Justalkin Epidode 57: Movies about music & musicians
This is JusTalkin brought to you by in.com. It’s very rare that a majority of film-goers will share an opinion about a certain movie, and Gully Boy is definitely one of them. Brownie points to Zoya Akhtar for getting a real rapper to do the music for a movie about a rapper, and not just an established musician like Bollywood tends to do. As Allu Arjun has bagged the rights for the Telugu remake, let’s take a look at other movies that revolve around music and musicians.
"Jazz stands for freedom, get out there and improvise,” said Dave Brubeck. Although Jazz is considered elite by some, that didn’t stop Damien Chezelle from making a movie about it. A drummer in a jazz band himself while at college, he derived from that feeling of dread and developed Whiplash. It might still be okay for actors to pull off lip syncing for a song, but fake-drumming is a big challenge. If you hear a crash and the actor doesn’t play it, the mistake is very easy to spot. Miles Teller, who plays the protagonist, spent three months learning how to drum from a professional drummer, who also plays his nemesis in the movie. All the effort paid off, because musicians, moviegoers and movie makers alike were all praise for the movie.
La La Land
Damien Chezelle wrote the screenplay for La La Land and had a small budget in mind, but a meeting with Patrick Wachsberger convinced him he needed a much bigger budget to make his vision come true on screen, and the success of Whiplash aided in reaching out and getting the right producers for this movie. Ryan Gosling underwent three months of training for his role as a jazz pianist, and although they had a hand double on standby, the necessity never arose according to the director. The shoot was quite challenging because Chezelle wanted to shoot sequences as they did in the 1930s, with a whole sequence being shot continuously. But this didn’t go unnoticed. Minus the goof up at the Academy Awards, where La La Land was announced as the winner for the best film for a few minutes before Moonlight was declared the actual winner, this movie won a lot of hearts.
Rock On was a breath of fresh air for all of us because Bollywood band movies aren’t easy to come across. Farhan Akhtar might not have too many fans for his singing, but he says it was this movie that inclined him towards music and he began carrying a guitar to the sets of the next few movies he was shooting for. We can’t say everyone was too pleased with that, but like every other Farhan Akhtar movie, this was a surprise. Director Abhishek Kapoor wasn’t a fan of rock as a genre but began listening to it for this movie. And no matter what our mixed opinions of the cast or their performance may be, we will never fail to join in the chorus for ‘Meri laundry ka ek bill, ek adhi padi novel” to this day.
RD Burman was known for 'borrowing' tracks from the West. Director Sujoy Ghosh borrowed a lot of these tracks and made a tribute to him, in a movie called Jhankaar Beats. It follows the story of three guys in Mumbai at various stages of life in love and work. Although there are serious premises in the film, like divorce and work crises, every time a scene seems to be heavy, Sujoy Ghosh finds a way to end it in an almost comical manner. The tribute to RD Burman isn’t in your face, with the tracks running beautifully parallel to the story. The cast was great too since they were all faces we didn’t see too often on screen. Although the actors would’ve much preferred it otherwise.
Queen is undeniably one of the best bands in the history of music, because they made something for everyone, no matter what genre of music they liked. Unfortunately, for some bands the attention revolves around the frontman, for example, The Doors and Nirvana, and it was no different with Queen. So although Adam Lambert has toured quite a lot with Queen, playing Freddie Mercury was quite a different matter. Rami Malek might’ve had nightmares with the kind of expectations that come with a role like this, but the movie was very loved and made you ready to forgive anything when you sang along to the songs in the film.
The poster boy of coming-of-age films, Ranbir Kapoor made one about a musician. Nargis Fakhri plays his love interest, and although her acting skills are questionable, she looks gorgeous on screen. Mohit Chauhan is Ranbir Kapoor’s musical voice, and it’s a great choice Imtiaz Ali made, with him singing all the songs that Ranbir Kapoor lip syncs to. The other voices include AR Rahman, Harshdeep Kaur and other incredible singers. Kareena Kapoor Khan was initially the choice for the female lead, but we hadn't seen Game of Thrones yet, so they must’ve had second thoughts about casting cousins as romantic leads. Like every other Imtiaz Ali-AR Rahman collaboration, Rockstar has a brilliant soundtrack for the tale of a musician.
Abhimaan and Aashiqui 2
Now that we’ve seen a reboot of A Star is Born, comparisons might be made between it and Abhimaan that came out in 1973. It was a very fresh idea in Bollywood back then. But other theories suggested Pandit Ravi Shankar and Annapurna Devi’s real-life story as an inspiration, and another one suggested Kishore Kumar’s relationship with his first wife Ruma Ghosh as inspiration. But Kishore Kumar was too much of a maverick for a 'normal' story like this. The movie had a great soundtrack, great cast, with brilliant direction by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. It did better in Sri Lanka than in India, which came as a surprise. Another movie that draws parallels is Aashiqui 2, but would you compare it with this, or A Star is Born? Doesn’t matter, because Aashiqui 2 had takers mostly for its music.
It’s not a great trend, but sometimes stars drive the success of a movie. Sur had a great cast, with an actual musician playing one on screen. Lucky Ali played the role of a musician and mentor, who eventually has to pick between making his musical dreams come true and flattering his ego. Gauri Karnik plays his protegee. Although you can see some fault in the manner of shooting, especially when they fake-play the violin, the music by MM Keeravani went on to become a huge hit. The movie was very progressive for its times. Lucky Ali made his on-screen debut at 44, but it was worth the wait.
In a land where the music sometimes drives us to theatres, I think we’re more than ready for more films that take us through the journey of music and musicians. But we’ve had enough with remakes for now. So here’s hoping we have more like Gully Boy - movies that will give us the right kind of earworms!