views updated


FILMĪGĪT Filmīgīt (English "film" + Hindi gīt, "song") refers to the music (particularly the songs) of popular South Asian movies. Many films have five or six major musical items; each song and its elaborate choreography acts as commentary on the drama. The songs are often as important as the story and the actors, and producers sometimes prerelease selected items in order to determine whether or not to release a film. A song's success ensures a film's release. Although each linguistic region has a film industry, the most important center is Bombay (Mumbai), which carries the moniker "Bollywood."

The diverse audience within India, as well as other parts of the world, and the increasingly cosmopolitan attitudes of India's middle class demand an exceptionally eclectic musical approach. The composers and music producers for popular film incorporate a variety of different regional genres, idioms, and instruments, as well as Western ideas. A film might incorporate a small orchestra, sitars, temple bells, electric guitars, synthesizers, and folk drums (such as the dholak); it may borrow from classical Indian and European compositions or imitate Latin American and East Asian musical styles. One result is a kind of pan-Indian musical style that has had a normalizing effect on South Asian communities around the world.

Many songs follow the verse-chorus format of popular religious and folk songs, usually with an instrumental introduction and an interlude. One regional style of folk song and dance genre that composers have used extensively in Indian film is that of Panjabi bhāngrā. Whether the film is set in northwest or south India, Bollywood music producers often insert bhāngrā rhythms and dance movements. Indeed, filmī bhāngrā, with the addition of Western bass and drums and an electronic mixing, has gained an appreciative young audience in Britain.

Vocal melody dominates filmīgīt, and a select group of playback singers (most notably Lata Mangeshkar) are in demand to perform these songs. In a fiction well known to film fans, screen actors mouth the words of recordings made by the playback singers. The separation of roles has allowed some singers to be active for decades as new sets of fresh young actors add their dramatic gestures as part of their interpretation.

Filmīgīt melodies have characteristic Indian vocal ornamentation and Indian and Western scale patterns often accompanied by chords that, while resembling Western harmonic practice, are distinctly South Asian.

Gordon Thompson

See alsoFilm Industry ; Music


Arnold, Alison. "Popular Film Song in India: A Case of Mass-Market Musical Eclecticism." Popular Music 7, no. 2 (1988): 177–188.