Classical Indian aestheticians advocated the mixing of bhavas, or emotional states, in drama. The Hindi film unapologetically mixes genres, locations, style, and tone. In Bollywood anything is possible. So the sweaty tension of a murder mystery might be broken by a fantasy sequence in which the hero or heroine dreams of gamboling on Swiss hilltops. A separate comedy track can interrupt the main plot at random intervals. The hero can, without extensive effort or injury, fight ten men and emerge victorious. The heroine will wear trendy mini-skirts and perform a seductive dance number but remain a virgin till the end titles roll. Characters and homes are impeccably groomed. Even those meant to be poor exude a carefully constructed frayed glamour. There are only two rules: There must be love and there must be songs.
Songs are the living heart of popular Hindi film. Music has traditionally been part of the Indian narrative. The great Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, were written in verse. Mirch Kattika, a 3,000-year-old Sanskrit play, had narrative interspersed with songs. Bollywood form originates in theater: the high classical traditions, Urdu-Parsi theater, and folk forms such as street theater, all of which use music and song as part of the dramatic experience. Music in cinema is a logical progression.
In the 1930s and 1940s, it wasnÃÂt unusual for films to have as many as forty songs. Indrasabha or The Court of God Indra, made in 1932, had seventy-one songs. But by the 1950s songs had dropped down to less than ten per film. Most Bollywood films average six. These songs permeate and punctuate South Asian lives around the globe. They are played at weddings, parties, nightclubs, religious ceremonies. A popular Indian way to ÃÂdo time pass,ÃÂ or kill time, is to play Antakshari, a game that involves singing film songs. Until the 1970s, practically the only pop music tradition that existed was film music. In India, film stars are also rock stars.