ARE SONGLESS FILMS A VIABLE BOX-OFFICE BET?

From times immemorial, songs and dance are considered an inherent part of Indian films with some of the most successful filmmakers in Indian cinema using it as an effective form of narrative to further the storyline. There are also stars whose superstardom is cherished with some of the most celebrated numbers on screens. On the other hand, some filmmakers are of the opinion that songs impede the continuity of a film and disturb the pace of story-telling. Besides picturisation of songs is a time-consuming and expensive affair. Are songless films a viable bet at the box-office? A section of people from the trade voice their opinion.

By Manishaa R

T.P. Aggarwal- F.F.I and IMPPA President, Producer and Publisher
“I don’t deny that songs give an added value and are the best promotional tools for a film but a songless film can be equally effective if it has a gripping story-line. However we now have the digital media as an effective option to promote films. Moreover the cost of song picturisations and later music release is a formidable one and small producers who work on shoe-string budgets would any day prefer to make a songless film. Besides cost-cutting, they will also be saved the long process of finding buyers to sell their music. Also there have been cases where films with some of the best songs have failed to connect with the audiences and vice versa. Ofcourse the bottom line is that a songless film can never work unless it has powerful content.”
 
 
Anees Bazmee (Director) 
f you look at the history of Indian cinema and super- hit Hindi films, legendary makers used to weave the story of the film around songs. For instance if you take the song, Saathi Haath Badhana from Naya Daur, the director would not have been able to say the same in even 15-20 scenes. If you take the song, Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya from Mughal- E-Azam, the heroine would never had been able to say the same in words. I had made a film Pyar To Hona Hi Tha, which had a song, Jab Kisi Ki Taraf Dil Jhukne Lage, I don’t think I would have been able to convey the same through a scene. Apart from that, music is a form of celebration for Indian audiences, who sing on every festive occasion. Also Indian films are known for their songs, dances, colours and costumes, all of which give our films a distinct international identity. Ofcourse it is up to the director to decide how he wants to entertain the audiences.

 
 
 
Ganesh Jain (Producer)
I think one can safely do away with songs in biopics, because they affect the continuity and pace of the film. Moreover biopics are also made at comparatively lesser budgets. The recording of a single song costs anywhere between Rs 20- 25 lakhs and the picturisation costs around Rs 1 crore, which adds to the cost of the film as a whole. If you have around five songs in the film, the budget works out to anywhere from Rs 5-7 crores. However when it comes to commercially entertaining films, songs play a very important role and these costs are indispensable, considering that songs are also crucial to the success of these films. But all said and done, even films with the best of songs should have content to support them. As for publicity, if the songs are a hit, the film gets 20-25 more mileage.
 
 
Ram Madhvani (Director)
“Songs are a distinct part of our culture and also an inherent part of our story- telling process. In fact, Javed Akhtar-saab once said that people in the West listen to music, while we in India actually sing. Songs are not just about the film, but many other things including antaksharis, sangeet ceremonies, weddings and outings. They are a critical part of our DNA and the best part of Indian cinema, whether it is the grand song picturisations in Sanjay Bhansali’s films or those witnessed in Goldie Anand’s films at one point of time. Our films are marketed on the basis of our songs too. Besides, the mounting of a song plays an important role in conveying the thematic idea of the film or introducing a hero or heroine. The placement of songs is one of the laws of script-writing in our films. I remember the song, kahan gaya use dhoondo song in 3 Idiots, which established the traits of Aamir Khan’s character in the film. Even if you look at the mother’s song in Taare Zameen par or the title song in Kal Ho Na Ho, the films would never have been the same without these songs. They formed part of the interior emotional landscape of the characters.”
 
 
 
Krishika Lulla (Eros International)
It all depends on the content and the project. I am aware that Bollywood is known for songs and dance but there are some content-driven films that do not warrant songs. If the audience is ready to accept this concept, it can be the best option for small-budget and content-oriented films. I think this concept can work really well if it gets acceptability. Even in the case of Fan, I felt it was perfectly justified. The promotional song they had specially shot was also well-done. If songs are not required in certain films, there is no need to push them. It is high time we start presenting such films too.
 
 
Devang Sampat (Business Head, Strategy, Cinepolis)
I believe that strong content works at the box-office whether it is songs or no songs and multiplexes have created that platform for all genres of films. Initially we had standard movies with basic elements. Now people have started experimenting with movies based on the demand. I believe that with the kind of population and the movie-going audiences in India, there is a demand for all genres and all kinds of movies can work but there should be merit in the content and people should get excited about it. Also the product should be marketed well. Even in the case of Fan, the film got an extraordinary opening, which showed that there was a clear demand for the film, despite it being a song-less film.
 
 
Akshaye Rathi (Rathi group of companies)
The conditioning of the Indian mindset is such that in those two and a half hours that you watch a film, there needs to be some sort of relief from the engaging elements, whether it is a song, a comedy sequence or a light- hearted scene. Even in the case of Fan, despite it being a song-less film, the fact cannot be denied that it has got one of the biggest openings of the year. On the other hand, good music definitely adds up to the opening response of a film. In Aashiqui 2, the film wouldn’t have been the same had it not been for the music. Both Aditya Roy Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor were relatively lesser known at that time and it was the music that got the film the numbers. While music helps in the promotions, it is a myth that songless films don’t do well. Ultimately, you have to make an entertaining film. Every movie on an average has 3-4 songs. If the songs are a hit, it obviously gets the interest of the audience.

 

 

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