I never watched too many Bollywood films. When I was a child, it was because my parents disapproved of me watching anything but children’s films. By the time I was old enough, I had ‘caught intellect’ and ended up watching what my friends watched – mostly Hollywood and European cinema. Some Indian cinema too, but hardly any of it was contemporary Bollywood. Of course, I listened to the music, especially because it was always on the TV, on speakers everywhere and on the lips of people. But I stopped watching TV regularly sometime in my mid-teens, and there began a long process of weaning off Bollywood which was finally completed in 2013 when I went off the country. Suddenly, there was no Bollywood music, there were no Bollywood films anywhere around me.
I did not imagine I would miss them.
Finally, I looked up Bollywood things on YouTube and I was stunned by the amount of beauty and talent I have always taken for granted, all my time at home. Bollywood has always done an especially great job of drawing from traditional forms of music and dance, and turning them into contemporary, popular music and dance. For instance, I love the traditional Sufi qawwali music of north-west India and Pakistan. I have always enjoyed the occasional qawwali-inspired song from a Bollywood films, but I have never made the effort to put them together in one place. I am not entirely equipped to write about music, but I was trained by a very great man to be able to appreciate it, and I hope I’ve imbibed at least a little of the training. So, what is qawwali music? It is traditionally performed in Hindi, Urdu or Punjabi. The form is of communal music-making (the performers are known as qawwals), along with the harmonium, the tabla/dholak, many-voiced choruses and hand-clapping to hold the rhythm, but form is not all of it. Qawwali music is also about the philosophy of the tolerant, mystical Islamic tradition of Sufiana which conflates the divine with the beloved.
So I made myself this playlist of qawwali-inspired songs from relatively recent Bollywood films.
It has sixteen songs, some more obscure than the others, none of them older than 2010. I hope this won’t be the last Bollywood playlist I make.