Sad that songs are fading away from Hindi films: Javed Akhtar

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Sad that songs are fading away from Hindi films: Javed Akhtar

Noted screenwriter-lyricist Javed Akhtar says filmmakers today use songs in movies as a source of revenue and not as a narrative tool. Akhtar, who has penned lyrics for some of Hindi cinema’s biggest soundtracks, right from “Silsila” (1981) to “Gully Boy” (2019), said fast-paced storytelling in films has directly impacted the tradition of songs. “The tempo of films has increased, the tempo of life has increased, so the tempo of the music has increased… A word can only be appreciated, liked, and understood where there is a medium pace tune, so people can concentrate on the word. So, the tempo of the music is not in favour of the word,” Akhtar told PTI.

The 76-year-old writer said films these days avoid melodrama, and songs that would earlier be used to underline emotions have as a result started fading away. “They feel sentimentality and emotion should be cut. So the situation is not emotional enough and then songs cease to be a part of the narrative.”

Akhtar, the wordsmith behind well loved songs from films such as “1942: A Love Story”, “Dil Chahta Hai”, “Kal Ho Na Ho”, said filmmakers today, having grown under the influence of western cinema, don’t know how to use songs in a narrative. Songs even when incorporated in the narrative are pushed in the background and used purely for the “greed of money” as music rights generate revenue, the lyricist said.

“They (filmmakers) find it embarrassing and awkward that somebody is singing at a party. So, the songs have gone in the background. Why they are there is because there is still a demand for music and it is a source of revenue. That’s why they have songs in films… It is only the greed of money that makes them put songs in the pictures.”

Akhtar said the attitude of filmmakers, who view film songs as a “necessary evil”, is reflected when they use a track that has no relation to “whatever is happening in the foreground”.

The lyricist-poet said it’s futile to expect songs of the standard shot by stalwarts like Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, Raj Khosla or Vijay Anand.

“That has gone and it’s sad because you know you should not be embarrassed.”

He said he is not advocating that every film should have songs but the tradition of narrating a story through musical pieces is an ancient one, finding roots in the oldest of texts.

“If you take old Sanskrit plays, there are songs in it, if you take Ram Leela or Krishna Leela, there are songs in it. Urdu and Parsi theatre, which was the urban theatre beside ‘nautanki’ which was more rural, had songs in it.

“Now why be embarrassed about them (songs) … It is wrong and sad that everybody is dumping (not using) it. We can make films where there are no songs, but why should we kill the genre, that is wrong,” he added.

On Independence Day, Akhtar will be seen as the headline act of ZEE Live’s “India Shayari Project”. The 90-minute special will stream on ZEE5 on August 15. The writer said initiatives like the “India Shayari Project” are relevant as it will not just be a celebration of poetry but also the country’s freedom.

He noted that the growing availability of platforms for the younger generation has resulted in a huge audience and a following of poetry and poets. “The younger generation, no thanks to us as a matter of fact, has found what is missing in their lives and they are discovering poetry on their own.

“The idea behind this initiative is to connect and inspire young poets, who have developed a new metaphor, a new style and a new language, and I am very positive about poetry and its future and the connection between the young generation and poets,” he added.

The show will also bring together other Indian poets including Kausar Munir, Kumar Vishwas and Zakir Khan, with the aim to celebrate ‘shayari’ and the spirit of freedom. 

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