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A Unique Entity

Irfan Zuberi

By Ashok Da. Ranade
Promilla & Co. in association with Bibliophile South Asia, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 437, Rs. 495.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 10 October 2006

Hindi film songs are immensely popular throughout the length and breadth of the country and appeal to people of all age groups. Such was the popularity of Hindi film songs as far back as 1952 that when All India Radio (under B. V. Keskar) banned the airing of film music, ‘Binaca Geetmala’, which was broadcast from Radio Ceylon, became a major success across the country. This forced AIR to rethink its ban and, in 1957, it introduced ‘Vividh Bharati’ to cater to the tastes of the radio listeners. What makes Hindi film songs tick? How do they cut across all boundaries and appeal to such a wide variety of people from diverse backgrounds? These questions probe sociologists, musicologists, ethnomusicologists and scholars of popular culture and cinema studies to study this uniquely Indian phenomenon.   As one of India’s leading ethnomusicologists, Dr. Ashok Ranade undertakes an analysis of the composers and voices working behind the Hindi film song noting historical developments and discussing aesthetic issues in an attempt to trace its complete musical profile. Ranade carries out what he chooses to call ‘middle-level research’ in Hindi film music – rising above analysis and interpretation of individual songs yet not excluding concrete evidence for want of big theories to explain everything. The structure of the book makes it accessible to the scholar as much as to the lay reader. It has been divided into three sections: landmarks in Hindi film music, early amd later composers and major and minor voices broadly spanning the period 1930-80. The three distinct phases which have been covered in this period are the talkie phase, studio phase and finally the industry phase. The methodology employed is the analysis of the styles and contributions of individual composers and playback singers – the two pillars of the Hindi film song – and using them to reflect upon each other to create a clearer picture.   The historical and theoretical moorings of the subject matter have not been left unexplored by Ranade. He undertakes an analysis of the principles of Bharata’s Natyashastra and goes on to put forth the aesthetic principles which govern the relationship between the auditory and the visual in film music. In this regard, one is truly surprised to read about the foresight of Bharata when he said that the ‘song’ could either by sung by the actor himself/herself or by another – in light of this evidence, it is truly tempting ...

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