Power puff ballads | Culture | Times Crest
Popular on Times Crest
  • In This Section
  • Entire Website
  • On a different track
    May 18, 2013
    Jeet Ganguly was adamant that he wouldn't do a Nadeem-Shravan.
  • 'No song comes my way today'
    May 18, 2013
    Kavita Krishnamurthy Subramaniam has ruled Bollywood music for over three decades. She's seen the highs and lows having worked with some of the…
  • Unabashedly raw
    May 18, 2013
    The new female playback voice is vastly different from the high pitch of the earlier decades - today, it is unapologetically low, bold and husky.
More in this Section
Profiles
Leaving tiger watching to raise rice Ecologist Debal Deb, who did his post-doctoral research from IISc in…
The crorepati writer He's the man who gives Big B his lines. RD Tailang, the writer of KBC.
Chennai-Toronto express Review Raja is a Canadian enthusiast whose quirky video reviews of Tamil…
Don't parrot, perform Maestro Buddhadev Dasgupta will hold a masterclass on ragas.
A man's man Shivananda Khan spent his life speaking up for men who have sex with men.
Bhowmick and the first family of Indian football At first glance, it would be the craziest set-up in professional football.
From Times Blogs
The end of Detroit
Jobs in Detroit's car factories are moving to India.
Chidanand Rajghatta
How I love the word ‘dobaara’...
Can ‘bindaas’ or ‘jhakaas’ survive transliteration?
Shobhaa De
Anand marte nahin...
India's first superstar died almost a lonely life.
Robin Roy
NEW BOLLYWOOD

Power puff ballads

|



The female voice in Hindi film songs now has more muscle than ever before. That's a great signifier of how the New Bollywood has adjusted to the new woman, points out Avijit Ghosh.

Voices can be subterranean registers of social history. The kind of singing voice we prefer at a certain moment of history reveals something about us. It maps, in a rather inchoate way, our collective preferences and predilections. Which is why the rise and rise of a new generation of Bollywood female playback singers, whose voices are as different from their predecessors as soprano is from baritone, is not just an indicator of people's changing taste but perhaps also a reflection of how people themselves are changing.

You can almost touch the six-pack in the voice of these new playback singers. It is assertive and aggressive, full of beans and muscle;voices that are right-fit for the ambitious, independent and sexually-alive characters they playback for in New Bollywood. No surprise, the Filmfare Awards for the best female playback in the past four years have all gone to singers with power plus timbre. Kavita Seth soared with Iktara in Wake up Sid and shared the award with the husky Rekha Bhardwaj (Genda Phool in Delhi-6 ) in 2010. Mamta Sharma's sultry Munni (film: Dabangg) matched Sunidhi Chauhan's power-packed vocals in Sheila (film: Tees Maar Khan) for joint honours the following year. In 2012, Ms Bhardwaj and Usha Uthup together took the prize for Darling in Saat Khoon Maaf. And this year newbie Shalmali Kolgadi earned the award for her strong rendition of Pareshaan in Ishaqzaade. It is revealing that the husky voice of Usha Iyer/Uthup, once deemed fit only for disco tracks that 80s item girl Kalpana Iyer gyrated to, became playback for heroine Priyanka Chopra in Saat Khoon Maaf. Obviously the perception of what a heroine's singing voice should be has changed.

Back in the 1940s, female singers with heavier voices such as Noorjehan and Shamshad Begum enjoyed prominence. One major producer is even said to have rejected a struggling Lata Mangeshkar for her "thin" voice. But once Lata was firmly ensconced at the top, her voice became the gold standard for excellence, the sole measurement of what a heroine's voice should be. Everything else was almost construed as deviant both for the music director and the listener.

The virtues that one imagined and associated with her voice - purity, decorum and goodness - fitted both bahus battling mothers-in law and the flippant college girl mandated to appear pretty and sing three duets in mainstream flicks. In other words, it was perfectly aligned with the times and unthreatening to the existing social order.

For most film producers, directors and music directors, Lata was the preferred, go-to voice between the 1950s-80 s. Geeta Dutt could have been stiff competition but a bad marriage swallowed her. Asha Bhonsle wasn't the preferred choice for any major composer in the 50s, barring O P Nayyar and Ravi. Shamshad Begum's nasal and muscled voice was too confident for its times. Barring a few exceptions like Bahar, few of her chartbusting numbers from A-list productions like Awara, CID, Aar Paar, Naya Daur were picturised on heroines;they were all filmed on vamps, item girls and side heroines.

Indeed in the 1960s, the shadow of Lata loomed so large that fellow singer Suman Kalyanpur was appreciated primarily for such a near-perfect clone that it was impossible to distinguish the original from the other. Sharda had a distinctive voice but barring Shankar, no other composer took her seriously. By the 1980s, as Lata decided cut down on her assignments, sound-alikes such as Anuradha Paudwal and Alka Yagnik were firmly in business. Kavita Krishnamurthy was a little different but there was no indication of real change till the late 1990s.

It is hard to pinpoint when the wheels of change first began to roll. Certainly, Jaspinder Narula's robust rendition of the title track, Pyaar to Hona Hi tha (1998), which won her the Filmfare award for best female playback, is an important marker. While Narula fell short of reaching the very top, singing-contest winner Sunidhi Chauhan proved to be a gamechanger. Her rendition of Mehboob mere (film: Fiza, 2000) had real energy and power. It was a sign of changing times that in subsequent years most music directors have used Sunidhi's voice both for item girls as well as lead heroines. For every raunchy Bidi jailai le (film: Omkara), she also got vegetarian, peppy tracks filmed on heroines such as Gun gun guna (film: Agneepath) and Chor Bazari (film: Love aaj Kal, with Neeraj Sreedhar).

The change was directly linked to mainstream Bollywood casting off its old skin and really beginning to experiment with content in the new millennium. The new heroine now could do more than just get rescued from goons by the hero and sing songs in chiffon saris in Switzerland. She could walk tall even when the boyfriend dumped her (Luck By Chance), initiate sex (Kaminey), manipulate men (Ishqiya) and subvert to rule (Saheb, Bibi aur Gangster Returns). Clearly, both Bollywood and its audience were getting used to and accepting the power woman, at least on celluloid.

Suddenly the Anushka Manchandas, the Richa Sharmas and others were in business as the slight, virtuous voice seemed so yesterday. True, the soft and slender timbre that typified the 60s still remains part of the menu. After all, reigning prima donna Shreya Ghoshal is a chip of the old block, a classier version of the Yagnik generation.

But, undeniably, there is now a wider representation, a democracy of voices. And with every passing season, the bolder voices are getting stronger and louder.

Reader's opinion (1)

Saudamini SinghMay 11th, 2013 at 15:22 PM

this article is interesting, valuable and gives a lot of information.

 
Other Times Group news sites
The Times of India | The Economic Times
इकनॉमिक टाइम्स | ઈકોનોમિક ટાઈમ્સ
Mumbai Mirror | Times Now
Indiatimes | नवभारत टाइम्स
महाराष्ट्र टाइम्स
Living and entertainment
Timescity | iDiva | Bollywood | Zoom
| Technoholik | MensXP.com

Networking

itimes | Dating & Chat | Email
Hot on the Web
Hotklix
Services
Book print ads | Online shopping | Business solutions | Book domains | Web hosting
Business email | Free SMS | Free email | Website design | CRM | Tenders | Remit
Cheap air tickets | Matrimonial | Ringtones | Astrology | Jobs | Property | Buy car
Online Deals
About us | Advertise with us | Terms of Use and Grievance Redressal Policy | Privacy policy | Feedback
Copyright© 2010 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service