23 April, 2021

Her Voice Has Sweetened Life

The prose is eccentric and has been badly edited, if at all. But a patient reader will be rewarded.

Her Voice Has Sweetened Life

Nowhere else are film songs so embedded in a country’s culture as in India. It is by far the most popular form of music. A film made in 1932, soon after ‘talkies’ arrived on our shores, Indrasabha, had an overwhelming 71 songs. For the next five decades or so, six to ten songs per film was the norm. One of the first films without songs, Munna (1954), sank like a stone.

In the beginning, actors were obliged to sing themselves and it was recorded during the shooting of the film itself. The musicians, with their tablas and harmoniums, were kept out of camera range. Playback sin­ging, reproduction of previously recorded songs, was first introduced in 1935 in the film Dhoop Chhaon (Bha­gya Chakra in Bengali), dir­ected by Nitin Bose for New Theatres in Calcutta. The music was composed by R.C. Boral, often credited as the father of Indian film music.

It was no longer necessary for the actor to be able to sing, though some continued to do so magnificently—K.L. Saigal and Noorjehan in particular. It opened up...

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