The first ever National Award given for “Best Background Score” in a separate category went to Ilaiyaraaja for his score in a Malayalam film “Keralavarma Pazhassi Raja”. By giving the award to Ilaiyaraaja, whose symphonic score for the film was indeed the best in 2009, Jury had it easier the first time. In the future, if the Jury members are going to take a decision to award anyone else other than Ilaiyaraaja in this category, they have to be extremely careful. There are many questions to be asked and answered before taking a decision on a winner in this category.
Was the score originally written for this film?
Nowadays, we have sound and music libraries like Sonoton, where there are music pieces readily available for all varieties of situations in a film. Indian film fraternity’s integrity is well known. They would never reveal that they bought cues from a music library and used them in the background score of their film. And there is “Plagiarism”. Ram Gopal Varma openly admitted in his blog (rgvzoomin.com) about using favourite music themes from Hollywood films in the background score of his films. There have been many instances in which Indian composers have used popular Hollywood film themes for Indian films, and they continue to do so. Who is going to do all the research and verify if the background score is entirely original? To nominate a non-feature film for National Award, producer must furnish an affidavit with the declaration of Originality for the music score. Likewise, the producers of feature films should also be asked to submit an affidavit with the declaration of Originality for the background music score. In the application form, the National Film Awards regulation puts a note that says, “Please state if the music score is Original, in case of non-feature films”. It can be modified as “in case of both feature and non-feature films”.
Did the jury members listen to the film score?
At least if the original score is separately available on a CD, the music can be heard without the visuals and its quality can be judged, but National Film Awards Jury will not have that luxury. Original Scores of Indian films seldom get a legitimate release in India. The jury members have to observe the background score of a film carefully while watching the film. They can also ask the applicants, who want the jury to consider the film’s score for the award, to submit an exclusive compilation CD of the background score. If the score leaves any impact and if they find it worthy of an award, then there are many further doubts that have to be clarified before they can judge a film’s background score as the best.
How and how much of film’s background score is composed by the composer credited for the film’s background score?
In most of Hindi films, two different composers work independently, one on the songs and the other on the background score. The score composer of the film uses the melodies of the songs composed by the composer of the song in his background score throughout the film. In “Love Aaj Kal”, Salim-Suleiman has used the motif from Yeh Dooriyaan (Composed by Pritam) in the background score throughout the film. In Ishqiya, Hitesh Sonik (background score composer) has used the seducing flute piece from Dil to Bachchaa Hai Ji song (composed by Vishal Bharadwaj) in all those moments where Krishna (Vidya Balan) seduces Babban (Arshad Warsi) and Khalujan (Naseeruddin Shah). In 13B, Tubby-Parik has used the melody of Aasman Odh Kar – composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, in the moment, when Madhavan is relieved to know that his wife will be safe. There is more to a background score than just the melody that is played, but if the impact of the score is because of the melody, who should take credit for it - Composer of the song for composing the melody? Or, background score composer, who used it wisely in the right moment in the film?
What qualifies to be a film background score?
Not all composers who do background score are like Amit Trivedi, who for “Wake up Sid” has not used any of the melodies of the songs composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy for the film, in the background score. Furthermore, Amit Trivedi has added songs as part of the background score, and such song-filled background scores further add to the confusion. Will these songs with vocals and lyrics in it be considered as part of the background score? Amit Trivedi won the National Award for Best Music for his songs in Dev.D, whereas juries of regular Bollywood Awards were not quite sure of which category Dev.D music falls into. Most of them recognized Amit Trivedi’s music in Dev.D as Best Background score in 2009. That raises another fundamental question. If a song is not lip-synched by the characters in the film, is it a background score? How will a jury know whether a song was composed before or after shooting the film? If a composer composes a song with lyrics and voices, for already shot visuals, is it a background score or is it a song?
Ilaiyaraaja does not use commercial loops or samples or already available music pieces in his background score. Ilaiyaraaja always composes background score of all the films he composes the songs for (Except a few in which his son Karthik Raaja did the score and was duly credited for the same). Even if he agrees to do only the background score (Lajja) he will use not the melodies of the songs composed by another composer. I dare not use the words - Ilaiyaraaja and Plagiarism in the same sentence. Awarding Ilaiyaraaja in “Best Background Score” category is the safest, easiest and quickest decision a National Film Award jury can take anytime.
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