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World Music Day: How Imtiaz Ali used songs as a narrative tool in Tamasha, Rockstar and Jab We Met

While Hindi films are widely known for their song-and-dance sequences, not every filmmaker has the understanding to use film music as a narrative tool. Imtiaz Ali is one of the exceptions.
World Music Day: How Imtiaz Ali used songs as a narrative tool in Tamasha, Rockstar and Jab We Met
Tamasha: How Imtiaz Ali uses music as a narrative tool in his films
  • Sweta Kaushal
  • Hindustan Times

Last Updated: 01.46 AM, Jun 21, 2021

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Bollywood has been synonymous with song-and-dance for a long time. While it began as a take-off from our ancient folk tradition of telling stories through songs, the songs soon became more of a readymade element for promoting films.

Imtiaz Ali is one of the few filmmakers who use music as a means to propagate the narrative, and not just as "masala" that can help sell his films. The music of many films is so distinct, they can help you identify with the movie's theme. This World Music Day, we explore how Imtiaz Ali weaves his stories, with the help of his songs.

Songs in Imtiaz's films, Rockstar, for instance, do not have visuals that make for a sale-able "music video". Perhaps, because musical promotion is not the intention of the filmmaker. The visuals show progress in the film, and the lyrics take us on the emotional journeys of the characters.

For many of his films, Imtiaz has worked with composer AR Rahman and lyricist Irshad Kamil. Together, they create film music that helps in the narrative of the movie, and, are also memorable independently. A look at how Imtiaz used music in three of his most popular films:

Jab We Met

The film that brought Imtiaz to the limelight (his first film, Socha Na Tha, did not quite bring him fame at the time), traced the life of a happy-go-lucky girl and the troubles she faces. The chirp and charm of Kareena Kapoor's now-famous character Geet are evident in songs like Nagada Nagada. The emotional journey of the lead characters is also traced through songs.

It is easier to fall into the trap of promotional songs, especially when it is a happy and peppy number. However, Imtiaz ensures that his songs also take the narrative forward and do not serve as a break from his story flow on the screen.


Starring Ranbir Kapoor in the titular role, Rockstar is a film about a singer and Imtiaz aptly uses the songs to take his narrative . Through songs like Sheher Mein and Nadaan Parinde, the filmmaker takes us through the emotional arc of his protagonist.


From Matargashti to Agar Tum Saath ho, Imtiaz used the music for the film to accentuate the emotional and sufi aura around Tamasha that featured Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor in lead roles.