Thursday, October 12, 2006

Background Score

in my youthful romantic ways, heavily into all sorts of music and completely into movies, i always carried the concept of a 'background score in everyday life'. i'd be thinking of the right kind of musical score for the situation i am in. for example, while i am breaking up with my first girl-friend, who succumbed to parental pressures, somewhere between the tears my system was humming 'heartbreak hotel' or when i came to mumbai city for the first time, the song was 'ek akela is sheher mein' or whenever i am sitting underneath a full-moon sky, its always the 'moonlight' sonata (btw, the walkmans and the i-pods of today fulfill the same need). one day, i shall develop a book on this concept. for now, i shall limit myself to the subject of background music in the movies.

Storytelling in mainstream Bollywood is still very much like the traditional Indian art of storytelling (ancients art forms like Ramleelas and Tamashas). The characters are black & whites and stereotypes; the dialogues, melodramatic; the make-ups, garish and the music, ever-loud and jarring (probably, the lack of technologies like a mike also played a role) and the audiences just love it.

Personally speaking, I find all of it quiet revolting to my system, but that’s the succesful template. So, when somebody like A R Rehman comes along and gives a new dimension to the meaning of background scores, its a delight to the ears. Unlike most Bollywood musicians, who use templated music for different sequences (female choruses for poignant sequences or sitar strings for happiness), this man gets under the skin of the script (and he also chooses his scripts well) and writes a score just like a Javed Akhter must've written that script. The end result is what you hear in 'Swades', 'Rang De Basanti' or Water. Of course, he has been tutored by another master craftsman of background score 'Illayaraja', but the pupil has taken it to newer heights.

In the B&W days of movies, we had masters like SD Burman, Shankar Jaikishenand the maverick Salil Chowdhury who treated background score as a separate entity and gave quality time to its construction. For the soundtrack of 'Madhumati' (set on the hills of north India), Salil Chowdhury spent months in the hills of Darjeeling hunting for the right sound.

Before I end, I can’t resist mentioning the ordeal which my poor ears went through while watching an otherwise decent movie. This is 'Sarkar' by Ram Gopal Verma. What was puzzling was the fact that in certain sequences the music was way louder than the dialogues!!! Why??? I want to ask that question to Mr Verma.

in my coming postings, i shall be examining the subject of background score in the movies of other worlds (Mars and Uranus). for now, i shall leave you with a recommendation - pick up the score of 'Water' by Rehman and you wont regret it!


Anonymous said...

very nice... i've background scores too... but they just pop up out of nowhere and suddenly i realise how apt they are... sometimes it's even a line of poetry... "let us go then you and i, when the evening is spread out against the sky..."
TS Eliot, that.
sent you some mail... if i've got it wrong, could you message it to me?

meraj said...

yeah, you are right about those eliot lines used in hazaaron khwaahishein.

never got the mail, despite messaging you the right ID.

aroon said...

v true man.,. background scores juss totally rocks and over the years bollywood have truly bin rasing its standards.. but come to think of it there have been many copies also done by guys like viju shah n all but it juss so blended well wid da movies.. another bg score which i can neva get tired of is of the movie agneepath.. man totally killer bg score.. and hum and so many others.. but ya rahman has totally put us on an international platform with his style of bg music.. hes god..