Changing Landscape of Playback Singing

by P Sinha

 Posted on 23-Aug-2015 02:29 PM

In 1931, Alam Ara, the first talkie film in India was released. It changed the way movies were experienced. “De De Khuda Ke Naam Par Pyare”, sung by W.M. Khan, became India’s first film song. Initially, actors sang their own songs. In 1935, release of "Devdas" created India's first "superstar", KL Saigal. Also in 1935, the concept of playback singer was introduced in the film "Dhoop Chhaon".

In 1941, a twelve year old girl won the nationwide “Khazanchi” competition sponsored by producer Dalsukh Pancholi. The girl was Lata Dinanath Mangeshkar. During the early and late '40s, Lata acted and sang in eight Hindi and Marathi films, till playback singing found its feet. Suraiya also sang her first song as a 13 year old in 1942 film “Sharda”.

In the mid to late ‘40s, profits from the War made its way to film production, leading to a huge demand for artistes. Upcoming production houses paid big money to topmost professionals to work on their projects.  At the same time big studios had started to flounder.  Exceptional singers like Geeta Roy-Dutt, Asha Bhosle, Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Talat Mahmood, Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar and Kishore Kumar made their entry.

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, playback singers became stars in their own right. Names like Manna Dey, Asha Bhonsale, Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar ruled the roost. It was believed that success of a film was influenced by playback singer’s stardom. This belief helped a group of prominent singers to maintain a dominant position in the industry for years to come. Mukesh passed away in 1976 and Kishore Kumar in 1987, while they still enjoyed immense popularity.

Listeners were ready for a new voice. Singers like Shabbir Kumar and Mohammad Aziz tried to step in Rafi’s shoes.  Then, T-series happened. T-Series filled the vacuum by introducing new singers and recorded covers of songs sung by established singers like Kishore and Mohammed Rafi. It also created song bank by recording and keeping songs for later use in films. The songs for Mahesh Bhatt’s film “Aashiqui” comprised of these canned songs.  Kumar Sanu and  Anuradha Paudwal were the new rage. T-Series also launched Sonu Nigam through "Rafi Ki Yaadein" albums. Around the same time Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik were making waves with their superb rendition of “Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak” songs.

Television programming, too, started booming in the ‘90s. Various shows on television provided a platform for aspirants to showcase their talent. As a result, music directors had a huge pool of artistes to choose from. No longer were they limited to handful of talented singers; now they had equally good, if not better, singers willing to work for little pay to get a break in playback singing. Musicians started choosing different singers for different songs in a film. Remuneration dropped, stage shows (preferably abroad) became important vehicles for financial security.

Currently, we are in the Internet Age. Earlier, a singer was dependent on a music company or a music director to give the crucial break to be successful. Not anymore.  A singer can launch on his/her own, generate a following and then deal with music directors and music companies.  Some of the singers who leveraged YouTube for success on their own are Shraddha Sharma, Jayalakshmi, Chandraleka, Gaurav Dagaonkar, Samar Puri and many more. The “lucky” break is elusive. Playback singers need to chart their own path. Use the various media available to market your talent. Waiting for somebody to “discover” you may not be an option anymore.

Blog Photo from Wikipedia



TAGS : playback singing lata mangeshkar asha bhonsle kishore kumar mohammad rafi mukesh KL Saigal

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