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January 31, 2013 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-01-31

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2B - Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Michigan Daily┬░- michigandaily.com

Indispensible
music of
Bollywood

t aont e all ny inxm t a
studying literature, or art or the
humanities serves any practical
purpose whatsoever," said Enoch
Brater, University English and
Theatre professor and Kenneth T.
Rowe Collegiate Professor of Dra-
matic Literature. "What it-does do
is open your mind in a way that
will stay with you for the rest of
your life."
There are many different ways
to define art - music, drama,
literature, painting, sculpture,
dance ... the list is conceivably
endless. However, few people
have had a career as prolific as
Brater, who has made an art form
out of art appreciation itself. As a
renowned scholar of playwrights
Samuel Beckett and Arthur Mill-
er, he has spent the past 37 years
explaining the unique artistry of
Beckett, Miller and the epony-
mous Shakespeare to University
students and academia at large.
He has also had seven books pub-

lished about these playwrights, as
well as countless essays and chap-
ters printed in other anthologies.
"Drama is a collaborative art.
Writing as a collaborator, as a,
director, as an actor, as a scene
designer, you become part of a
group when you write a play," he
explained. "I find that dynamic
very alive, very human, very open,
with lots and lots of potential."
Brater majored in English at
New York University and even-
tually moved on to Harvard Uni-
versity. There, he was a jack of all
trades, earning a Ph.D in English
and also participating in the Har-
vard Dramatic Club, directing
and acting with famed perform-
ers, including John Lithgow and
Tommy Lee Jones. He also found
time to learn French, Italian
and Spanish, though he said this
almost as an afterthought to his
other accomplishments.
"I did lots of acting and direct-
ing, butI was always surrounded
by a group of people who were
much more talented then I was,"
Brater admitted with a laugh.
"Of course, they went on to have
huge careers in the theater and
film, and I became a professor of
drama."
* Though he has had the oppor-
tunity to teach at both Harvard
and University of Pennsylvania,
his enthusiasm for Michigan is
refreshing.
"Michigan is great. I cannot
imagine having a career for so
long at another university. Mich-
igan has a lot of self-confidence

. . ... ... .

For months, I've been
singing the praises of
Bollywood musicals, so
it's high time I focused on one
indispensable aspect: music. It's
as integral
to the Indian -
film industry
as cameras or
actors - even
if they aren't
full-blown
musical
numbers, PROMA
the music in KHOSLA
Bollywood
movies is as
distinct and
lasting as the films themselves.
The relationship between
music and movies in India stems
from a long and ancient tradition
of intertwined art forms. Stu-
dents of Indian classical dance
cannot complete their training
without basic knowledge of act-
ing (abhinaya) and instrumental
music. Time and key signatures
change between dance styles and
individual pieces, creating a rep-
ertoire that is far more diverse to
a trained viewer.
Similarly, Indian actors could
never get by on basic theater
knowledge and good looks (theo-
retically); they must be able to
dance and bring true life to the
choreography they are given -
often with an equally talented
ensemble backingthem up.
The Bollywood film at its fin-
est is a showcase of the bestblend
of Indian art forms. Accolades go
(as in the West) to the director,
producer, cast and crew - but
also to choreographers, compos-
ers, art directors and lyricists.
Film soundtracks are the
equivalent of mainstream music
in the United States. Knowing
songs from the new movie "Stu-
dent of the Year" is the Indian
equivalent of having heard the
new Justin Timberlake single.
I'm less informed if I miss a
soundtrack; I've missed a pop-
culture moment and need to
catch up right away to stay cool."
I grew up with Bollywood
music and, for close to a decade,
was almost determinedly
unaware of any other genres. I
wouldn't get into the car with my
parents without the latest movie
soundtrack, and we still have an
enviable collection of Bollywood
cassettes collecting dust in a
prominent display in our base-
ment.
Up until the past decade,
Bollywood music was almost
universally of the highest stan-
dard. Even the worst films had
excellent music, and it's not
uncommon for songs to outlast
the movies which debuted them.
For instance, even my generation
knows 1993's provocative "Choli
Ke Peechhe Kya Hai" ("What
is behind my blouse"), but I'm
willingto bet a sizable amount of
rupees that none of us have seen
its parent film "Khalnayak" -
let alone heard of it. "Chhaiyya

Chhaiyya" is probablythe most
salient Bollywood song of my
lifetime (so far) but I've never
seen more than five minutes of
"Dil Se" - and it's usuallythe five
minutes surrounding the song.
For outstanding films, the
soundtrack takes on a life of its
own in prolongingthe work's
longevity. The only reason I
have a special place in my heart
for "Hum Aapke Hai Kaun" is
because of the countless hours
spent in my living room danc-
ing to "Didi Tera Devar" with
my best friend when we were
four. "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" is
still one of my favorite films and
whenever one of its songs comes
up on iTunes shuffle I just cry
and laugh (craugh) and have to
let the whole thing play out. I
don't think I can watch the movie
without singing along, and I cer-
tainly can't sing along without
making every facial expression
demanded.
Yet as with so many other
aspects of Bollywood movies,
music has taken a hit over the
past 10 years with the rapid
confusion of modernization
and Westernization. The semi-
classical basis of composers like
A.R. Rahman have been replaced
by techno-pop beats and music
designed for the "discos" (Bolly-
woodseverely overestimates the
prevalence of disco in the West).
Beautiful lyrics penned by poets
like Javed Akhtar and Gulzar are
replaced by directors' requests
for random English lyrics, rap
interludes and phrases like "Rock
the dance floor" and "Party on
my mind."
Leave the disco
balls at home.
The reason I mentioned
"Student of the Year" earlier
is because, in a year severely
lacking good Hindi songs, this
entire soundtrack was enter-
taining and original without
pandering to the audience Bol-
lywood thinks it wants. There
are sporadic English lyrics, but
nothing that takes itself too seri-
ously. Each song is distinct and
doesn't blur into the sound of
others, but they lend themselves
perfectly to a mash-up, which I
unfailingly listen to every day.
New or old, Bollywood music
still comforts me just as the
films do. The songs evoke mem-
ories of my favorite movies and
where I was when I saw them,
or remind me how much I love
dancing and acting along with
these stories. When ISplay a Bol-
lywood song, I get to be part of
the magic, and for five minutes,
real life can wait.
Khosla is craughing. To
offer her a tissue , e-mail
pkhosla@umich.edu.

I
4

MARLENE LACASSE/Daily
Brater considers the arts as a tool for connecting with others.

about itself," he said. "There is
no pretension here that you still
have in the Ivy League. And that
can get in the way of learning."
Brater continued that he
appreciates how his profound
love of learning (as a self-pro-
fessed, life-long nerd) is reflect-
ed with such enthusiasm and
engagement in University stu-
dents.
"One of the things that I
learned when I first came to
Michigan that impressed me
about Michigan students is that
if they don't know something,
they will raise their hand and
ask you."
His extended dedication to
the University has also afforded
him many enviable opportuni-
ties, in particular the chance to
foster a personal relationship
with Arthur Miller, celebrated

playwright and alum.
"Arthur Miller was an
extremely unpretentious person,"
Brater said. "He would talk to the
President or the street cleaner in
the same way. And I admire that
lack of pretension, I think it's a
remarkable thing."
Brater illustrates an incred-
ible part of attending the Univer-
sity. As students from very diverse
backgrounds and academic cul-
tures, we have the valuable oppor-
tunity of learning from professors
who have personal relationships,
with the very subjects they are
teaching about. Brater believes
this opportunity goes both ways.
"The idea of sharing one's
interest and enthusiasm with very
bright and enthusiastic young stu-
dents is terrific. There is nothing
like it."
-NATALIE GADBOIS

0'

Fox
sd-alone characters. Having
dy jump out of the ceiling
sot the way. Yes, the creepy
gar Allen 'Poe masks finally
ke an appearance, but, like
rest of the episode, elicit
re laughs than shrieks.
-AKSHAYSETH

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