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Filmi music (Hindi: फ़िल्मी संगीत ) is Indian popular music as written and performed for Indian cinema. Music directors make up the main body of composers; the songs are performed by playback singers and it makes up 72% of the music sales in India.[1]

Filmi music tends to have appeal across India and overseas, especially among the Indian diaspora. Songs are often in different languages depending on the industry, for example in Hindi or Tamil. Playback singers are usually more noted for their ability to sing rather than their charisma as performers. Though these singers may release solo albums, their performances in film soundtracks tend to be more noticed due to the widespread appeal of movies.

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' "to suggest that the exuberant music and melodrama so closely identified with the Hindi commercial cinema produced in Bombay (Mumbai) are truly pan-Indian."[2]



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. 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

R. C. Boral, Harishchandra Bali, Pankaj Mullick, Anil Biswas,Naushad,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, C. Ramchandra, Roshan, Vasant Desai, Kalyanji Anandji 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 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, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Yuvan Shankar Raja,Harris Jayaraj,m jayachandran,deepak dev,vidhyasagar,johnson,anu malik,Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,Salim - Sulaiman

Well-known music Composer/ music director include the following:

Playback singer

Full article: 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 release of the film itself, resulting in a disparity between the soundtrack and the songs appearing in the film.

Well-known playback singers include the following:


Full article: Bollywood songs

In the 1950s and '60s, lyricists like Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Rajinder Krishan, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Bharat Vyas, Shakeel Badayuni, Qamar Jalalabadi, Anand Bakshi, Jan Nissar 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, drawing on Tamil poetry and literature.

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 Bollywood 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.[3] 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.

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 song, 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)[4] and "Ae Nujawan Hai Sub" from Apradh (1972).[5] Both songs were originally composed by Kalyanji Anandji and sung by Asha Bhosle.[6] 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".[7] 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,[8] among others.

Wider success for filmi

Filmi is also making converts and exerting influence beyond the usual Desi audiences. Western music stores carry Indian music compilations. 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. Scores from Chennai Tamil films have appeared in productions such as Lord of War and The Accidental Husband. A. R. Rahman rose from fame in the Chennai film industry to become one of the most popular current music directors and has had a musical Bombay Dreams, playing in London and New York, and scored several projects outside India. 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).[9]

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.[10][11][12] Hindi filmi music has reached an even wider global audience due to the success of the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, also composed by Rahman.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ UCLA International Institute. 2005. Screening - Nayakan (Hero). Available from: Accessed 25 November 2008.
  3. ^ Reliving the Geetmala lore. S.K. Screen, Friday, 22 September 2000, transcript at [1], accessed 2006-7-29
  4. ^ Erikka Innes (28 February 2009). "In honor of A R Rahman - examples of Indian music in America". SF Indie Music Examiner. Retrieved 2009-03-01.  
  5. ^ ae naujawan hai sub kuchh yahan - Apradh 1972 at YouTube (requires Adobe Flash)
  6. ^ Robin Denselow (2 May 2008). "Kalyanji Anandji, The Bollywood Brothers". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-01.  
  7. ^ "Truth Hurts". VH1. 2002-09-19. Retrieved 2009-05-18.  
  8. ^ Löwenherz - Bis in die Ewigkeit at YouTube (requires Adobe Flash)
  9. ^ Undated. WorldFest Houston: 2005. Accessed 25 November 2008.
  10. ^ Corliss, Richard (2005). "Best Soundtracks - ALL TIME 100 MOVIES - TIME". Time.,23220,soundtracks,00.html. Retrieved 24 February 2008.  
  11. ^ Corliss, Richard (2 June 2005). "That Old Feeling - Secrets of the All-Time 100 - TIME". Time.,9565,1068026-3,00.html. Retrieved 24 February 2008.  
  12. ^ ""All-TIME" 100 Movies". Time. Retrieved 2009-02-25.  

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