Vishal Bhardwaj's Musical World Is A Back Door to Your Own Heart
Vishal Bhardwaj creates a world of unspoken feelings or psychological states of characters with the help of film music. On the director-composer's 54th birthday, here's a leaf out of his filmography.
Stills from Makdee, Kaminey, Haider Photo of actress Tabu, courtesy of Instagram
If we can pretty much select one thing out of popular film culture that is a joy for all, it's the music. Majority of people who have seen a particular film will remember the songs and it's a great reflection of the film or a desire to watch the film again.
How scenes come alive, how tension increases, how resolutions are arrived at, how feelings are finally consoled and standard methods that are formulated to arouse suspense, can all be attributed to the magic and use of music.
When the silent era came to an end, Bollywood utilised the innovation of sound in film to its potential with music albums. A CD, a cassette was our prized possession. Now with the progress in technology, all of it fits in our music phones, but that never really takes away from the emotional connect that we share with film songs.
Filmmakers have used the rich tradition of music in India in their films to elevate their product and to achieve climactic turns of feelings that a two hour show must have. Vishal Bhardwaj, filmmaker and musician from Western UP, is a known composer among them and also one who gives sensation and excitement through music that makes his films memorable.
In one of his interviews, Bhardwaj revealed how his late father, a poet, was the one who brought the influence of music in his life while he was growing up. Bhardwaj also recalled how his left hand in music is strong because he played mandolin when he was young. He later combined all of poetry and music he had learnt when he started making films. Growing up, Bhardwaj was self-admittedly also caught up in a battle between making cricket or Bollywood his profession, efforts in each direction not going consciously unnoticed. Good fate, he claimed, cricket did not stick for long.
In the late '80s, Bhardwaj started working with Doordarshan, with producers in music programmes and advertisements as he was then composing tunes. Now, he is caught in the vibe of Mumbai where growing popularity of films leads to changes in the music and musical arrangements. But he has nevertheless introduced his own kind of music into the spectrum.
Bhardwaj started composing music in films like Chachi 420 (1997), Satya (1998) among others which made him a sound source in the industry. With direction, he carved a niche by using music as a thematic tool to drive narrative and characters.
Bhardwaj is also celebrating his 54th birthday today. So lets take a look at his films where music created a world for itself, manipulated the viewer’s emotions and helped them immerse into the story.
The opening credit sequence of Bhardwaj's first directorial is a soft piano composition for a few seconds until a voice breaks into an eerie tune. This theme picks up again after Makdee (Shabana Azmi) claims its first victim, a young chicken thief. The song Makdee ke ghar mein has additional percussion to increase the tempo, with sound effects to make everything overwhelming as we visually enter the house of the village's most notorious villain. Solely from the music, the sense of mystery builds.
The practice of everyday life is used in making music part of the film, and Makdee is replete with instances when the drudgery of time, conditions and fear in humans is heightened through tempo, making the film a perfect ambience of horror.
Set in the world of smuggling and crime, the music of Maqbool builds theatricality into scenes and adds a sense of socio-historical meaning as well as fulfilling the functions of a classical score. Jehangir 'Abbaji' Khan's (Pankaj Kapoor) patriarchal ways are supplemented with qawwali sounds, which serves as mood music for his portions. Bhardwaj tames it to a motif, with mournful violins playing out in the background to emphasise on his terror.
Folk music gives the scenes with Abbaji in them the justification it needs by creating a sense of menacing air around him. However, the first time audiences come to know about the love and ambition of its lead characters (Tabu and Irrfan), a qawwali song, Tu mere rubaru not only marks their transgression against Abbaji, but also reinforces the belief that the couple will oppose him in his own game and that the music acts as the characters' inner voices, speaking when they are silent.
Shahid Kapoor plays double role and one of his characters is a bookie Charlie. For Charlie's portions in the film, Bhardwaj uses upbeat score, to translate the thrill of his criminal ways in the audiences' hearts. He creates a world of unspoken feelings or psychological states of characters. One of the few albums to successfully integrate rock music into the structure of the film, Kaminey is another prime example of one of those films that capitalise on a pop soundtrack.
Charlie's segments have jazz-rock elements that beautifully merge with constant bullet fires and all the pain and shouting that reminds one of the world of illegal businesses, crime and living-on-the edge. It accentuates the build up of a scene and rounds it off with a feeling of finality.
In Haider, traditional Kashmiri musical instruments including the 'Tumbaknari', 'Sarangi' 'Rabab' and 'Nout' were used to compose songs. Haider is completely based on Kashmir's past and present. The film is an effort to share what Kashmiris have endured in all these years and how one could have been brought up there. Aimed at seeing the region from the inside, the story brings political angles and musical surprises to the table.
Bismil, which is a theatrical narration of his father's murder by the titular character, uses traditional instruments and puppetry to put on a show, which is a performance within a performance, thus bringing heroic crisis to its peak, ready for resolution.
The story is based in a village and Balma, sung by Rekha Bhardwaj and Sunidhi Chauhan, is set to the beats of tabla, dholak and harmonium and sees both sisters (Radhika Madan, Sanya Malhotra) fighting over an attempt to get the other away from home.
The sisters try to prove who is better, based on who has got a better husband-to-be. The ambience of a sangeet celebration is at its peak and festivities lead us to a point where we don't expect the bride to be a runaway. Indeed a nice trick in fooling us with a musical distraction which is intimately connected to the storyline. Likewise other songs and music in Pataakha were created in accordance with the requirements of the film and were woven into the various situations of the village setting.
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