) – MUSIC: Rajat Dholakia
  65. Drohkaal (1995) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia, Anjan Biswas, Sunil Kaushik, Taufiq Qureshi
  66. Naseem (1995) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  67. Jaya Ganga (1996) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  68. The Making Of The Mahatma (1996) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  69. Char Adhyay (1997) – MUSIC: Vanraj Bhatia
  70. Rui Ka Bojh (1997) – MUSIC: K. Narayan
  71. Hyderabad Blues (1998) – MUSIC: Dr. Bunty
  72. Kairee (2000) – MUSIC: Bhaskar Chandavarkar
  73. Chandni Bar (2001) – BACKGROUND MUSIC: Raju Singh
  74. Ek Chhoti Si Love Story (2002) – MUSIC SCORE: Arvind Nirmal
  75. Kali Salwar (2002) – MUSIC: Ved Nair
  76. Chokher Bali (2003) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Debojyoti Mishra
  77. Ek Din 24 Ghante (2003) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Sanjay Chakravarthy
  78. Hawa (2003) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Surendra Singh Sodhi
  79. Ab Tak Chhappan (2004) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Salim – Sulaiman
  80. Hum Kaun Hain (2004) – MUSIC: Sanjoy Chowdhury
  81. Vaastu Shastra (2004) – MUSIC: Amar Mohile
  82. 15 Park Avenue (2005) – MUSIC: Jyotishka Dasgupta
  83. Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (2005) – MUSIC: Bappi Lahiri
  84. Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women (2005) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Salim – Sulaiman
  85. Naina (2005) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Salim – Sulaiman
  86. Being Cyrus (2006) – MUSIC: Salim – Sulaiman
  87. Gafla (2006) – MUSIC: Kartik Shah
  88. Parzania (2007) – MUSIC: Zakir Hussai, Taufiq Qureshi
  89. The Pool (2007) – MUSIC: Didier Leplae, Joe Wong.
  90. Phoonk (2008) – MUSIC: Bapi – Tutul
  91. Shoot On Sight (2008) – MUSIC: John Altman
  92. Blue Oranges (2009) – MUSIC: Ajay Panchal
  93. Siddharth – The Prisoner (2009) – MUSIC: Sagar Desai
  94. The President Is Coming (2009) – MUSIC: Siddhartha Khosla (Goldspot)
  95. Harud (2010)
  96. Pairon Talle (2010)
  97. Phoonk 2 (2010) – BACKGROUND SCORE: Dharmaraj Bhatt, Rahul Pandirkar
  98. Rokkk (2010)
  99. The Waiting Room (2010)
  100. Dhobi Ghat (2011) – MUSIC: Gustavo Santaolalla
  101. Kshay (2011) – MUSIC: Siddharth Bhatia, Karan Gour
  102. Gangoobai (2013) – MUSIC: Ved Nair
  103. Horror Story (2013)
  104. The Lunchbox (2013) – MUSIC: Max Richter

Interesting information about some of these films:

  • When Naujawan (1937) was released, there was a bit of a backlash and the producers of the film were accused of cheating audiences by not including songs.
  • Rajat Dholakia won the National Film Award for Music Direction for the film Dharavi (1991) – a rare instance of a film with no songs winning a National Film Award for music.
  • Holi did have this song – “Na Koi” – but this film has been included in the songless list since the song is really part of the film and does not have characteristics of a typical, recorded song. Amir Khan, Ashutosh Gowrikar and other actors can be seen in this song.

[Update : Removed “Current” (1991)  from the list. Per @kaurvaki, it had this song – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGTjyP6QxpE.]

[Update: Added The Pool, via Ronak Sanghvi.]

[Update: Based on inputs from @p1j – Added Naujawan and Munna. Removed Ek Haseena Thi, Paroma, Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda and Sanshodhan. They have one or more songs. Songs will be identified and added on MySwar.]

[Update: Numbered. Add interesting info.]

[Update: Added Holi (1984) and Raat (1992) based on input by @FagunB. Added interesting info about Holi.]

[Update: Added Andhaa Yudh (1988) and Ab Tak Chhappan (2004) based on input by @FagunB.]

[Update: Added The Lunchbox (2013).]

[Update: Added hyperlinks to MySwar. Added Damul (1985). Also added a number of other albums based on input from @abhisek_s, @singh_dr@hims_negi, @mpmainka.]

1940s Hindi Films Albums Now Listed On MySwar

When we launched MySwar.in late last year, we had Hindi film music listings for four decades, from 1971 to the present. Since then we have added three more decades – the 1960s, the 1950s and yesterday, the 1940s. We now have information on seven decades of Hindi film music in one place.

1940s was a significant period in Hindi film music. The legendary singer, K.L. Saigal’s death in 1947 and India’s independence and Partition effected a change of guard of sorts in Hindi film music. With K.L. Saigal’s passing away, the tragic hero persona, that was pervasive in the music of that time, faded away and male singers, on whom Saigal had cast a long shadow, developed their own singing styles. Noor Jehan’s migration to Pakistan, following the Partition, paved the path for Lata Mangeshkar’s meteoric rise as the premier female singer in Hindi films for decades to come. There was an infusion of new talent and the decade saw the debut and rise of singers like Shamshad Begum, Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta Dutt, Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh and Manna Dey; music directors like Khemchand Prakash, Naushad, C. Ramchandra, S.D. Burman and Shankar – Jaikishan; and lyricists like Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shakeel Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi and Shailendra. Film music became a melting pot of a variety of musical influences. In the 40s, it absorbed folk and classical music influences and started developing the unique, multi-faceted character that defines Bollywood music today.

Back to the update – while the film/song listings for the 1940s are up on MySwar, we haven’t updated the song genres and YouTube embeds. This will take some time. Tracing the actual songs (audio and video) is more and more difficult as we go back in the past. If you have the time and inclination, you can help us by submitting high-quality (relatively speaking) YouTube URLs on MySwar (register, login, go to the song page and click Update in the Video section).

iTunes Quietly Launches Music And Films In India (Links Available On MySwar)

Digital India was abuzz yesterday with news of iTunes launching its music and films stores in India. I particularly liked the following posts covering the launch:



While the buzz is mostly positive:


,there were some who were not very impressed, like in this comment thread on Medianama.

I think the iTunes launch is a great step forward for digital music in India and while it will have no impact on hard-core freeloaders, it will have huge appeal for people who want easy access to digital music.

iTunes links were already available on MySwar.in in US, UK, Canada. Starting yesterday, iTunes links are available in India as well. The shopping cart icons at the song level link to iTunes India and the album level to Flipkart. This is just a quick fix and we are working on improving this feature.

Musicians Don’t Matter In India?

Shubha Mudgal posted the following series of tweets yesterday.

Ms. Mudgal has been quite vocal about the issue of artists not getting credited properly. She’s right, of course. In a country dominated by film music, people seem to associate music a lot more with the actors on which the songs are filmed than on the artists who contribute to the song – the music directors, lyricists and singer. This was evident when a series of “Rajesh Khanna playlists” erupted on the internet following the actor’s recent demise. I stayed away from that bandwagon and so did some others, but we were probably a minority trying to overcompensate for the skewed focus of the majority:

Google search gives an indication of what the average Indian listeners, music labels and music websites focus on. “Mallika Sherawat songs” gives 3.7 million results, while “Shubha Mudgal songs” gives only 500K results. Given the popularity of film music, the strong association with actors is understandable but it’s really unfair to cut musicians out of the picture altogether.

While some tagging issues come from the labels’ desire to market the music, some originate purely due to clerical errors. Some recent examples:

  • Irshad Kamil was not included in the credits for Rockstar during its launch.
  • Raabta (Night In A Motel) (Agent Vinod, 2012) was incorrectly credited to Hamsika Iyer instead of Aditi Singh Sharma. Hamsika did give vocals to the Siyaah Raatein version though.
  • The duet version of Abhi Abhi (Jism 2, 2012) is wrongly credited to Shreya Ghoshal instead of Akriti Kakkar.

Because music is universal (partly because of it’s wide appeal, but also because it’s the easiest art form to consume), we assume that music is equally important to everyone. The truth, however, is that not everyone is as passionate about music as Ms. Mudgal is, or even as much as a true music lover is. This obviously does not solve the problem of musicians not getting their due credit, but maybe it reassures them that they do matter to the people who really matter – their fans.

Pancham Unmixed – DVD Review

Pancham Unmixed is a homage to R.D. Burman by film-maker, Brahmanand Singh, the key word being “homage”. It is not a documentary or biography but an unabashed tribute offered by the filmmaker to his hero.

The 2-hour film is a compilation of interviews with people who knew and/or worked with Pancham and also with a few people who didn’t. The former works, the latter works only partially. The latter set of people consists of present day musicians like Shantanu Moitra, Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy and Vishal Bhardwaj, who look up to Pancham and have been influenced by his work. The views of these musicians add great value to the film. The latter set of people also consists of die-hard Pancham fans and in my opinion, the filmmaker wastes about 5 minutes of the viewers’ time talking to them. Compared to the other heavy-hitters in the DVD, the sections with the fans are banal and add no new perspective.

The real substance of the film is formed by the interviews with R.D. Burman’s contemporaries. These individuals offer us insights into Pancham’s life and work and through their voices emerges a picture of a creative, musical genius who changed Hindi film music forever. For most Pancham lovers, there are probably no new revelations but it’s still pretty cool to hear giants like Gulzar, Shammi Kapoor and Asha Bhosle talk about R.D. Burman, his creativity, his ability to marry melody and rhythm, his willingness to experiment and his knack of getting the best out of his singers.

The other really impactful set of conversations in the film is with people from Pancham’s team – Manohari Singh, Bhanu Gupta, Kersi Lord, etc. The tenderness with which they speak about R.D. Burman is touching and shows that Pancham was not just a great musician but also a very nice human being.

The film left me with a lump in my throat. I will probably watch sections of it again (Gulzar, Shammi Kapoor, Bhupinder, Asha Bhosle, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Bhanu Gupta being my favorite ones) but that’s probably because I am a Pancham fan to begin with. This DVD is really a fan collectible and people wanting to get to know Pancham and his work better will find more value in the National Award-winning book, R.D. Burman – The Man, The Music.

The product I bought from Flipkart (link below) had two DVDs – one had the film and the other had a collection of 30 R.D. Burman songs. – and a coffee table book. If you have the option of purchasing only the film’s DVD, go for that. I’m not sure who picked them but the choice of songs in the extra DVD is quirky at best. I also found the coffee table book wanting in quality in terms of the content as well as the design.

[Update: Pancham Unmixed is now available on YouTube. You can try before you buy.]

Partners In Crime – Documentary Review

After my posts – Piracy is Mainstream and Why People Don’t Talk About Pirate Consumers – one of the readers of the blog recommended that I watch a documentary called Partners in Crime. I had heard about this documentary on Twitter but never got around to seeing it. I finally saw it last week and I am glad I did.

The documentary directed by Paromitra Vohra does a great job of asking a series of questions related to piracy but allows the viewers to draw their own conclusions. Some insights from the documentary:

  1. Many people don’t realize that piracy is illegal and they don’t believe they’re downloading for free because they pay for the internet connection and for membership to torrent sites (according to one interviewee – $10 for lifetime memberships for unlimited downloads). People also don’t view playing of music in public as illegal, since music is available for free in the first place.
  2. Some people feel that listening to music or watching movies is a social experience and sharing them only enhances the experience.
  3. Rare, concert recordings of masters are available in people’s private collections but cannot be released to public because of copyright issues. Record labels will not pay for these recordings and legal heirs of musicians are not willing to release these recordings for free.
  4. A lot of rare songs, specially non-film songs, are not archived or available easily to public.
  5. The business of pirated CDs and DVDs happens with the approval of the police. Cops need to get paid no matter what – it could be either to stop piracy or to allow it to happen.
  6. There is another way to look at roadside piracy – it provides livelihood to sellers and also gives cheap access to movies/music to a class of people who would not be able to afford them legally.
  7. It’s extremely difficult and/or expensive to legally license copyrighted work. Copyright owners are arrogant and unwilling to negotiate fair deals.
  8. Big companies copy/adapt folk songs to produce copyrighted songs. If they lifted the music in the first place, how can they own it? For example, how can Munni Badnam Hui be a copyrighted song when it is really just an adaptation of a folk song?
  9. Copyright owners are greedy and want supernormal profits. They stiff content creators by getting exclusive rights and paying content creators a pittance. As a result, content creators are either not motivated to produce original content or decide to self-publish.
  10. The anti-piracy crowd has it’s share of not-very-pleasant characters – a) The head of an NGO against piracy who talks about getting funding from CSR budgets of companies and compares piracy with illegal drug/gun trade. b) Companies that became big by flouting copyright rules in the first place, c) Big corporations who are capable of influencing governments to change laws in their favour. d) Bollywood film makers who have copied ideas from Hollywood.
  11. Intellectual Property Rights create barriers to content for people with disabilities. It’s very difficult to reproduce content in a format that can be accessed by people with disabilities.
  12. Copyright owners have no interest in catering to smaller, niche markets. This creates artificial shortage in supply, which in turn results in piracy.


Nostalgic 90’s with Kumar Sanu

Writing about the Hindi film music of 90’s is like writing about one single man and that’s Kumar Sanu. If I say that the man ruled the Hindi cinema in that decade, it wont be wrong. What he gave to the listeners in 90’s with some brilliant music by the duo Nadeem-Shravan was magical. You can still find people humming to Sanu’s songs on every other street in Mumbai and you’ll find some people playing “Jaan E Jigar Jaaneman” (“Aashiqui”) or “Pardesi Pardesi” (“Raja Hindustani”) loudly on their so-called China handsets in Mumbai locals. People like me who were born in the late 80’s will be able to relate to his songs. I was just 6 years old when I heard him for the first time in “Baazigar” and we all know the song “Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen”. It has been 18 years since then and when I play his music now in 2011 I feel nostalgic. Most of us tend to forget these songs with the current numbers like “Dhinka Chika”. But try and search for his songs on your playlist and play one and I bet you’ll end up listening to his tracks throughout the day. Here are 10 songs of Kumar Sanu which make me feel nostalgic. Hope you will be able to catch up some old memories with these numbers.

Mera Dil Bhi Kitna Pagal Hai
This one from Saajan is one of the best melodies from the duo Nadeem-Shravan. Unlike their songs in Aashiqui which were more popish in nature, this one had the melody with Tabla, Veena and Violin covering major part of the song. And the best part of the song is the singing by the best in the business then Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik. The song gave Sanu his 2nd Filmfare after “Ab Tere Bin” from Aashiqui.

Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin
When I heard this for the first time I thought this was just exactly like the song I heard before in Saajan. But hats off to the duo that they hit it off every time they came up with a song using the same formula, a SUCCESS formula (Violin Orchestra, Tabla and Veena). But not to forget the melody which makes you hum whenever you listen to it.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh
This one from 1942 A Love Story had everything which a successful song required. A feel good song with some good melody, a sweet voice that of Kumar Sanu and some brilliant instrumentation by R.D. Burman. There was a period of time when people had started to believe that Pancham’s time was over. So this definitely was a comeback album for R.D.Burman and he proved that he still had some good music left in him. But unfortunately he wasn’t there to celebrate his success of getting his 3rd Filmfare award.

Tum Mile Dil Khile
The lyrics of the song gels very well with some good composition by MM Kreem. Great vocals, especially the female one which gives a little pop feel to the song. Kumar Sanu definitely had something in him during those days that he delivered every time he sang.

Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana Sanam
Still remains at the top ten list of songs on most of the playlists. It still is in mine. Well written lyrics by Anand Bakshi to match some very good music by Jatin-Lalit. Kumar Sanu and Lata Di’s vocals complete the song and makes it special for the listener. Together they created magic 16 years ago called “Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana Sanam”.

Chura Ke Dil Mera
A sizzling number. One of the few songs that captures both melody and keeps pop alive with some guitar bits and a saxophone. Some good work by Anu Malik with the music and the voice of Alka Yagnik and Kumar Sanu makes it a super hit song of that year (1994).

Humko Sirf Tumse Pyaar hai
This was probably the nth time that Nadeem-Shravan and Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik came together and they still were able to deliver their best. The song was able to create the magic with the youth. It had everything to compete with some major releases that year (1995).

Do Dil Mil Rahe Hain
This solo from Kumar Sanu inspired a lot of people to take guitar lessons. A very well composed mellow romantic song with just acoustic guitar playing throughout. Full marks to the duo again.

Jab Kisi Ki Taraf Dil
The only song in the entire album which tells you that its Jatin-Lalit. A nice and a mellow song which definitely makes you hum it. Got some simple lyrics which makes it easy for the listener to connect. The only thing which surprises me is the style that Kumar Sanu sings, sounds same in all the songs. Still a good one this, won’t disappoint if you are a Bollywood buff.

Ek Din Aap
One of my favorite duets of Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik. Don’t know why, but this song keeps repeating on my playlist. Guess the lyrics of the song are just brilliantly written by Javed Akhtar especially the 1st antra “Dil Ki Daali Pe Kaliyaan Si Khilne Lagi, Jab Nigaahein Nigaahon Se Milne lagi’. I’m being too filmy now! Some really good music by Jatin-Lalit in this one as well.


Want more? Check out Kumar Sanu’s complete discography on MySwar.

Coming Soon! The Complete Guide To Hindi Film Music.

We’re launching! We’re launching! We’re launching! Soon that is. The beta will launch in a few weeks and the public launch will happen soon after.

We’re calling it MySwar.in because in the end, it’s about your taste in music. The Coming Soon page is up so you can sign-up right away and be one of the first to participate in the beta. Also, please help us get the word out. Your friends will thank you!

What can you expect? In a nutshell:

  • Information about Hindi film albums and songs. Think IMDb.
  • For any song, find similar songs.
  • Personalized recommendations.

Sign-up now!

PS: We’re launching with 40 decades of Hindi film music – from the 70s through current day. We’ll add the remaining after launch.

Why I Don’t Care For Remixes

I freely dispense advice to friends and family about keeping their minds open when it comes to music and be willing to explore new music and artists. But I must confess that I have been guilty of not practicing what I preach when it comes to remixes. When I read an NME article with this provocative title – Radiohead’s Thom Yorke: ‘Remix culture is healthy for music’ – I was forced to confront my bias against remixes.

Why do I not care for remixes?

  1. Bad start. My first experience of a remix was probably the most vile form of music ever created – Jhankaar Beats. Just thinking about them makes a shiver run down my spine! Here’s an example.
  2. Don’t care for clubs. I am not part of the club scene and have never been. A big part of it, I think, is that I have two right feet. I can clap, snap, sway, foot-tap, table-tap, head-nod, head-bang, air-guitar, air-keyboard and air-drum to music.  Heck, I can even do the “sitting bhangra” move but any other physical response to music is beyond me. Since most remixes target the club scene, they’re lost on me.
  3. Predictable and Contrived. The process of remixing is an afterthought and the opportunity for creativity is limited since all remixes I’ve heard do a mix(!) of the following – increase the tempo, auto-tune voice, add bucket-loads of other sounds (aka sampling). The limitation of the format is obvious in most remixes. If the original song is good, then the remix sounds like a desperate wannabe. If the original song sucks, then the remix automatically inherits the suck-factor. The sweet spot for remixes is probably songs that are not bad but seem to be missing something. For example, I felt that the original version of “Billo” (“Ustad and the Divas”) sounded OK but labored. The remixed version though (the Remix, not the Club Mix) transforms the original in a positive way and gives it a kick.
  4. Too Many Remixes. Remixes in Hindi movies have a very low signal-to-noise ratio. When you see multiple remixes of the same original, how do you pick one? I usually respond by not listening to any. A recent example of this overdose – “Chammak Challo” in “Ra.One” has four remixed versions!
  5. Electronic Music. That brings me to another bias I have – one against electronic music. I’ll reserve that story another day but let me just say that I don’t like the overdose of electronic music that’s inherent in remixes.

Coming back to Yorke’s statement. I don’t know if remixes, in general, are good for music since I have not heard non-Indian remixes but I do know that the current trend of remixes in Hindi films can’t do any good to music in India.

PS: I dislike some of Radiohead’s recent offerings almost as much as I love their debut song, “Creep”. Given where their music is headed, I tend to take Yorke’s statement with a pinch of salt.

PPS: The PS above is totally snarky and irrational because I feel betrayed by Radiohead for changing their music the way they have.

Leaving Home – The Life & Music of Indian Ocean – DVD Review

“Leaving Home” is a documentary by Jaideep Verma about Indian Ocean, one of the first Indian music bands. I have a lot of good things to say about the DVD, so let me get a quibble out of the way – The movie would have been extra special with 5-channel audio. Sadly, it’s just Stereo.

The film mirrors a typical, Indian Ocean song – its loosely structured, meanders freely and has a raw feel to it. After watching the movie for a while, though, you appreciate the method to the madness – the movie tells the band’s story by tracing Indian Ocean’s career chronologically, and explores each band member, one at a time.

Most of the story is told through Jaideep’s conversation with a band member or through conversations between the band members. Jaideep stays out of the picture most of the time. (In fact, while his name does appear on the DVD, there is no mention of his name on the DVD case.). Other people do chip in – family members, record executives, collaborators, musicians – but Indian Ocean remains the star of the show. It is their story, as told by them. Jaideep’s relationship with the band is not clear but it’s quite evident that he admires the band and that the band seems to be at ease with him. On one hand, this dynamic results in the band opening their kimono for the world; on the other, it does not leave room for an objective assessment (perhaps critique?) of the band’s career and music. The same dynamic imparts to the movie a degree of warmth and in the end, I am glad that the movie was made the way it was.

The movie has a couple of key themes:

  1. Struggle and Persistence – Indian Ocean struggled for a number of years through changing lineups, little recognition for their music and financial problems. But they persisted. There is an extremely poignant segment in the movie about a friend of Susmit’s who gave up music (he used to play bass guitar) to pursue a safer career. The movie shows the friend visiting Susmit after many years, playing the guitar (tentatively at first) and wondering what could have been. The caption in the transition to the next scene, quietly informs us that the friend passed away the next year.
  2. Teamwork – Indian Ocean has no frontman, no leader. Every member seems to contribute equally to the making of the music (there are delightful scenes of them jamming as a new song takes shape). Of course, there are disagreements (Rahul Ram wants political messages in their songs, the rest do not; Susmit has a problem with the chorus-verse format of songs, the rest do not) but mostly there is camaraderie and a sense of common purpose. We also get a sense that staying together needed work and commitment. Every time a member says that they have more commonalities than differences (and they say it a few times), you realize that that message is as much for themselves, as it is for the viewers.

As the movie draws to a close, a portrait of each band member emerges – “warts and all”, as blurb on the DVD case says –

Susmit Sen – He comes across as a guy who may not be hugely talented, but more than compensates for it through hard work, self-belief and sheer obstinacy.

Rahul Ram – Despite being the most articulate member of the band, he remains a bit of an enigma. It doesn’t feel like he opens up as much as the other band members. He is very intense, has strong political beliefs (pro-Narmada, anti-Bush) and is so pragmatic, that he can appear cold. He has huge stage presence (I’ve seen Indian Ocean live) and the closest thing to a frontman the band will ever have.

Amit Kilam – Hugely talented, he can play a number of instruments and sing. He comes across as amiable and easy-going. Even after all these years, it feels like he’s still the kid in the band.

Asheem Chakravarty – Knowing that he died of a heart attack in 2009, viewers will likely watch Asheem closely throughout the movie. I don’t know if it is the result of this scrutiny, but Asheem seems to open up more than any other band member. He comes across as an emotional guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. You can’t help but like the man.

“Leaving Home” is not just for Indian Ocean fans. It is for anyone who loves music. It is the story of a bunch of regular folks, making great music.

[I watched the extended version of their DVD which consists of 2 DVDs. It has a few extras and costs more. This version is probably meant for fans. That said, while I am not a huge fan (though I like their music), I still enjoyed the leisurely 4 plus hour watch (with a few breaks).]