Indian cinema is a very fertile breeding ground of musicians and lyricists. We have been blessed with numerous songs which continues to play on our lips, since generations. The patterns of the song visuals has been consistently transforming in our cinema. From the visuals crowded by groups of background dancers, from the miserable lip syncing by the heroes when they are lamenting their own father’s death, we have moved forward to situation oriented songs, and thankfully, less moments of lip sync. The funniest example of lip sync is the song ‘Pazham Thamizh paattizhayum’, from Fazil’s famous science fiction, Manichitrathaazhu.
Here, we see a doctor who has come to cure his friend’s problem with certain paranormal activities in his house, knowingly locking up another woman, presumable because he wanted to divert the attention of the real split personality affected patient. Like a cherry on top of the cake, he locks her up, sings a song, and lip syncs to it. Confusing the average audience, he lip syncs to the full song, even in instances where he ‘treats’ the fake patient. Thanks to a community of much more sensible filmmakers, we are not put through such heresy to our senses, any more.
This great change is a beginning. It marks the era of Indian cinema’s march towards a level beyond international films, at the level of visual and aesthetic quality. To take examples of films like Kumbalangi Nights, Varathan, Viswaasam, all belongs to the category of films which approach its song sequences with a fair aesthetic sense and logic.
Another important yet subtle shift has been in the quality of music and lyrics of film songs. From a miserable period when South Indian film songs relied heavily on Bollywood genre of music, we have gradually moved on to an era where we have finally dug out our treasure – our classical instruments, our kind of music. Experiments with such exclusive music and international rhythms have given us legendary songs. A great contributor to such experiments is our own legend A R Rahman. It was at the peak time of Isaimaamani Ilayaraja, that a young musician entered the cinema industry. Like the Pied Piper, he lead us on from an exclusively classical music culture, to a music based on rhythm, almost tribal.
A R Rahman was one of those musicians who introduced us to a genre of music based on drums and beats – a kind of music with a tribal core – the perfect Dravidian mix of classical and international. His music was a trance. If you have noticed, compared to an Ilayaraja musical, A R Rahman’s creations are entirely based on a peculiar beat – a sort that has the drum beat as base. This might be the reason why we tend to groove unknowingly, when listening to A R Rahman. He has introduced us to magical qawwalis, gazals, and rare mix of classical and experimental music.
After A R Rahman, I consider the young musician Sushin Shyam as the next landmark. His experience with numerous shows and his intense passion for music, makes his rhythms and beats, magical. He has been in the industry for a fairly long time, but the first song that made us search for the musician behind, was ‘Nee… ‘ from the movie Varathan. None of us may have stopped with this one song, and would have went on and listened to the rest of those tracks as well, from Varathan. Sushim Shyam’s music has that thing in it, which makes us do the head bang. Sushin Shyam is the face of Avant garde rhythm.
Indian cinema is gradually climbing that ladder when it comes to our music. We still have a long way to go, but the place we are at, now, is also beautiful. Let great musicians be born, and let them soothe our ears and souls with their rhythms. After all, who enjoys music as much as us. We have music in our souls, we take each beat we hear to our hearts, and we dance our way, around the world, taking it wherever we go.