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Filmi (lit.'of films') music soundtracks are music produced for India's mainstream motion picture industry and written and performed for Indian cinema. In cinema, music directors make up the main body of composers; the songs are performed by playback singers and the genre represents 72% of the music sales market in India.[1]

Filmi music tends to have appeal across India, Nepal, Pakistan and overseas, especially among the Indian diaspora. Songs are often in different languages depending on the target audience, for example in Hindi or Tamil. Playback singers are usually more noted for their ability to sing rather than their charisma as performers. Filmi playback singers' level of success and appeal is tied to their involvement with film soundtracks of cinema releases with the highest box office ratings.

At the "Filmi Melody: Song and Dance in Indian Cinema" archive presentation at UCLA, filmi was praised as a generally more fitting term for the tradition than "Bombay melody", "suggesting that the exuberant music and melodrama so closely identified with the Hindi commercial cinema produced in Bombay (Mumbai) is truly pan-Indian."[2]


Further information: Hindi film music

In the earliest years, filmi music was generally Indian (classical Carnatic, Hindustani, and village folk) in inspiration; over the years, Western elements have increased significantly.[citation needed] However, film soundtracks continue to be very diverse, sometimes fusing genres or reverting to entirely classical music. Examples of this can be found throughout the history of filmi music.

Music directors

Main article: List of Indian film music directors

R. C. Boral, Harishchandra Bali, Pankaj Mullick, Anil Biswas, Naushad Ali, Khwaja Khurshid Anwar and S. Rajeswara Rao were noteworthy music directors of the 1940s. Rao, who scored the 1948 Tamil Chandralekha, the first all-India hit, continued music directing in Chennai until the 1980s. The 1950s and 1960s, included music composers like Shankar Jaikishan, S. D. Burman, O. P. Nayyar, Madan Mohan, Hemant Kumar, C. Ramchandra, Roshan, Vasant Desai, Kalyanji–Anandji[3] and Khayyam in Hindi film music. K. V. Mahadevan, Vishwanathan-Ramamoorthy, Laxmikant–Pyarelal, G. Devarajan, V. Dakshinamoorthy and M. S. Viswanathan were active music directors for more than 35 years from the 1950s.

As Indian cinema segued into the 1960s and 1970s, pop artists like R. D. Burman, Bappi Lahiri and duos like Nadeem–Shravan and Jatin–Lalit gave filmi a stronger western flavor with composers Ilaiyaraaja and Raveendran who rose to fame during the 1970s and 1980s in Tamil film music.

Major musical forces in the 1990s and 2000s have included A. R. Rahman, Nadeem–Shravan, Pritam, Himesh Reshammiya, Harris Jayaraj, Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy, Vishal–Shekhar, Vidyasagar, Ramesh Narayan, M. Jayachandran, Yuvan Shankar Raja, Deepak Dev, Johnson, Anu Malik, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Salim–Sulaiman, Devi Sri Prasad etc. A. R. Rahman, who was described by Time magazine as "India's most prominent movie songwriter",[4] is widely accepted to be the most internationally recognized Indian musician.

Playback singers

Main articles: List of Indian playback singers and Playback singer

A playback singer is a singer who pre-records songs for use in films. The singer records the song and the actors or actresses lip-sync the song in front of the cameras, a form of singing that is characteristic of the Indian subcontinent. The songs of a film, the quality of the music and its music director (composer), lyricist and singer have often determined the success of a film. Film soundtracks are sometimes released before the film itself, resulting in a disparity between the soundtrack and the songs appearing in the film.

Kundan Lal Saigal was one of the earliest playback singers in the Indian music industry.[citation needed] Notable playback singers include Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. J. Yesudas, S. Janaki, P. Susheela, K. S. Chithra, MG Sreekumar, Udit Narayan, Amit Kumar, Alka Yagnik, Sujatha, Hemlata (singer), Kumar Sanu, Armaan Malik, Sonu Nigam, Shaan, KK, Shreya Ghoshal, Arijit Singh, Mohit Chauhan, Javed Ali, Neha Kakkar, Priyadarshini and many others.


Main article: Hindi film music

In the 1950s and 1960s, lyricists like Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Rajendra Krishan, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Bharat Vyas, Shakeel Badayuni, Qamar Jalalabadi, Anand Bakshi, Jan Nisar Akhtar and S. H. Bihari wrote lyrics of many classic filmi songs. Lyrics tended towards the literary and drew heavily on contemporary Urdu and Hindi poetry. The south has seen poets like Kannadasan, Vairamuthu and Vaali rise to prominence, in Tamil poetry and literature alongside Vayalar Ramavarma, P. Bhaskaran, O. N. V. Kurup in the Malayalam music industry.[citation needed]

Nowadays, some famous lyricists are Rashmi Virag, Kunaal Vermaa, Manoj Muntashir, Rakesh Kumar, Irshad Kamil, Sayeed Quadri, Armaan Malik etc.

Popularity ratings

Binaca Geetmala, Ameen Sayani's popular Hindi language radio show before satellite television took over in India sometime in the 1990s, gave weekly popularity ratings of Hindi film songs (akin to the Billboard Hot 100 list of songs). It ran in various incarnations from 1952 to 1993, and annual lists of the most popular songs were played at year-end. The list was compiled on the basis of record sales in India.[5] Currently, Hindi filmi songs are sold on tape and CD compilations, played as promos and in programs on various television channels and radio stations, with different popularity ratings claiming different songs as being on the top. In an annual exercise, a net-based effort RMIM Puraskaar lists all important Hindi film songs of the year, in addition to awarding songs for various categories.

Accusations of plagiarism

Because popular music directors score a great many films over the course of a year, accusations of plagiarizing abound. For example, one production number in Dil (1990) is based on Carl Perkins' Blue Suede Shoes, sung with Hindi lyrics. Of late the Indian film industry has been gaining visibility outside India, and the legal risks of plagiarism have been gaining importance. Some producers have actually paid for the musical rights to popular Western songs, as in Kal Ho Naa Ho's (2003) song, "Oh, Pretty Woman". Plagiarism has also existed within India, with several music directors in Bombay cinema lifting tunes from other "regional" industries.

There have also been accusations of plagiarism against foreigner musicians borrowing from Hindi filmi songs. For example, "Don't Phunk with My Heart" by The Black Eyed Peas was largely based on two 1970s filmi songs: "Ye Mera Dil Yaar Ka Diwana" from Don (1978) and "Ae Naujawan Hai Sab Kuchh Yahan" from Apradh (1972).[6] Both songs were originally composed by Kalyanji Anandji and sung by Asha Bhosle.[7] Another example is "Addictive" sung by Truth Hurts, which is lifted from Lata Mangeshkar's "Thoda Resham Lagta Hai" from Jyoti (1981). This led to the copyright holders of the original song filing a lawsuit against DJ Quik and Dr. Dre, the producers of "Addictive".[8] Filmi music composed by A. R. Rahman (who would later win two Academy Awards for the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack) has frequently been sampled by musicians elsewhere in the world, including the Singaporean artist Kelly Poon, the Uzbek artist Iroda Dilroz, the French rap group La Caution, the American artist Ciara, and the German band Löwenherz,[9] among others.

Wider success

Filmi is also making exerting influence beyond the usual Desi audiences, with many Western music stores today carrying Indian music compilations. As early as 1978, the synthpop pioneers Haruomi Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto of the Yellow Magic Orchestra produced an electronic album Cochin Moon based on an experimental fusion between electronic music and Bollywood-inspired Indian music.[10] Later in 1988, Devo's hit song "Disco Dancer" was inspired by the song "I am a Disco Dancer" from the Bollywood film Disco Dancer (1982).[11]

Baz Luhrmann showcases the song "Chamma Chamma" from China Gate (1998) in his 2001 movie Moulin Rouge. Another 2001 film Ghost World featured Mohammed Rafi's song "Jaan Pehechan Ho" from the 1965 film Gumnaam. The 2002 song "Addictive", sung by Truth Hurts and produced by DJ Quik and Dr. Dre, was lifted from Lata Mangeshkar's "Thoda Resham Lagta Hai" from Jyoti (1981).[8] The Black Eyed Peas' Grammy Award winning 2005 song "Don't Phunk with My Heart" was inspired by two 1970s Bollywood songs: "Ye Mera Dil Yaar Ka Diwana" from Don (1978) and "Ae Naujawan Hai Sab Kuchh Yahan" from Apradh (1972).[6] Both songs were originally composed by Kalyanji Anandji, sung by Asha Bhosle, and featured the dancer Helen.[7] The songs "Mera Man Tera Pyasa" from the movie Gambler (1971) performed by Mohammed Rafi, "Tere Sang Pyar Main" from the movie Nagin (1976) performed by Lata Mangeshkar, and "Wada Na Tod" also by Lata Mangeshkar from the movie Dil Tujhko Diya (1987) were featured in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). Scores from Chennai Tamil films have appeared in productions such as Lord of War (2005) and The Accidental Husband (2008). Ilaiyaraaja won the Gold Remi Award for Best Music Score jointly with film composer M. S. Viswanathan at the WorldFest-Houston Film Festival for the Tamil film Vishwa Thulasi (2005).[12]

A. R. Rahman rose to fame from the Kollywood film industry to become one of the most popular international music directors and has had a musicalBombay Dreams, playing in London and New York, and scored several projects outside India. He has won two Academy awards and two Grammy awards, even numerous international awards and accolades. The song "Chaiyya Chaiyya", originally composed by A. R. Rahman for Dil Se.. (1998), has also been well received around the world, making several top 10 world music lists and has even been featured in several American movies. The song was in both the opening scene and credits of Spike Lee's Inside Man. Rahman's earlier soundtrack for Roja (1991) was included in Time's 10 Best Soundtracks of all time in 2005. He has been regarded as the only composer from India to attain massive popularity and fame in the international arena.[13][14][15] Hindi filmi music has reached an even wider global audience due to the success of the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, also composed by Rahman. Singaporean-Indian singer Priyadarshini is regarded as the first Indian playback singer to carry out Ph.D.[16] research in film music and document 100 years of music in Tamil cinema and 90 years in Kannada cinema[16][17][18]

The first domain name ever registered related to filmi music and Indian entertainment media was The site further put filmi music on the map. Thereafter followed a flood of Indian and filmi music sites.

See also


  1. ^ Pinglay, Prachi (10 December 2009). "Plans to start India music awards". BBC News. Archived from the original on 27 January 2020. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  2. ^ UCLA International Institute. 2005. Screening - Nayakan (Hero). Available from: Archived 6 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 25 November 2008.
  3. ^ Carlo Nardi (July 2011). "The Cultural Economy of Sound: Reinventing Technology in Indian Popular Cinema". Journal on the Art of Record Production, Issue 5 Archived 15 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine, ISSN 1754-9892.
  4. ^ Corliss, Richard. (1 January 2005). That Old Feeling: Isn't It Rahmantic? Time. Retrieved on 25 May 2008.
  5. ^ Reliving the Geetmala lore. S.K. Screen, Friday, 22 September 2000, transcript at "Ameen Sayani/Press Reviews". Archived from the original on 5 September 2005. Retrieved 31 July 2006., accessed 29 July 2006
  6. ^ a b ae naujawan hai sub kuchh yahan - Apradh 1972 on YouTube
  7. ^ a b Robin Denselow (2 May 2008). "Kalyanji Anandji, The Bollywood Brothers". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  8. ^ a b "Truth Hurts". VH1. 19 September 2002. Archived from the original on 13 April 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2009.
  9. ^ Löwenherz - Bis in die Ewigkeit on YouTube
  10. ^ Dominique Leone (19 July 2005). "Hosono & Yokoo: Cochin Moon". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  11. ^ DEVO - disco dancer with commentary on YouTube
  12. ^ Undated. WorldFest Houston: 2005 Archived 2 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 25 November 2008.
  13. ^ Corliss, Richard (12 February 2005). "Best Soundtracks - All Time 100 Movies". Time. Archived from the original on 24 May 2005. Retrieved 24 February 2008.
  14. ^ Corliss, Richard (2 June 2005). "That Old Feeling - Secrets of the All-Time 100". Time. Archived from the original on 16 February 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2008.
  15. ^ "'All-Time' 100 Movies". Time. 12 February 2005. Archived from the original on 24 May 2005. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  16. ^ a b Mary, S. B. Vijaya (24 September 2021). "Singer Priyadarshini documents 100 years of film music". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Archived from the original on 5 October 2021. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  17. ^ "101st convocation of University of Mysore! Priyadarshini first Indian playback singer to receive PhD". Mysooru News. 9 September 2021. Archived from the original on 18 September 2021. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  18. ^ "Priyadarshini becomes the first playback singer to receive Ph.D". Star of Mysore. 17 September 2021. Archived from the original on 1 October 2021. Retrieved 2 October 2021.