Behind the Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai's Film Studios

Behind the Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai's Film Studios

Behind the Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai's Film Studios

Behind the Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai's Film Studios

Synopsis

Beginning in the 1930s, men and a handful of women came from India's many communities-Marathi, Parsi, Goan, North Indian, and many others--to Mumbai to work in an industry that constituted in the words of some, "the original fusion music." They worked as composers, arrangers, assistants, and studio performers in one of the most distinctive popular music and popular film cultures on the planet. Today, the songs played by Mumbai's studio musicians are known throughout India and the Indian diaspora under the popular name "Bollywood," but the musicians themselves remain, in their own words, "behind the curtain"--the anonymous and unseen performers of one of the world's most celebrated popular music genres. Now, Gregory D. Booth offers a compelling account of the Bollywood film music industry from the perspective of the musicians who both experienced and shaped its history. In a rare insider's look at the process of musical production from the late 1940s to the mid 1990s, before the advent of digital recording technologies, Booth explains who these unknown musicians were and how they came to join the film music industry. On the basis of a fascinating set of first-hand accounts from the musicians themselves, he reveals how the day-to-day circumstances of technology and finance shaped both the songs and the careers of their creator and performers. Booth also unfolds the technological, cultural, and industrial developments that led to the enormous studio orchestras of the 1960s-90s as well as the factors which ultimately led to their demise in contemporary India. Featuring an extensive companion website with video interviews with the musicians themselves, Behind the Curtain is a powerful, ground-level view of this globally important music industry.

Excerpt

Almost anyone who grew up in urban India after 1950, especially in the northern two-thirds of the subcontinent, knows who Anthony Gonsalves is: the middle of the three fictional brothers at the center of the classic Hindi film Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977), directed by Manmohan Desai. The film is a typical 1970s’ Desai action film with seemingly endless mixed identities, brothers lost and found, cross-generation revenge, car chases, fight sequences, flashbacks, and a very urban, slang-based dialogue. As a “brother film,” a structure that the Hindi cinema has borrowed and modified from traditional epic narratives and modified to suit twentieth- and twenty-first-century India, it is full of narrative and dramatic parallelism at all levels, treating each of the three brothers identified in the film’s title (who have been separated at childhood and raised as Hindu, Christian, and Muslim respectively) with precisely the proper amount of attention and respect to establish the hierarchy (Booth 1995). As the middle brother, Anthony Gonsalves is the most colorful. He does most of the fighting, cuts more corners than the others, and has the most exuberant romance.

Anthony, played by Amitabh Bachchan in the early days of the “angry young man” phase of his remarkable career, also generates most of the comedy. Among his famous comic scenes in this film is the song “My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves” (composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, with lyrics by Anand Bakshi). In the song, Anthony bursts forth from a huge Easter egg at a Goan (and hence Christian) celebration of that holiday, dressed in a . . .

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