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How Bollywood Songs Spark Magic When You Are An NRI!

Bollywood films and singers have carried their melodies overseas, and there is always an overwhelming response from music lovers.

As much as you want your teeth to be sparkling white, a visit to the dentist is not anything to be excited about. The cleaning ritual can be pretty annoying, not to mention the pricks that can hurt quite a bit.

But I have an interesting story to tell…

There is something nice in my dentist’s chamber to compensate for the unpleasant experience. Owned by a doctor from India, the office keeps playing a good collection of Bollywood numbers. So as the cleaning goes on, patients are treated to the soulful numbers of Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, and a wide range of extremely versatile singers!

To be entertained by songs that I grew up hearing is quite a therapy for me! Mentally, I am transported all the way from the USA to India, and it brings back some special memories because some of those songs are from films that I have watched with family and loved ones! Honestly, the songs help to divert my mind from the discomfort I feel. Bollywood songs are quite a treat for us!

We can never imagine our films minus the musical package!

Influenced by Western pop, rock, jazz, folk, and classical music, the genres are wide, and we can say that we have God’s plenty in Bollywood music. Cinema is larger than life, and our films have been reinforcing that.

The first Bollywood film Alam Ara (1931) introduced the concept of music and playback singing in Indian cinema, and the rest is history. The trend has largely changed these days, with most songs as background scores or portrayed as dream sequences. But for the longest time, songs have been musical outbursts by actors and actresses when they have become engulfed by various emotions.

We cannot deny that we are coerced into a willing suspension of disbelief because what happens is far from reality.

Can you imagine lovers immersing themselves in a song (Kora Kagaz tha ye man mera) in the solitude of the mountains? Well, superstar Rajesh Khanna and the immensely gorgeous Sharmila Tagore did so with perfection in Aradhana. Yet 53 years later, that song by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar still captures our hearts. A young man expressing his sorrow through a song (Lagi Aaj Sawan ki zadi hai from the 1989 Chandni) is equally unrealistic.

But these songs are so melodious that we tend to ignore the implausible and instead drown in their magic. It is pure bliss! Perhaps it will not be an exaggeration to say that our parties, be it a wedding or any other celebration, remain incomplete without shaking a leg to a Bollywood number!

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The winds of Bollywood music have blown far beyond India’s borders

It is interesting to see how our film industry has roped in global artists to lend their voices to our songs. To name a few, Akon, Tata Young, and Arash are among those whose renditions have struck a chord with the Indian masses.

British Swiss singer Tanya Wells has also made a name for herself. Whether she sings Faiz’s Gulon Mein Rang Bhare or the evergreen Lata Mangeshkar classic Lag Ja Gale, she duly impresses.

The Havas Guruhi group is a family of singers from Uzbekistan, and Bollywood songs are their forte. Their range is diverse. Songs from the 1950s are sung with the same gusto as modern-day hits. Dedicated to 25 years of diplomatic relations between India and Uzbekistan, Havas Guruhi had their first Bollywood concert in their home country in 2017, and their glorious journey continues.

A new Internet sensation is the Tanzanian brother-sister duo Kili Paul and Neema Paul who have created ripples on social media by lip syncing to Bollywood songs.

The songs leave a mark whether you judge them as being inspired or copied!

There is an unimaginably big repository of Hindi songs that are based on Western tunes, and  Bollywood music directors have often been bashed for this. You can consider it plagiarism or an act of being inspired! Whatever be the label, you cannot ignore some of the songs where the composers have done a phenomenal job. It is not feasible to compile an all-inclusive list, so I name just 3 of my favorite ones.

Mozart’s 40th Symphony in G Minor inspired composer Salil Chowdhury to create the romantic track Itna Na Mujhse Tu Pyar Badha in the 1961 film Chhaya.

Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaye from the movie Jurm (1990) echoes with the tune of Five Hundred Miles by Peter, Paul, and Mary, and it is a neat job done by Rajesh Roshan.

The soothing tunes of Leo Sayer’s hit song When I Need You (1977) find expression in Tumse Milke from the movie Parinda (1989) with R. D. Burman as its music director.

The unifying power of music concerts

Singers have carried their melodies overseas, and there is always an overwhelming response from music lovers. Some time back, I attended a Javed Ali concert which could be described in one single word: mesmerizing. It felt like a breath of fresh air after missing out on such musical programs for a long time because of the COVID situation.

Earlier, I had enjoyed concerts featuring Asha Bhosle, A.R. Rahman, Shreya Ghoshal, Sonu Nigam, and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy to name a few. The commonality in all these shows is the power to unify the audiences who are from the Indian subcontinent. When the artist asks the audience to join in, the crowd responds in abundant joy, singing the lines together. So the Bollywood songs at that moment unite people whose cultures otherwise may clash at home or whose political ideologies may differ.

Ending on a humorous note

I was on the plane from Frankfurt to India. As a flight attendant passed by, my little one at that moment happened to say: “Bholi si surat, aankhon mein masti! (An innocent face and mischief in the eyes). Obviously a three-year-old was not on a mission to eve-tease. That song from Dil To Pagal Hai was a big hit, and he had heard the song so many times that it was internalized in his mind.

The lines immediately caught the attention of the young lady who was from India. She turned around and said, “How sweet! He must have heard that song! I hope those lines were for me, sweetheart!”

Such is the magic of Bollywood numbers. They have the power to bond strangers, even high up in the sky, thousands of feet above the ground!

Image source: a still from the film Aradhana

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About the Author

Rashmi Bora Das

Rashmi Bora Das is a freelance writer settled in the suburbs of Atlanta. She has a master’s degree in English from India, and a second master’s in Public Administration from the University of read more...

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