Hava Nagila!

Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid

4 reasons why I think film music is better than Carnatic music

Note: I am a hardcore Madrasi. I relish the December Season as avidly as I do the Nakka Mukka. My favourite musician is MS. Much as I appreciate Carnatic music, I detest the thought that film music is any lesser. In fact, I feel it is way ahead and is much better, for four reasons.


Music is an art form. There is, in my humble opinion, no need to, if I may use the word, “scientify” it. Think – if music is indeed only scientific, it would have been possible to make it using a machine. Why do we need humans at all?

Art, in my humble belief, should not be restrained. Carnatic music unfortunately constrains music and musicians. They can sing only in particular formats and denies them a chance to be innovative. There is nothing new in Carnatic music. It is becoming staler because of a few of its own self imposed restrictions. Carnatic music has very low levels of experimental capacity and its practitioners lose the faculty to accept anything out of the ordinary.

Film music doesn’t do this. It gives the artist something called freedom, which is the seed to creativity. The world witnessed renaissance because art and artists were denied liberty. People flock to film music because it gives them this essence of life. Film music gives people a sense of sovereignity and wonder apart from giving all the other things that carnatic music has to offer. Hence, it is better.


Carnatic music delves only into one mood – Bhakthi. Even if you have some other expressions like sringaraa, it is converted into bhakthi at the end of the day. Too much isn’t required, even of Bhakthi. Bhakthi is only one feeling. Just where are the others?

Film music, on the other hand, indulges in all expressions and has brought out of the feelings of the humankind in a more human fashion. Film music explores all possibilities and brings out all emotions and expressions. Hence it is better.


The very basic function of an art form is to reach the people. By people, I mean the commonest of crowds, not an elite posse. Carnatic music doesn’t fit the bill here. Ordinary people can scarcely understand it and the so called vidwans never attempt to make them understand. What exactly is the point of singing to a group of people who already understand what you want to say? It is like a teacher who teaches the brilliant students and ignores the dunces. Aren’t teachers meant to teach the ignorant?

Film music can be sung by anybody – even those who do not know music. It reaches people in all strata of society regardless of economic or societal position. All you need is a cheap radio to listen to it, not a worldspace station. It is present in all languages unlike Carnatic music which are in Sanskrit or the Dravidian languages only. Name a Gujarati Kriti or an Assamese one. Carnatic music is like modern art – if the viewer should be intelligent enough to understand it, where is the artist’s talent? Film music transcends the boundaries that Carnatic music has confined itself in. Hence, it is better.


Carnatic musicians more often than not, think of other musical forms as a degradable thing, something very foul that they should not touch. When you degrade the native art forms of a country and try to bring in something new, you are more likely to fail. And that because you are doing the wrong thing. They treat the raagaas and jathis as something which was invented by the elite. Don’t they know that music was born out of the waves crashing on the shore and out of a mother singing to put her crying child to sleep?

How many Carnatic musicians have you seen go to a slum and sing? They want the richness of the sabha and a well-dressed and decorated audience. Are they really musicians? Didn’t the Gods of music, Sabhapathy and Ranganathan sing to the lowest of the low?

Film music doesn’t consider people or other music untouchable. It has introduced us to western music – the ballad, the opera, to the folk music of Africa and of the people who live in the hills and myriad other forms. Hence it is better.

Can you practice to feel?

Another limitation of Carnatic music is that lays an unusually large stress on saadhagam or practice. Rolling the gamakams, they say, comes with intense training under a guru. While practice is required for any art form, over doing it just causes one to stop thinking outside its purview. This is the reason Carnatic vidwans effortlessly dismiss film music as unfit for higher mortals. They can only practice and can’t feel.

Film music lays more emphasis on emotion and feelings even if it is putting in a laugh or a cry here and there, even if it means getting out of the routine and experimenting, even if it means going out of the raaga base, even if it means staying silent for a while. It has made popular singers out of people who did not train in Carnatic music. Think SPB! Think Lata Mangeshkar!

For all those practicing artistes out there, just stop for a moment and reflect on this. With practice, even a wild animal can be made to sit on a chair and speak. We call such animals as well trained; not civilized. It is man’s ability to feel that makes him different from animals – that has helped him attain the pinnacles of sophistication.  

I feel that it is easy for someone who can sing film songs to sing carnatic music. Because, with a few months of practice, you can start rolling the vocal chords. But even with infinite practice, one cannot connect with an audience. Unfortunately, you cannot learn it anywhere, it is an innate thing. It doesn’t come with drill, it comes from within. Practice, even a monkey can do. Emote, only humans can.

If you are still not convinced, answer this. How many years of training will make you sing like MS? How many years of hardwork will make you Vikku Vinayakaram? MS is MS only because she lent her soul to music, brought out the divinity from within her and translated that into music. Exactly where did she train for that? AFAIK, Nowhere. It came to her because she attached herself with the art and not the science of music.  

Achievement can be got with practice, not excellence. And achievement always follows excellence. Naturally, it has followed film music.


6 comments on “4 reasons why I think film music is better than Carnatic music

  1. Anonymous
    November 22, 2011

    Explains why “Why this kolaveri” song is the most searched song on google and the most shared thing on Facebook surpassing India’s world cup triumphs, Steve Jobs and a host of other happenings…. 🙂 🙂 That is what we call Straight from the heart!! Way to go Dhanush! Well done!!

  2. Bharanidharan
    November 24, 2011

    whatever the human have feelings they all are time bound that is not everlasting or changing , but the bakthi feeling wont change . this is the reason the carnatic music survived long lost. The film music is not everlasting unless it is a bakthi song.

    • Meenakshi
      December 2, 2011

      Thanks for the comment Bharanidharan. But I simply cant agree with your comment. 🙂 All feelings are subject to change and according to me Bhakthi is the most fickle one. If it were rock solid, the world would be a different place! Furthermore, the roots of Carnatic music are in the recent past – traceable, unlike folk music which has been around since time immemorial. I am sure that the first man or woman didnt think up Sa Re Ga Ma and scientify music. All that happened much later. Before Carnatic music happened, mothers have been singing to their children, lovers have been singing together and devotees have been singing to God. 🙂

  3. pn
    December 22, 2012

    R This post clearly shows your low mind set and poor knowledge of carnatic music. Who said carnatic music provides less scopfor improvizations and cannot cater to multiple moods? These artists receive very poor remuneration and you are talkingabout how well they are dressed and call the sabas rich. Your ignorance is well exhibited in your post.

    • pn
      December 22, 2012

      you said carnatic music is becoming stale and offers less scope for creativity. Utter nonsense. It is becoming stale in India due to lack of appreciation of what your culture offers. In the west we are embracing this more passionately and we use ragas to heal medical conditions in music therapy. It so unfortunate that tastes have degraded these days that you people have rarely any respect for your culture. Carnatic music is the only form that allows for creativity and manodharmam is that aspect that I am talking about. You said carnatic music can be traced to a few centuries back. However its origin is in sama veda and it was simplified and revived a few centuries back.

      • Meenakshi
        December 24, 2012

        pn, Appreciate your comment. However, least agree.
        Music therapy has been in vogue for centuries. Biblical evidence suggests that David played the harp to rid King Saul of an evil spirit. Name 2 diseases atleast that can be cured using carnatic music and cannot be healed using film music. 🙂 🙂 People who do harvesting sing folk songs to relieve themselves of pain and stress, not carnatic songs!!

        Please detail out 4 songs and compare it with film songs and talk about the imporvisations. I welcome that.

        If you really think that what you are saying is right, give facts and reasons. As of now, devoid of any reasoning, I look at your comment as the typical rant of someone who thinks that carnatic music is THE only thing in this world. All the best! 🙂 🙂

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This entry was posted on November 21, 2011 by in Entertainment, Music, Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , .

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