Everyday life, everyday songs: a re-valuation of song sequences in popular Hindi films of the 1950s
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This study presents a methodology for examining the function of song sequences in popular Hindi films, one that goes against the existing discourses that the songs have no function within the narrative. After differentiating between the heavily discussed spectacle songs and the oft-ignored emotive songs, the latter variety is broken down into three categories determined by setting and the number of singers: absentminded, communicative, and performative. The different types of songs allow the social codification of performance to be seen, where characters navigate the separate public and private spaces within the worlds of the films — worlds dictated by specific social, cultural, religious (Hindu), familial, and romantic conventions. By examining the 1950s specifically, the study shows how these emotive songs clearly allow characters to express themselves in ways otherwise impossible due to the ever-present consideration of “log kya kahenge?” (“what will people say?”). There is a noticeable increase in spectacularity in emotive songs over the course of the decade, signaling the shift in the 1960s to more recognizably Bollywood-esque aesthetics, where film songs rely more and more on spectacle and start to lose the affective quality that distinguishes the songs of 1950s. The four films examined are BABUL (1950), AAH (1953), AMAR (1954), and ANARI (1959).
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