Celebrate 100 years of Indian Popular Cinema
It’s unbelievable to think that this year officially marks 100 years of Bollywood films. While the legacy created by the early movies is still impacting on world cinema today, there’s no doubt that the soundtracks that accompany the films are one of the aspects fans love the most. This Autumn two of India’s most celebrated singers, husband and wife duo Roop Kumar Rathod and Sunali Rathod will be in the UK performing at three unique concerts where they’ll be singing classic songs from every decade that any self-confessed Bollywood addict simply has to be at! Roop told us about their up and coming show – you’ve been warning: once you’ve read it, you’ll be on the phone, booking your tickets!
When did you first become aware of Bollywood and how did you get into singing?
I come from a very musical family. My father was a musician and so are my brothers. I began my training at a very young age. I am a trained table player and initially played mostly in ghazal and classical settings. However, Bollywood always intrigued me and as I didn’t have anything to do with films or film music I never imagined that one day my name would be associated with some of the biggest songs in the industry.
The first film that made me sit up and take notice of Bollywood was Baiju Bawara. The songs from that film, particularly O Duniya Ke Rakhwale, had a huge impact on me. Other films and music that influenced me were Pakeezah, Mother India and Howrah Bridge – I love the old school songs however a musician cannot be rigid. You need to move with the times and adapt to what current listeners like.
Tell us about your romance. How did you meet and was it like a film?
Hahaha! Ours was not love at first sight as we had seen each other around on the musical circuit. But when I first saw Sunali I felt like I had been hit by her beauty. Her long hair, beautiful face and her voice were all too much for me to take. There was some chemistry between us, and one thing just led to another. We got married and have been together for 20 years. I found my soul mate in her. It was her encouragement that made me start singing. I guess you can say our life is like a fairytale.
Which songs did you have at your wedding?
We didn’t have any movie songs playing at our wedding, instead we had an entire group of classical Karnatak Veena players that performed throughout the ceremony and reception. However I sung the song Babul Ki Duaye Lete Ja during the vidaii and it made everyone very emotional.
What can we extpect from the Saregama Celebrating the Legends UK tour?
It’s a concept that we and Amarpal from Saregama came up with. We wanted to do something that was a bit different and since Indian cinema will be celebrating 100 years, we thought this concert would be a good way to showcase that. The four legends (pictured) we will be paying tribute to have been great influences in Bollywood and in our lives and we are performing with are the some of the best musicians in the industry. We have put together something that is really special and something that people are not expecting. The audiences are in for a real treat! (images: Noor Jehan, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammad Rafi and Talat Mahmood).
What do you think are the ingredients for a hit song?
There are a lot of factors that need to come together to make a hit song. The lyrics, the music, the singers, the composition and the musicians. It also helps to have a famous actor or actress in the film. For example Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is a beautiful song but it became even more of a hit because the film starred Shah Rukh Khan. The same with Salaam Aya from Veer Zara and Tere Liye from Veer Zara. On the other hand Maula Mere Maula from the film Anwar featured an up and coming actor that not many people had heard of so the impact was not as much. The actual song, nonetheless, was a great hit. I guess a lot depends on luck too and I thank God that he has been kind to us.
Why are songs so important in Bollywood films?
Bollywood films have always been associated with music. Each film takes people to a place where they can forget about their lives and go into a dream state, like how a couple can suddenly end up in Switzerland; it’s all very fairytale like! Then there is the inevitable villain, who wants to stop the hero and heroine from being together. There is a song for such a situation too. Music is essential to most films. If you look at old Hollywood movies starring Elvis Presley, Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, all of them featured song and dance and the audiences loved it.
Which one of your songs does the audience enjoy the most?
If I had to choose I would say Sandese Aate Hai from Border as it was the song that broke the mould for me. It had a lot of meaning to it and became the nation's anthem. Then it’s Tere Liye from Veer Zara, this song gave me the opportunity to work with the great Lata Mangeshkar. I was the voice of Shah Rukh Khan, and the film was made by Yash Chopra. It was a beautiful song with amazing lyrics and then of course there is Maula Mere Maula from Anwar. I particularly like this song as it was my first in the Sufi genre. It was also used in a lecture in New York to give an example of what a song should sound like.
How is film music changing? Is it for the better?
Film music is always changing and it is good that it does. Indian film has come a long way in 100 years. In the times of films like Dupatta and Baiju Bawra the music and then techniques used to create music were very simple. These days you can create any sound with the press of a button. In the golden era of cinema all the musicians, directors, singer and recordists used to be present in the studio for days to complete one song. These days the music is recorded in Bombay and then it is sent to the singer who records the vocals in another country. Everything is fast paced now. I think some of the remixes are good but I come from the old school. I do understand that remixes are also necessary to appeal to the younger generation but nothing compares to the originals.
Why should we come to the concert?
Celebrating the Legends is a concert for anyone who loves Indian cinema and its music. We are going to be singing some of the greatest songs ever produced in Bollywood and we know that there are people out there who are longing for this. All you die hard Lata, Rafi, Talat and Noor Jehan fans need to be there! We promise that it will be an evening that you’ve never seen or heard before.
Celebrating The Legends with Roop Kumar Rathod and Sunali Rathod takes place in at Birmingham Symphony Hall on Wednesday 5th September, Leicester De Montfort Hall on Friday 7th September and HMV Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday 8th September. Contact the venues to book tickets.