A recent analysis of nearly 24,000 Bollywood songs by Hindustan Times has found that female solo songs are on a course of decline. According to this analysis, the number of solo songs sung by women were half as much as those sung only by men. This is a huge flip from the '50s and '60s, when women used to sing three out of four solos. Today, a female singer gets to sing only one out of four solos. This highlights how representation of female perspective in music has taken a dip.
The dip in female representation in commercial films is responsible for this gradual decline
Shrinking roles in script for female leads
Composer Amit Trivedi, who currently produces most of the songs sung by women, says it’s simply a matter of what the script demands. He says, “In Secret Superstar, where the film is about a female singer, there will naturally be more female songs.”
This implies that most films today demand songs which are sung by men, for men. Current trend in music resonates with the kind of films which are being made with A-list Bollywood actors. Most of these movies revolve around alpha male heroes, who rule almost every frame of the movie.
Female actors are reduced to playing love interests, who get a token romantic duet or an item number
These films are naturally targeted at masses, who lionize these toxic masculine films, where the hero beats 200 villains with a bare chest and bare arms. They love their heroes for their machismo, and dialoguebaazi. This genre, ruled by Tigers, Singhams and Dabanggs, is the only one which brings in moolah running in hundreds of crores (barring a few exceptions), simply because that is what today’s public loves to watch the most. Thus, it is the hero of a film which gets more songs in his kitty than his heroine. The ratio of songs goes from bad to worse if the lead actor is a great dancer.
If we compare business done by films featuring an alpha lead, to superhit women-centric or romantic films of recent times, it becomes clear why makers of commercial movies cannot stop this male encroachment into female perspective. Eventually, what happens in scripts and film-making, transcends into film music as well.
We also have to remember that music these days is all about appealing to masses. Few composers and producers care about quality of music
It's more about topping music charts and raking in profits in times of high music piracy. Thus, if female solos are shrinking in the realm of Bollywood music, then some blame lies with listeners as well.
The depletion in female solo tracks has been gradual, just like female perspective in commercial films. So if we want to hear more of female solos, then we need meatier roles for our female actors. Roles which tell more from their standpoint, than a token love song, or item number, or good girl gone bad party anthem. With the rise of women-centric cinema and awareness about equal representation in recent years, we can only hope that composers will make conscious efforts to churn out melodious solo female tracks in future.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.