Bollywood songs, more formally known as Hindi film songs, or filmi songs are songs featured in Bollywood films. Derived in Western film circles for the song-and-dance routine, Bollywood songs, along with dance, are a characteristic motif of Hindi cinema which gives it enduring popular appeal, cultural value and context. Hindi film songs form a predominant component of Indian pop music, and derives its inspiration from both classical and modern sources. Hindi film songs are now firmly embedded in North India's popular culture and routinely encountered in North India in marketplaces, shops, during bus and train journeys and numerous other situations. Though Hindi films routinely contain many songs and some dance routines, they are not musicals in the Western theatrical sense; the music-song-dance aspect is an integral feature of the genre akin to plot, dialogue and other parameters.
Hindi film songs are present in Hindi cinema right from the first sound film Alam Ara (1931) by Ardeshir Irani which featured seven songs. This was closely followed by Shirheen Farhad (1931) by Jamshedji Framji Madan, also by Madan, which had as many as 42 song sequences strung together in the manner of an opera, and later by Indra Sabha which had as many as 69 song sequences. However, the practice subsided and subsequent films usually featured between six and ten songs in each production.
Right from the advent of Indian cinema in 1931, musicals with song numbers have been a regular feature in Indian cinema. In 1934 Hindi film songs began to be recorded on gramophones and later, played on radio channels, giving rise to a new form of mass entertainment in India which was responsive to popular demand. Within the first few years itself, Hindi cinema had produced a variety of films which easily categorised into genres such as "historicals", "mythologicals", "devotional, "fantasy" etc. but each having songs embedded in them such that it is incorrect to classify them as "musicals".
The Hindi song was such an integral features of Hindi mainstream cinema, besides other characteristics, that post-independence alternative cinema, of which the films of Satyajit Ray are an example, discarded the song and dance motif in its effort to stand apart from mainstream cinema.
The Hindi film song now began to make its presence felt as a predominating characteristic in the culture of the nation and began to assume roles beyond the limited purview of cinema. In multi-cultural India, as per film historian Partha Chatterjee, "the Hindi film song cut through all the language barriers in India, to engage in lively communication with the nation where more than twenty languages are spoken and ... scores of dialects exist". Bollywood music has drawn its inspiration from numerous traditional sources such as Ramleela, nautanki, tamasha and Parsi theatre, as well as from the West, Pakistan, and other Indic musical subcultures.
For over five decades, these songs formed the staple of popular music in South Asia and along with Hindi films, was an important cultural export to most countries around Asia and wherever the Indian diaspora had spread. The spread was galvanised by the advent of cheap plastic tape cassettes which were produced in the millions till the industry crashed in 2000. Even today Hindi film songs are available on radio, on television, as live music by performers, and on media, both old and new such as cassette tapes, compact disks and DVDs and are easily available, both legally and illegally, on the internet.
Style and format
The language of Hindi songs can be complex. Some Hindi songs include Urdu and Persian words and phrases and it is not uncommon to hear use of English words in songs from modern Hindi movies. Several other Indian languages have also been used including Braj, Avadhi, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Bengali and Rajasthani.
In a film, music, both in itself and accompanied with dance, has been used for many purposes including "heightening a situation, accentuating a mood, commenting on theme and action, providing relief and serving as interior monologue."
Songs in Bollywood movies are deliberately crafted with lyrics often written by distinguished poets or literati (often different from those who write the film script), and these lyrics are often then set to music, carefully choreographed to match the dance routine or script of the film. They are then sung by professional playback singers and lip-synched by the actors. Bollywood cinema is unique in that the majority of songs are seen to be sung by the characters themselves rather than being played in the background. In Western cinema, often a composer who specializes in film music is responsible for the bulk of music on the film's soundtrack, and while in some films songs may play an important part (and have direct relationship to the subject of the film), in Bollywood films, the songs often drive large-scale production numbers featuring elaborate choreography.
Also in western films, a music director or "music coordinator" is usually responsible for selecting existing recorded music to add to the soundtrack, typically during opening and closing credits, whereas In Bollywood films, the music director often has a much broader role encompassing both composing music/songs specifically for the film and (if needed) securing additional (licensed) music, whereas the lyricist of Bollywood songs is less likely to be the same composer or music director, as Bollywood films often go to great lengths to include lyrics of special significance and applicability to the film's plot and dialogue, and/or the words of highly regarded poets/lyricists set to music written specifically for such words in the film, as noted above.
Bollywood film songs have been described as eclectic both in instrumentation and style. They often employ foreign instruments and rework existing songs, showing remarkable inventiveness in the reinvention of melodies and instrumental techniques.
Indian cinema, with its characteristic film music, has not only spread all over Indian society, but also been on the forefront of the spread of India's culture around the world. In Britain, Hindi film songs are heard in restaurants and on radio channels dedicated to Asian music. The British dramatist Sudha Bhuchar converted a Hindi film hit Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! into a hit musical "Fourteen Songs" which was well received by the British audience. Film-maker Baz Luhrmann acknowledged the influence of Hindi cinema on his production Moulin Rouge by the inclusion of a number "Hindi Sad Diamonds" based on the filmi song "Chamma Chamma" which was composed by Anu Malik. In Greece the genre of indoprepi sprang from Hindi film music while in Indonesia dangdut singers like Ellya Khadam, Rhoma Irama and Mansyur S., have reworked Hindi songs for Indonesian audiences. In France, the band Les Rita Mitsouko used Bollywood influences in their music video for "Le petit train" and French singer Pascal of Bollywood popularised filmi music by covering songs such as "Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana". In Nigeria bandiri music—a combination of Sufi lyrics and Bollywood-style music—has become popular among Hausa youth. Hindi film music has also been combined with local styles in the Caribbean to form "chutney music".