Bollywood is a genre well known for its vibrant colors and musical numbers. So well known in fact that many viewers and critics overlook other elements that contribute to the narrative. Those who do notice the contributions tend to be critical and emphasize Bollywood’s elements and form as juxtaposed or disjointed. I believe that by carefully examining one scene from the film 3 Idiots (2009) a case can be made for sound not just as spectacle, but as an effective and unifying storytelling element in Bollywood film.
Bollywood is used as a term for both the dominate film genre and industry of Indian cinema and was “granted official industry status by the Indian government in 2001”(Desai 7). ...view middle of the document...
” In traditional cinema the characters in the film stay where they are within the caste system from beginning to end of the film.
Bollywood’s traditional film structure “is inevitably characterized primarily as a musical genre with a fixed form”(Desai 11). Multiple performances of song and dance numbers have become Bollywood’s “most persistent feature”(Creekmur 193), “almost automatic ingredients” (Chatterji) and “a virtual requirement to include” (Kalinak 54) in every genre of Indian cinema (Kalinak 54, Nochimson 245). At a minimum Bollywood films have 4-5 songs (Indiamarks) and “six songs per film, per every film, is the accepted average”(Gehalwat 333) . It is these “interruptions of song and dance sequences” says Desai that are “the most significant marker of Bollywood”(6). Creekmur in his analysis goes further and says, “the full appreciation of popular Indian cinema might only begin when one begins to recognise that this cinema might be best understood and appreciated as the presentation of songs which are occasionally ‘interrupted’ by narrative”(201). Kalinak makes a similar observation that the importance placed on film songs is so great within the Hindi cinema that they have been known to come first in the production process. This says Kalinak produces “picturization” a fitting of the narrative to the songs rather than the songs to the narrative (55).
This value placed on a film’s music has led to song popularity beyond theatrical showings and critically linked the music industry to the film industry in Mumbai(Desai6). This often takes the form of marketing of the songs before the film (Nochimson) and radio after the film (Desai). Attempts have been made by the Indian government to curtail the effects and power of film songs. Desai sights the story of All India Radio:
the State’s attempts to discourage the dominance of film and film music were also ultimately unsuccessful. For a period of time that All India Radio (AIR) prohibited the broadcasting of film music, listeners sought out alternative channels such as Radio Ceylon that capitalized on these omissions.(Desai 8)
While popular many critics have not been pleased by Bollywood’s use of song and dance. Gehlawat comments in his work the some critics find there is too much music within Bollywood films. These critiques look at the “interruptions”(Desai, Creekmur) and the resulting changes in timbre between the musical numbers and the rest of the film that can “jolt” the viewer away from the story of the film(333).
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