A lot has already been spoken about Bollywood background scores. Their usages and technicalities have been commented upon by critics and moviegoers alike. In this article, I have tried to focus more on the emotional chords that these background scores have touched, every time they have been played. It is partly because of them that the movies that they are a part of have been immortalised and forever etched in our minds, hearts and memories.
There is hardly any musical genre that the great music composer R.D. Burman hasn’t experimented with. Though the songs of Sholay might not feature in his top five masterpieces, one cannot deny the immense popularity that the background score of this movie enjoyed. The music that accompanies the opening credits is an absolute treat to the ears. Its melody creates a magical sensation even today. There is a blend of urbanity and rawness in the music that seems to predict the eventual union of Jai and Veeru with the Ramgarh villagers. And then, how can you forget the soul-touching harmonica tune?
Kalyanji-Anandji carved a stylish, pacy and intense background score that perfectly aligned with the ‘bad boy’ image of Don, the central character. The classic soundtrack successfully brought to the fore the masculinity, power and enigma of the protagonist. The use of modernised versions of the same tune in the later movies Don (2006) and Don 2 (2011), by Farhan Akhtar, only goes to prove the immortality of the music.
The background score of this movie hits hard and for all the right reasons. A.R. Rahman has skilfully tuned his tunes to match the theme and overall mood of the movie. The main theme portrays the helplessness of the common man, whose life gets unnecessarily affected due to the riots between religious groups.
I find the tune both haunting and comforting. While certain areas of this instrumental piece remind one of the meaningless wars in the name of religion, there are several parts in the background music that comfort us and make us hopeful of a peaceful world without any religious atrocities.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995):
The eternal saga of love and romance. This movie’s background music is one of my personal favourites. The mustard fields, the dimpled and charming Raj Malhotra, and the mandolin theme – all of them together create a lasting and mesmerising visual effect. The mandolin tune that continues to play in the hearts of the listeners even after two-and-a-half decades of its initial release, deftly captures the desires and the yearnings of young love birds.
The tune, in combination with the title track, has attained the status of a classic Bollywood love song. In fact, the use of the mandolin in one of the interludes of ‘Mehendi Laga Ke Rakhna’ is perhaps a way to reinforce the importance of the instrument in the union of Raj and Simran. It is first played by Raj, minutes before the iconic ‘palat’ scene, and becomes a recurrent motif till it unites the central characters in the sunflower fields of Punjab.
Rehna Hai Terre Dil Mein (2001):
RHTDM is the perfect album for someone hopelessly in love. Apart from the songs, the background score of the movie, comprising of flute and humming, creates a huge impact on the story and on the minds of the listeners. The tune, the rhythm, the beats – they all combine beautifully to create the magic of first love. It successfully reflects the longing, the desire to be united with the one who tiptoes into your dreams every single night.
Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003):
The hospital bed, the ailing Aman Mathur and the heartbeat tune in the background…need I say anything more? This instrumental version of the title track that begins with the sounds of the heartbeat aptly brings out the pathos inherent in the scene.
In many Bollywood movies, gloomy scenes are accompanied by slow and sad versions of the principal songs; for example, the sad version of ‘Yeh Dosti’ by Kishore Kumar (Sholay, 1975) and the sad version of ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ by Alka Yagnik (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, 1998).
However, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy seemed to intentionally avoid words and opt for an instrumental piece to enhance the effect of the scene. The heartbeat represents the medical condition that Aman Mathur is suffering from; but on a subtler level, I feel that it also stands for hope and positivity. After all, when the entire film speaks about living life to the fullest while enjoying every moment, how can the background score not promote the same?
The soundtrack of this movie by Pritam had become immensely popular but it is the background music by Salim-Sulaiman that resonated with the young audience. It is the signature tune of this movie that perfectly binds Ali, Jai Dixit and Kabir – the 3 principal characters involved in the cat-and-mouse chase.
The vibrant and fast-paced tune seems to echo the very personality of the charismatic Kabir, the leader of the gang of motorbike thieves in the story. The tune is refreshing and every time you hear it, your mind automatically readies itself to witness some action and thrill on screen.
Time and again, Bollywood has produced patriotic movies but Swades was a class apart for its aesthetic and natural portrayal of the patriotism that lies deep within every Indian. While all the songs of A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack create a mark in this movie, the shehnai piece by Madhukar Dhumal deserves special mention.
The way this traditional musical instrument has been infused into the musical fabric of this movie is remarkable and praiseworthy. The very tune reflects both the calling of the motherland and the calling for the motherland. The instrumental piece was a continuous accompaniment of Mohan Bhargav in his journey of self-discovery. The tune seems to represent the call of the unknown, distant Indian villages to the sons of the soil. The tune, in itself, is the epitome of ‘Indianness’.
Background scores are just like a pinch of salt. Hardly do we notice their presence but movies without them sound incomplete, feel bland and seem tasteless. Their contribution is immense towards the success of films. They transform movies from mere audio-visual representations of scripts into milestones that defy the boundaries of time and space.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.