Singing cinema

Print edition : October 18, 2013

M.S Subbulakshmi and G.N. Balasubramaniam, both Carnatic vocalists, in the Tamil film "Sakuntalai" (1940). The music that was used within the narrative of early Indian cinema was "classical". All the actors were trained musically, and it was this that defined their entry into the world of bright lights.

Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Manna Dey and Mohammed Rafi rehearsing for a marathon qawaali sequence in a Hindi film. Forms of music that were not strictly classical were also valued by the elite. Photo: THE HINDU photo archives

Ilaiyaraja at a studio in London, composing music for director Gautham Vasudev Menon's "Nee Thaanae En Pon Vasantham" (2012). Over the years, various musical influences and musical systems from across the globe have been adapted into Indian film music. Photo: by special arrangement

S.P. Balasubramaniam, K.J. Yesudas, P. Susheela, Hariharan and the new generation of playback singers. Playback, a startling technology-enabled possibility, ringed off the actor from the singer. This was a critical change in the nature of the music, actor and singer. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Cinema music exists only because there is cinema and has been and is constantly in a state of transition.
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