Hindi Film Song by Ashok Ranade

This is a book I am reading. What I find fascinating about it is that it exists, first and foremost. We in India have a tendency to treat film music as frivolous and unworthy of serious research- academic or otherwise. So mostly we have film journalists who have written about films or film music. Some are commendable, but here is an academically oriented book which talks about the great power of films and music, and its positive impact on people and culture. The reasons why film music had to differ from the classical or laid-out traditions are also nicely explained. There is an anecdote about Anil Biswas being offended by C. Ramchandra's (both composers) use of western instruments, and calling him up, to ask him what he thought he was doing. To which he replied, he was trying to sound like C. Ramchandra, and not like Anil Biswas!

I think the idea itself deserves praise. The book is a great ride into the history of Indian (and world) cinema, with a chronological listing of major world events like the silent movies, the talkie, and various ways in which music entered films. Charlie Chaplin was against dialogue in films originally, because it was restrictive, and preferred mime!

The history of major studios in Mumbai/Pune/Kolhapur like Prabhat, and Bombay Talkies, which took over from the original Calcutta based studios (yes, Hindi films started there), is also documented. There are also critical evaluations of music directors, singers and so on, which coming from a person with knowledge of classical music, sound professional and unbiased. Lots of specific songs, composers and singers are discussed, from pre-Saigal days to actor-singers like him and Suraiya, to A.R. Rahman. For music aficionados, it is a great read.

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