Songs – What good are they anyways?
  Half hour into Raavanan, two songs appeared in rapid succession. And another half hour barely passed before yet another song made its entry. In all, there were three songs (each probably of 5 minutes duration) before the movie reached its interval. Agreed the songs were exemplary and shot neatly, but the fact that they marred the flow of the (not to mention, already sagging) narrative needs no explanation.

That the movie had another couple of songs post interval is a different story altogether. Raavanan will never go down in the history of Tamil cinema as a movie that ran successful since it had fabulous song sequences. In fact no other movie will or should.

So what good are these songs for a movie’s standing anyways? How significant are they for the flow of the movie? In the first place, why do we need them at all? Is there a way to do away with them? Or should we?

Being the only film industry in the world to have songs embedded in its narrative format in movies, Indian films often tend to take the song and dance routine way too seriously. In
the pretext of  publicity, songs eat into the movie’s space so much that the movie’s significance is diluted in the process.

It’s not as if there are no examples of successful movies in Tamil that had no songs. There are, but very few. Starting with the 1954 Sivaji Ganesan movie Andha Naal (though it was not commercially successful, the movie made it up with its critical success) to the recent thriller Or Iravu, there have been few movies that defied the universal rule. Kurudhipunal and Kadamai Kanniyam Kattuppadu are probably the only two other movies that immediately come to mind that had no songs and still ran successful.

Same way, there are a few examples on how songs are masterly integrated in a movie’s narrative. Gautham Menon’s Vaaranam Aayiram, Vettaiyadu Vilayadu, Pandiraj’s Pasanga and Sasikumar’s Subramaniapuram are such movies released in recent times. Vaaranam Aayiram’s ‘Anal Mele’ is so much a part of the movie’s narrative that you wish the song doesn’t end at all.

An interesting study about the movies Muthu and Kuruthipunal might throw light into the thriving world of songs and how important they, probably always, are for a movie’s success. They released around the same time. Muthu had catchy chartbusters scored by Rahman. The songs became instantly famous and rendered the movie immense popularity, besides the Rajini quotient. Needless to say, the movie was a runaway success. Although the movie’s success can’t be attributed to its songs, the fact that they provided unbelievable reach to the movie’s run is indisputable.

Kuruthipunal, on the other hand, is a gripping action saga and has world class cinematic excellence. It was one of the breakthrough movies in Tamil cinema and it had no songs. Sadly, not many people in the rural parts of Tamil Nadu were even aware of the movie when it was released. No matter how vigorously it was publicized, it could never reach the hinterland for the sole lack of songs. As a result, the movie’s success was limited.

As it turns out, it could be that the songs serve no purpose in any Indian movie. But the evident business benefit it renders to a movie is undeniably enormous: ring tones, downloads and the popularity the movie gets from the songs. So there is no way we are going to have movies without songs. We are going to have to learn to live with it. Until somebody pulls the plug on them, but that seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, my music player is playing the Raavanan songs in loop. Usure Pogudhey, in particular.

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