The Plight of Playback?
By Screen Weekly, April 20, 2009 - 08:26 IST
A cross-section of playback singers on whether the specialised art of playback singing has been compromised in recent times
I agree with Shaan completely. Playback is a very specialised, difficult job, but what we are getting are 'general' singers. Technological advantages have made things easy, unlike in our times when what we recorded was what everyone heard. But fundamentally, the problem lies in this attitude of sab chalta hai. Everyone's on a trip to be different or new, without realising what they are doing to music and to the art form. I must also say that with this diffusion of work, the younger generation of genuine playback singers, including Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal, Mahalakshmi Iyer and Shaan and his contemporaries have never even got the long time-span my generation and my singers had to flower. For example, there are already options present for Sunidhi and Shreya as their clones!
But I am an optimist. I think that a reversal will happen and that music and singers are not doomed! Yeh bhi ek daur hai!
I agree with Shaan too. Playback singing for me is about imbibing the artiste on-screen within, whether it is Amitabh Bachchan in Deewaar or Shahid Kapoor in Vivah. But today, in the name of newness, experimentation or other excuses, playback singing is no longer in a healthy phase. The ironic thing is that there is no shortage of talent - talent in our country is burgeoning every year, but the tapasya, mehnat and application are missing!
A playback singer is one who understands what a song needs and a composer wants and then delivers the correct emotions in words delivered clearer than a mirror so that we understand and absorb the song immediately. Sab ko chance milna chahiye is fine, but what is needed even more vitally is a true, good artiste. Let me tell you a home-truth - it is only such a singer who will endure. The rest will be passing sensations. It is not for nothing that Lataji and Rafisaab flourished for decades.
"Anything goes!" is the mantra. Newness and experimentation are buzzwords. Now budgetary constraints and too many new entrants are also key factors, along with the multiplex culture that is about low-budget films with OST-kind of soundtracks where only bits and parts of a song are heard in the background.
The result is that music isn't what it used to be and songs are just being put into a film and do not generate real excitement. Music directors today come from diverse origins like bands and have their own teams. But the scary part is th lack of quality control. New voices, if chosen, should have basic skills in the specific needs of playback and the disheartening and alarming part of this fad or trend is that singers who lack these are employed. The vocal quality has gone down, though there are some truly deserving new singers too. No one is in awe of true-blue playback singers any more and I only hope that like with the pop craze only the most deserving ones remain.
I believe in "Live and let live". It is the music director's prerogative to cast a singer and try out new voices and if the public likes the voice, what's wrong? After all, anyone who does not ike a particular voice has the option of switching off the song! You must remember that the song remains within a film for just a few minutes, but after that it has a life of its own - so the suitability on an actor is something that I do not consider very important.
Having said that, things have changed a lot in music. I do accept that singers, especially those who are untrained or not professional, should keep their mental balance and not turn arrogant because one or more songs have become popular. They should not stray from the pitch of the song. I admit that a lot of riff-raff has come in of late, but that group will never last long and only singers who improve on the job will sustain.
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