Yes. Indian films. The ones with those songs and dances in them. But have we ever asked ourselves, why are there so many songs in our films? It is because we Indians love songs? Well, there is no ethnic evidence that Indians are more fond of music than, say the Italians, or the Spanish. How is then singing and dancing an integral part of Indian cinema and not the cinema of other countries?
The answer lies in the fact that cinema has been, over the years, and still remains, the only available inexpensive entertainment to the vast Indian public. We don’t have the choice that the western public has of music halls, concerts, circus, plays, etc. Cinema to Indian public has been the only answer to our urge for spectacle, romance, humor, singing and dancing. Indian cinema has been heeding to this basic need of Indian masses, right from its inception and will, I suspect, continue to do so for a long time to come.
It is rather surprising how much effort goes into handling these song sequences. From professional choreographers handling the dances to actors being selected based on their dancing (and not acting) skills, it is indeed hard to digest, that a major part of innovation and inventiveness in Indian films today lies in the way these songs are picturised. The editing and cinematography of many of these songs are indeed spectacular. Sometimes the director takes a step ahead and shoots each new line of the song against a different scenic background. This, some of the greatest European avant-garde directors feared, even while shooting dream sequences. The problem is – most of our songs may be compared to ad commercials – a series of events which don’t go along with the film whatsoever, and would make equal sense if put anywhere else in any other film.