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Celebrate World music Day with these films where musicality was the thematic keynote

films where musicality was the thematic keynote

In films like Music Teacher, Rock On!!, Aashiqui 2, Rockstar, and Secret Superstar, music was a protagonist and not just a soundtrack

Be it Bharat Bhushan playing a passionate musician in ‘Baiju Bawra’ (1952) and ‘Basant Bahaar’ (1956) or Rajendra Kumar playing an instrumentalist to the tune of Bismillah Khan in ‘Goonj Uthi Shehnai’ (1959) or Gopi Krishna and Sandhya leading a dance-centric musical ‘Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje’ (1955), music has been the heart and soul of Hindi cinema. In films like ‘Abhimaan’, ‘Sur’ and ‘Saaz’, it also became the source of conflict. This World Music Day, how about watching some films where music ran in the veins of the protagonists and was a major plot point and not just a soundtrack?

Music Teacher

This pensive Yoodlee production and Sarthak Dasgupta directorial is about love that is forged over a common passion for music till success and failure divide the lovers and put them on separate paths. Laced with nostalgia, longing, and the lasting sweetness of RD Burman’s ditties like ‘Rimjhim Gire Saawan’ and ‘Phir Wahi Raat Hai’, the 2019 film depicts how the relationship between a music teacher Beni (Manav Kaul) and his student and love interest, Jyotsna (Amrita Bagchi) is impacted after she wins a singing contest and moves to Mumbai. After being turned down when she asks him to marry her, Jyotsna breaks all ties with Beni and both are forced to live unfulfilled lives with only the memories of unfinished songs still lingering between them. The film’s non-linear narrative was ably suited by Kaushik Mondal’s stunning shots of the Himalayas. Rochak Kohli’s music was also a major highlight of the film apart from the performances of Manav Kaul, Amrita Bagchi, Neena Gupta, and Divya Dutta. This story of how the inherent power of love rises above ambition is streaming on Netflix.

Rock On!!

This 2008 film was Farhan Akhtar’s acting debut and revolved around a group of friends united by their common love of music. Aditya ( Akhtar), Joseph/Joe (Arjun Rampal), Rob Nancy (Luke Kenny), and Kedar Zaveri KD (Purab Kohli) play small-time gigs as members of the musical band, Magik. Things change and misunderstandings erupt when the band wins competition on Channel V. They lose their contract and also their friendship. The estranged friends tread their own paths without any contentment or joy and ten years down the lane, fate brings them together again to recreate the lost magic to become the country’s leading band. Directed by Abhishek Kapoor and produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, the film has traces of the 2007 South Korean hit, ‘A Happy Life’ and its musical score by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy was a chartbuster with songs like ‘Pichle Saat Dino Mein’ and ‘Socha Hai’. ‘Rock On!!’ won seven Filmfare awards and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime/Netflix.

Aashiqui 2

Based on the timeless premise of ‘A Star is Born’, this romantic musical blends elements of love, pain, tragedy, and musicality in a compelling mix. Released in 2013, the film follows Rahul Jaykar (Aditya Roy Kapur), a fading singing star’s descent into alcoholism, infamy, and doom where the only silver lining is his chance meeting with an aspiring singer, Aarohi (Shraddha Kapoor) in a bar. Moved by her pure passion for music, he promises her a singing career. After a lot of miscommunications and confusion, Rahul starts mentoring Aarohi, and the two fall in love and decide to live together. But Rahul’s inner demons and Aarohi’s rising stardom take their toll on the relationship and soon, a tragic end becomes inevitable. Songs like ‘Tum Hi Ho’ and ‘Sunn Raha Hai’ became youth anthems and won several awards for their composition, lyrics, and vocals. This highest-grossing movie of the year was directed by Mohit Suri and produced by Vishesh Films and T-Series. It can be watched on Amazon Prime.


The mysticism of Sufi music, and the energy of rock blend in the magical AR Rahman score for this 2011 romantic musical drama. Directed by Imtiaz Ali, it went on to win over 47 awards in various categories, in India and abroad and traces the rise of a simple boy, Janardan (Ranbir Kapoor) from the unlit lanes of Delhi to the international spotlight. Struggling to emulate Jim Morrison in a music career that hasn’t yet taken off, Janardhan meets a Kashmiri girl, Heer (Nargis Fakhri ) at a college festival and proposes to her. The two develop a friendship and a bond that even transcends time and space when he becomes famous and she gets married and moves abroad. Transformed by anger, grief, and loss, Janardhan turns into Jordan, an ‘angry rockstar’ who eventually gains international recognition like his idol but still keeps craving for love. The film has gathered a cult following over time and its music remains timeless to date. Produced by Eros International and Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision Ltd, this musical drama can be watched on Amazon Prime and Zee5.

Secret Superstar

While addressing multiple issues like domestic violence, feminism, and patriarchal oppression, ‘Secret Superstar’ shows the struggle of a 15-year-old girl Insia Malik (Zaira Wasim) as she tries to pursue her passion for music in a conservative household. Her love for music makes her upload YouTube videos under the veil of anonymity so that her father, Farooq Malik ( Raj Arjun) does not identify her. Her talent is however spotted by Mumbai-based music director Shakthi Kumar (Aamir Khan) who invites her to come to Mumbai. This seems impossible as Insia and her mother Najma (Meher Vij) live regimented lives and are often subjected to domestic violence. The film shows how music empowers the submissive Insia and how in turn her mother also decides to become bold and courageous to support her daughter’s ambitions. Directed by debutant director Advait Chandan, the 2017 film was produced by Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao. The film’s music also won various awards. It can be watched on Netflix.