The Cultural Economy of Sound: Reinventing Technology in Indian Popular Cinema


Literature on music technology shows a growing interest towards user agency, pointing to how sound recording and music-making equipment is reinvented through imaginative and unexpected techniques1. Nonetheless, the evaluation of innovation and creativity in music practice too often takes for granted criteria that are proper to technologically and culturally dominant parts of the world, where most technology is also created, patented and consumed, thus reaffirming a subordination of cultural production to the economic system to which it belongs. In any case, little attention is generally paid to non-Western aesthetics of sound, so that those practices, which are either too idiosyncratic or which never impacted on dominant musical cultures and markets, are interpreted at best as exceptions and sometimes even as conceptual misunderstandings or naïve misuses of musical equipment.

At any rate, some scholars, especially in the field of ethnomusicology – most notably Rasmussen (1996), Hayward (1998), Neuenfeld (2002), Mentjies (2003), Lysloff & Gay (2003), and Greene & Porcello (2005) – have already acknowledged the significance in musical production terms of areas previously considered marginal. To quote Greene (ibid. pp. 2–3):

Recording studios have become, among other things, spongelike centers where the world’s sounds are quickly and continually absorbed, reworked, and reincorporated into new musics. Music can now no longer be adequately modeled as something that happens in a local context and employs only the expressive specific to a locality. Instead, music making increasingly employs technology produced elsewhere and is informed by a heightened awareness of sounds that are traveling rapidly around the world. [Ethnographic evidence] shows that people around the world today are merging technological engineering with traditional ‘musicking’ in unpredicted ways, and they are producing a wide array of musics that is only beginning to be studied.

Here Greene highlights the dialectic relationship between technological constraints and user agency, while rejecting a deterministic view of technology:

Technologies of wired sound also have the potential (whether fully realised or not) of opening up new directions for musical expression and evolution, inspiring new logics of music creation and empowering local cultural and expressive values. (ibid. p. 3)

To quote Théberge (1997. p. 160), “the ability of the consumer to define, at least partially, meaning and use of technology is an essential assumption and theoretical point of departure”. Lysloff & Gay (2003. p. 12) agree that a piece of technology becomes something else when in the hands of the user:

Technologies, even the most oppressive and alienating, are thus constantly being reinterpreted in ways that make sense of local circumstances and that intersect with local interests, often subverting their original intent.

Nevertheless, both and Lysloff & Gay (2003) and Greene & Porcello (2005) place a substantial emphasis on digital technology and its presumed disruptive role, by focusing mainly on sampling, the Internet and computers in general: “Music […] happens along a global circuit of rapid communication and varying influence: an accelerating and disjunctive global cultural flow” (ibid. p. 2).

It is not my aim to discuss whether the advent of digital technology has brought about a paradigmatic shift in music making or rather in the understanding of it. Rather, I want to suggest that there is a significant delay in the scholarly interest – and this article makes no exception – in the adoption in non-Western countries of ‘Western’ electronic music devices for distinctive expressive purposes in record production. Consequently, I have chosen to focus on two examples that date back to the Fifties and early Sixties, a time of great experimentation in music production in various parts of the world, India included, long before scholarship would recognise the global nature of ‘wired sound’.

Of course, intercultural exchanges of musical instruments and techniques have been taking place long before the concept of globalisation became fashionable. By focusing on specific cultural meanings of the reappropriation of technology, this paper thus aims to contribute to the inclusion of currently ‘uncategorised’ practices within the main body of scholarship on the art of record production, by showing how different techniques make sense in equally different aesthetic and socioeconomic contexts. Examples will be drawn from music director Kalyanji’s early innovative use of synthesisers in the Hindi film Nagin (1954).

Hegemonic sound aesthetics

The imagery of non-Western individuals side by side with technological equipment evokes a sense of estrangement, a paradox, as in that famous picture (which has a certain resonance with the His Master’s Voice trademark) showing the ethnologist Frances Densmore with a seemingly astonished Mountain Chief of the Piegan Blackfeet – a kind of representation that in hindsight appears ethnocentric, by asserting a superiority that is objectified through the display of technological development on the one hand and traditional outfits on the other. Here, an ideological connection between development and technological devices, and the presumption of dominance that comes with it, is persuasively stated.

Non-Western popular music productions are often discredited not only in music magazines, advertising and historiographies, but also in educational texts and academic literature, where they are under-represented and marginalised. Most publications about record production show an evident bias towards British and US producers2. In general, with a few exceptions, the sound aesthetics related to non-Western sites of production are still largely overlooked, at least in comparison to their impact on local and – as the case of Hindi film music clearly shows – global publics.

My argument is that the more music aesthetics are defined by sound, and hence by technology, the more those who own the means of production and the expertise to operate them will be also able to control the music market and the musical discourse on a global level. Music production technology and the discourse on technology act as gatekeepers: those who lack full access to technology will not be able to participate in the definition of musical aesthetics.

For this reason, it is important to go beyond an explanation of technology that reduces it to material devices, and instead embrace an understanding of it as a process: “Technology is never simply an artefact, but always caught up in social, historical, and institutional webs” (Taylor 2001. p. 31). In this sense, the multidimensional character of technology refers to a “system of material resources, tools, operational sequences and skills, verbal and non-verbal knowledge, and specific modes of work coordination” (Pfaffenberg 1992. p. 497), for the production of both material artefacts (ibid.) and symbolic products. This broader scope allows us to recognise that the meaning and the creative potential of an instrument are constantly renegotiated through use and social interaction.

Otherwise, a reductive definition based on the physical device would place a stronger accent on the role of the industrial product and, by extension, of its brand, thus providing an economic ground for claiming the primacy of Western sound aesthetics. The case of the marketing concept known as ‘world music’ can exemplify the power of brands and corporate capital to define sound aesthetics; as Chanan (1995. p. 177) writes:

The notion [of ‘world music’] corresponds to the globalization of mass culture at a particular stage of development: the moment when the same corporations that tout the ‘information revolution’ become integrated with the established entertainment industry on the transnational level.

At stake here is not only the faculty of Western corporations to control the global market by imposing determined products but also their capacity to mediate other musics through the intervention of record producers, sound engineers and their technological means, including their aesthetics.

In this paper, I take two different and yet interrelated positions in order to reconnect sound aesthetics to specific social and historical contexts: (a) a microeconomic explanation, which will reveal the objective constraints and unveil the economic interests and the social implications behind the adoption of certain aesthetic standpoints by determined individuals or groups; (b) a cultural explanation through understanding the point of view of the participants (desi) within the particular mode of production of the Hindi film3. For this purpose, I will preface my analysis of how the Clavioline has been employed in Indian popular cinema with a brief reference to a different context, which the reader may find more familiar, where this instrument has played a key role in defining the sound of a successful song.

The Clavioline and the Sound of the Space Age

The Clavioline was an electronic keyboard invented in France by Constant Martin in 1947 and manufactured by Selmer and Gibson in the 1950s. A valve oscillator produced a harmonically rich signal, which was then modified through high- and low-pass filters, plus three kinds of vibrato, an amplitude control and a knee-lever volume control, which would normally be used for expression. The speaker cabinet included a power supply and a valve amplifier. Eighteen on/off switches (twenty-two on the Selmer version), called ‘stops’, controlled timbre; Selmer offered suggested voicings, but the switches could be combined to obtain customised sounds. It is worth noting that the Clavioline, which can be considered a precursor of the analogue synthesiser, was one of the first electronic instruments to reach a mass market, thanks in part to its portability and affordable price.

This instrument is often associated with the Tornado’s track ‘Telstar’ (1962), which was produced by Joe Meek at Holloway Road studio, London and is known as the first British single to reach number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. The inspiration for the song’s title was the first commercial communications satellite that AT&T had placed in orbit in July 1962. The Tornado’s single, released around a month later, is also notable for its experimental production techniques, as Irwin (2009) has explained in a former issue of this Journal. The sound of the Clavioline, heard on the main melodic line, provided a novelty effect, which the audience could relate to other elements, concerning both the record release and the wider cultural setting. More precisely, the reference to the satellite not only in the title but also on the record covers, together with the sound of the Clavioline and the use of sound effects, helped to evoke a modernist and futuristic landscape. As a matter of fact, the connection between the Clavioline and such themes as space exploration and sci-fi can be found in other recordings, including Van Phillips’ soundtrack for the successful science-fiction radio programme ‘Journey Into Space’ (1953-58)4, Sun Ra’s ‘Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy’ (1967, recorded in 1963), and ‘The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra, Volume Two’ (1966), the Louis and Bebe Barron score for the film ‘Forbidden Planet’ (1956), and Joe Meek’s concept album ‘I hear a new world. An outer space music fantasy’ (1960).

In some of these records, but most of all in the ones falling into the category of space-age pop (clearly not, therefore, in Sun Ra’s albums), we often come across an association between technology and certain values: scientific progress, economic growth, speed, the urge to update, improving welfare and safety, social harmony, comfort and affluence – all aspects that can be associated with consumerism. Although ‘Telstar’ includes sound effects, synthesised sounds and innovative studio techniques to take the audience by surprise, it also features more familiar aspects, like the adoption of the song form and the single format, which suggest that the delivery of this modernist message will be effective only within a given framework of expectations. At any rate, a thorough analysis of the socioeconomic implications and the ideological substrate of this imagery would require a separate discussion that goes beyond the scope of this paper5. The inclusion herein of ‘Telstar’ is mainly intended to highlight a widespread connotation of technology in the post-war West; by contrast, I will now show how a different context drastically reformulates the connotations attached to the same technological device, and perhaps even to technology as a whole.

The Clavioline in Indian popular cinema

Nagin (1954) is a film directed by Nandlal Jaswantlal and loosely inspired by Bijon Bhattacharya’s play Jiyankanya6 and William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 2002. p. 337). It tells the love story between Mala (Vyjayanthimala) and Sanatam (Pradeep Kumar), two professional snake catchers from different tribal groups that are involved in an ongoing feud fuelled by the villainous Prabir (Jeevan). The plot is rather thin, while song and dance sequences, choreographed by Sachin Shankar, Yogendra Desai and Hiralal, also predominate in the development of the narrative. The soundtrack includes twelve songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Hemant Kumar, who is also credited as the music director and author of the music, and an instrumental theme entitled ‘Been music’, the been being a double-reed traditional wind instrument made from a gourd; this theme, which on the LP is credited to the two young assistants Ravi and Kalyanji, is used in the film as the introduction to the most successful of the film songs, ‘Man Dole Mera Tan Dole’, and, in the same song, antiphonally with Lata Mangeshkar’s voice7. The same melody reappears in different scenes of the film as a sort of leitmotiv representing the lovers’ call.

It must also be noted that the subject of snakes often recurs in popular culture, especially in relation to stories of love, seduction and revenge. This presence, as Kakar (1989) explains, is a mythological legacy and testifies that folk, classical and popular traditions are closely related in the Indian subcontinent:

In literature, folklore, myth, ritual, and art, the snake and especially the cobra (nag) plays a prominent role in Hindu culture. Born of one of the daughters of Prajapati, the Lord of Creation, snakes are carried by Shiva, the Destroyer, around his neck and arms, while there is no more popular representation of Vishnu, the Preserver of the Hindu trinity, than of his reposing on the Sesha, the seven-headed cobra. Sculpted into the reliefs of Buddhist, Jain, an Hindu temples, snakes, both single and entwined, are a ubiquitous presence in Indian sacred space. (ibid. p. 52)

Cinema makes no exception, featuring several films that revolve around snake (or half-human, half-snake) characters, sometimes even becoming new ‘authentic’ sources in their turn, capable of redefining the myths that inspired them. It comes as no surprise, therefore, if references can also be found between some of these films.

Nagin was a box office hit, and the popularity of its music would boost the careers of the personnel involved in the production, especially Vyjayanthimala, who being a gifted dancer trained in the classical style of Bharata Natyam, offered an outstanding visual complement to Lata Mangeshkar’s voice8. Nagin also propelled Kalyanji’s career, despite his apparently secondary role as the performer of the ‘Been music’ theme, which moreover was arranged by Ravi, on the Clavioline.

Kalyanji Virji Shah began his musical career like the conductor of live bands before joining the film music industry as a session musician. Ranade (2006. p. 290) believes that this kind of engagement with arrangements for bands helped him to develop a keen sense of instrumental color. Kalyanji, together with his brother Anandji, would later form one of the most successful teams of music directors in India, capable of writing memorable melodies while engaging with different styles, instruments and sound effects in an original and experimental way9.

The first time Kalyanji used the Clavioline to recreate the sound of the been was in S.N. Tripathi’s Naag Panchami (1953). Tripathi then recommended Kalyanji to Hemant Kumar, who was able to take advantage of the novelty effect that the synthesised snake charmer’s sound could still achieve, due to the relative lack of success of Naag Panchami – at least as compared to Nagin. What is worth noting here is that the introduction of the Clavioline played such a major role not only in Kalyanji’s career but also in those of Hemant Kumar and Ravi as music directors (Lata Mangeshkar at the time was already a successful star). I will now suggest a microeconomic explanation of this process, as a prelude to interpreting the cultural context in which the Clavioline was adopted in Nagin to become, in the Indian collective imagination, the ‘authentic’ sound of the snake charmer’s been.

Obtaining musical equipment

Booth (2008) sheds some light on the condition of session musicians in the Hindi film industry: percussionist Taufiq Qureshi, for instance, complains that only in the late 1990s, as a consequence of the economic liberalisation that began in 1991, did it become easier to buy electronic keyboards, while previously ‘the customs people were creating problems. They would charge so much’ (ibid. p. 245). Kalyanji, on the other hand, belonged to a Kutchi family of traders. His father, Virji Shah, had moved from Gujarat to Maharashtra to start a provision store (Premchand 2003. p. 246); if this move allowed Kalyanji to get in contact with the flourishing local music community and eventually with the Bombay film industry, his business links helped him to import the Clavioline. Owning the means of sound production could be very profitable, as session musicians would be hired by music directors because of their exotic instruments. This allowed these fortunate session musicians to gain visibility and, with it, more jobs; this explains why they often jealously guarded their valuable assets. Keyboard player Vipin Reshammiya (in Booth 2008. p. 246) recalls:

In those days Kalyanji had one claviolin [sic], and he was playing ‘been music’. That was very popular. He taught me how to play the instrument, so he is my guru. Sometimes he allowed me to borrow that instrument also. He would charge me a small fee to borrow it, but he did not like to lend it.

Reshammiya also belonged to a business family, however, which eventually allowed him to get hold of a Clavioline himself (ibid.):

In 1959 or 1960 I managed to bring one Claviolin [sic] Reverb from London. It was very expensive because the government charged 200 or 300 percent import duty on such things. From then I joined the film orchestra line. I played with Shankar-Jaikishan, and they exploited that instrument very much.

The exchange-value of music gear is sometimes easily quantifiable – Reshammiya, who in 1965 had bought a Yamaha YC-45 for 30,000 rupees, would hire it to session musicians on commission: “100 rupees per song or 350 rupees for a background session” (ibid.).

In summary, until the 1990s, most Indian musicians in the film industry found certain instruments too expensive and hard to obtain, mostly due to customs restrictions, so that those privileged musicians who could afford a synthesiser, for instance, would take advantage of this investment in several ways. Essentially, owning an electronic instrument meant owning the sounds that it could produce and exerting, therefore, a sort of monopoly on those sounds within the Indian film industry. This increased their opportunities to obtain a job as session musicians or alternatively to earn by hiring out the instrument. As we have seen, Kalyanji’s familiar status enabled him to import a Clavioline, although – apart from hiring it out – simply owning it wasn’t enough to transform it into a highly profitable investment. What mattered then was how he used this instrument in Nagin to mimic the been; the reasons behind this choice can be understood only by looking at how Indian popular films were produced at the time.

The aesthetics of playback

Nagin is largely immersed in the dreamy atmosphere of a love fable, where the impression of watching a staged performance arises from several cues, like the aesthetic of frontality10, the set design and the diegetic staging of some of the songs. Given that the setting, which depicts the deeds of tribal populations, is mainly rural, the music score accordingly employs mainly traditional instrumentation, with the exception of the Clavioline and strings, which feature in some of the songs.

In the twilight of the forest, sound is the force that drives the characters towards each other and away from threats: the sound of the been guides the lovers in this maze of chiaroscuros11, whilst deceiving their respective tribes, who would not approve of the union. It may be argued that sight is deceptive, an idea that is substantiated in the form of the sunglasses that only the villain Prabir wears. Moreover, this particular prop has a disorientating effect on the viewer, as it clashes with the ostensibly historical setting and suggests an uncertain environment in which polar opposites – past and present, tradition and modernity, local and foreigner, good and evil, etc. – coexist. The been, which is recurrently shown in the foreground of the action, is perhaps the element that brings these opposites together, evoking tradition but borrowing its novel sound from the ‘high-tech West’. In this case of reappropriation, what is striking is how, for the sound of the instrument that in the film epitomises tradition (and probably more), it was a synthesiser that was chosen.

In fact, according to the microeconomic perspective that I have outlined, we can understand why Kalyanji was interested in owning a Clavioline; another question, however, remains unanswered: why would Kalyanji decide to use a new electronic device to mimic a traditional acoustic instrument? In order to provide a more satisfactory explanation, we need to look briefly at some of the main features of Indian popular cinema.

The central role of music in this cinematography is unanimously accepted; what Prasad (1998) calls the ‘horizontal mode of production’ allows the music director a degree of autonomy in film production, purely because the popularity of a song can be decisive for the success of the film in which it features (Morcom 2007). Nagin itself, like many other films, is probably remembered mainly for its songs, and most of all for ‘Man Dole Mera Tan Dole’, which has since acquired a life of its own, more or less independently of its parent film12; what is particularly significant is that, after the success of Nagin, the snake charmer’s been has become associated with its electronic replica, so that now, for most of the Indian audience, the Clavioline would probably sound more ‘authentic’ than the original instrument.

The song and dance conventions, in which actors lip-synch to a song sung by playback singers and, as in this case, also mime to some of the instruments in the score, are crucial for understanding the nature of this cultural appropriation. In particular, Rajadhyaksha (2007) suggests that it is possible to identify a specific aesthetic that is based on the following traits:

  • the use of pre-recorded sound;
  • the elimination of ambient sounds for an artificial soundtrack;
  • dubbed dialogues;
  • playback singing and lip-synching;
  • song picturisation;
  • frontality (as in visual arts) of sound, which always requires the presence of the source.

In this context, what is surprising is not that Western technology can be reinvented but how sounds are manipulated and articulated to resemble local instruments, thus eventually becoming traditional in their turn. In this instance, however, it is not the instrument but rather its sound that is unconditionally appropriated as part of the local (desi) cultural fabric. This is also possible because the Clavioline allows an articulation similar in some ways to the been – in terms of timbre, glissando/glide, continuous sound (circular breathing), articulation, vibration and drone tone. Of course, the way the melody on the Clavioline is played is also pivotal, since there is an attempt to mimic the techniques of a been player; furthermore, the Clavioline is small and portable, it has a three-octave keyboard and it can be played while sitting on the floor. In other words, it is very similar to a particular instrument – the Indian harmonium – on which music directors normally compose and play their melodies. It is true that there are also several differences: the been has a more fluctuating tone, while the Clavioline is flatter; and the been possesses subtleties in the articulation, pitch, tuning, sound, duration of the notes and in the integration between the melody and the drone that the Clavioline would struggle to reproduce. In any case, these are differences that might interest a musician or a musicologist, whereas the Indian audience, after this film, has accepted that sound as the sound of the been, and as such, of the snake charmer.

The Clavioline as an audience charmer: demystifying technology

Before coming to the conclusions, I would like to draw on Taussig (1993) to attempt a broader interpretation of the appropriation of this instrument in the framework of Indian film culture. According to Taussig (who in his turn has elaborated on the works of Frazier, Mauss and Benjamin), by holding a representation, or a replica of an object, the holder will obtain an influence on the original object: just as the sight of the been charms the snake, its sound charms the audience; just as the Clavioline mimics the sound of the been, that same sound becomes the been itself in popular imagery. The mimetic game implicit in the use of playback, with its reciprocities and subtle deception, allows any implicit subjugating power in (imported) technology to be demystified.

Furthermore, as we have seen, Nagin manifests a sense of temporal displacement: the story is apparently set in the past, yet some aspects, like the sunglasses, suggest that we are in the present. This disorientation, which is also typical of magical thinking, is also expressed in the film through the electronic sound of the been. This sound possesses the power to be both itself and something else, at the same time and with no apparent inconsistency, transcending the principle of non-contradiction. In ‘Been music’, the Clavioline represents the been, sounds (almost) like the been, but also seems to point to something else, to embrace opposites and turn them into complementary facets of the same reality. Drawing a comparison, if the snake is mesmerised by the sight of the been, then the moviegoer, while seeing its picturisation, is haunted by the sound of the Clavioline. In both cases, the attention of the spectator is focused on sound, while the link – the result of an artifice – between sound and vision implies a degree of pretence: the film spectator is mislead by the visual representation of the been, but s/he hears a Clavioline instead; on the other hand, the spectator of the snake charmer’s show believes (or chooses to believe) that it is sound that hypnotises the snake, but the real trigger is the movement of the been. In Nagin, it is just the convention of playback, which is central to the particular mode of production of Indian popular cinema, that allows sound and vision to be reconnected into a meaningful whole, suggesting that sound has a power to control its source; ‘foreign’ technology, consequently, is not merely adapted to a local aesthetic aim, but is even used instrumentally to restate the point of view of the desi. In short, technological devices in the new context are reinvented as means of constructing meanings that can be understood only from the perspective of their creators and consumers.

If the negation of common logic that I have sketched actually contributed to the appeal of ‘Mal Dole Mera Tan Dole’, this cannot be easily inferred. What I wanted to show, however, is that a certain degree of ambiguity is inherent in technological devices, as their use can always be redefined in original and unexpected ways. The fact, then, that the Clavioline would be used eight years after Nagin in a radically different context, in association with the futuristic and consumerist imagery of the space age in ‘Telstar’, only adds to this ambiguity or, better, this potential, suggesting that sounds and their production are more complex than those discourses that often try to herd them into reductive and biased interpretations.


In analysing the use of the Clavioline in the Nagin soundtrack, from both a microeconomic and a wider cultural perspective, what is noteworthy is how the meaning of technology is redefined in the new context. Musical instruments and equipment have an exchange-value that its possessor can calculate in a rational way: sound branding, equipment rental and budget savings on session musicians are all options that can increase the investment on hard-to-find instruments. The way these instruments are employed in practice, however, is also determined by local aesthetics. In Nagin, the connection between technology and modernity is not as evident as in ‘Telstar’, yet it is nonetheless expressed, albeit in a more subtle way. In particular, the continuity between past and present is symbolised dialectically by the interplay between novelty and convention, change and tradition, through the mediation of outfits (traditional vs. sunglasses) and sound (local traditional instruments vs. Clavioline and strings). In this way, the continuity between appropriation and reinvention is reframed so that the contact between the local (desi) and the foreign or alien (videsi) is resolved, not through rejection and autarchy, but through absorption and original adaptation.

If we analyse the sound of the Clavioline in context on those few minutes of been music, we perceive a complexity that cannot be understood without close reference to the modes of production of the Hindi film (especially playback and lip-synching) and, more generally, to Indian popular culture as a whole. Rather than letting mainstream technological discourse define which criteria are relevant for the comprehension of any sound aesthetics, both technology and aesthetics need to be related to the same socioeconomic and cultural context in which they are produced and consumed and in which their meaning is negotiated.

About the Author

Carlo Nardi
University of Northampton


1 E.g. turntablism (e.g. Katz 2010, Fikentscher 2003) or the use of echo in dub (e.g. Alleyne 2009, Howard 2008, Veal 2007).

2 E.g. see Massey (2000) and (2009); Cogan & Clark (2003).

3 Desi, a signifier for ‘local’, has seen a slight shift in its connotation over time. Although it has now spread past the Indian borders to embrace a community that is more or less loosely related to Indian culture from a linguistic and geographical point of view (e.g. see the many internet forums dedicated to Bollywood), in the past, i.e. long before the idea of India as a state, the word had a more regional connotation. Das Gupta (2008. p. 1) quotes the Sangeeta Ratnakara, a treatise written by Sarangadeva in the 13th century: “Vocal melody, instrumental music, and dancing are known as Sangita which is two-fold, viz., Margi and Desi. That which was discovered by Brahma and (first) practised by Bharata and others in the audience of Lord Shiva is Margi […] while the Sangita that entertains people according to their taste in different regions […] is known as Desi”.

4 Interestingly, this show was also translated into Hindi.

5 For a discussion on this subject, see Taylor (2001) and Théberge (1997).

6 Bijon Bhattacharya was a Bengali actor, playwright, writer, scenarist, composer of stage music, singer and theatre director; initially Gandhian and then Marxist, he was a founding member of the leftist group IPTA, the Indian People’s Theatre Association (Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 2002. p. 64).

7 It is worth noting that song collections featuring ‘Man Dole Mera Tan Dole’ (e.g. ‘50 Glorious Years, Vol 1’, ‘The History of Indian Film Music’ and ‘Lata: 80 Glorious Years’) generally include ‘Been music’ in the same track and without a separate credit, unlike the original film score LP.

8 Playback became the norm in Indian popular cinema since the forties [reviewer’s note: either ‘Playback became the norm in Indian popular cinema in the 1940s’ or ‘Playback has been the norm in Indian popular cinema since the 1940s’], mainly due to technological constraints (Mukherjee 2007): first singers would record the songs, then actors would lip-synch the song lyrics in what is commonly known as the ‘song picturisation’. Furthermore, it was rumored that Lata resented Vyjayanthimala getting all the credit for the ‘Man Dole Mera Tan Dole’ song sequence (Jain 2005. p. 147) – a resentment that led the singer to fight for the playback singers’ right to be given prominence in the opening credits and to receive their share of royalties.

9 It is striking that, notwithstanding their enormous popular success – or possibly just for this reason – Kalyanji-Ananji have mainly been neglected by musicologists and music scholars in favor of other music directors such as R.D. Burman or Salil Chowdhury.

10 Frontality is a distinctive trait of Indian artistic output, including paintings, miniatures, dance, painted photographs and the Parsi theatre, which took as its governing convention an eye contact and bodily orientation with the audience that originates from earlier open stages: “Turning the body towards the spectator is a sign that there is in this relationship no disassembling between the two: the actor looks at the audience and the audience looks at the actor; both exist – as actor and audience – because of this candid contact” (Kapur 1993. p. 92). Since its inception, cinema has made no exception.

11 Nandlal Jaswantlal was “admired for his sophisticated lighting (with cameraman Pandurang Naik). [He] used extreme close-ups and unusual angles creating disjointed but dramatic and sensual spaces” (Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 2002. p. 113).

12 The been melody from the film, which today is still one of the most popular melodies in Hindi film music, has been sampled in the song ‘Twist’ from the recent blockbuster Love Aaj Kal (2009).


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