July 10, 2002 
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Shah Rukh Khan
Music to the ears?
Why the music industry is counting on Devdas' success

Vivek Fernandes

Everything about Devdas is big --- the star cast, the lavish sets, the designer costumes, the music.

Naturally, for India's biggest film, ever, the soundtrack has a vital role to play. Which is why Devdas' music scored by Ismail Durbar, featuring Kavita Subramaniam, Shreya Ghoshal, Udit Narayan, Jaspinder Narula, KK, Vinod Rathod and Birju Maharaj, was reportedly bought by Universal Music at a whopping Rs 120 million.

The film itself, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali --- starring Indian cinema's hottest stars Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai, and produced by diamond merchant Bharat Shah --- cost Rs 500 million. Released April, the soundtrack received fairly good reviews.

Universal Music's Vice President Vinay Sapru is unwilling to confirm the amount the label purchased the music rights to the film, saying it is "unethical" to disclose the amount. But he says, "Though Devdas has not been 'flier', it still is the largest seller at most outlets around the country. Even internally, Devdas is bigger than any of the other releases we have had, including Sur.

    All about Devdas
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Binod Pradhan on Devdas
'Madhuri's look enthralls'
Neeta Lulla dresses Ash
Writer of Roy's Devdas
Vyjayanthimala speaks
Dilip Kumar on Devdas
Devdas in NY
Bhansali at Cannes
Ash steals the spotlight
Shades from Devdas' saga
On the sets of Devdas
Madhuri Dixit on Devdas
Jackie Shroff on Devdas
The music review

"Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a musical director. Maar dala and Dola re are not regular popcorn fare of the You are my Sonia variety. Audiences must have a reference to context when it comes to Devdas' music score. That is why they will come to the big screens," Sapru states.

Devdas, has meant good business for Mehmood Cormally, director, Rhythm House, a music outlet in Mumbai who says the album has been one of their highest sellers. "The music has been doing very well, but that is not much to go by considering the depressed scenario of the Hindi film music market. Though the soundtrack features at Number 1 position on our inhouse Hindi film compilations, the appeal seems urban so I expect it will a big seller only in the metros. Though Ismail Durbar's compositions are good, it does not have the mass appeal of, say, a Dil Toh Pagal Hai or Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.

"We all know the music was sold for huge sums. As for returns on investment, it does not have to boil down only to sales. There must be other spin-off payments the music company might be receiving," he adds .

Commenting on the other more recent releases like Mujhe Dosti Karoge, Sur and Viva, Cormally says three or four concurrent hits at the same time come as good news to the industry. Though the sales now have been steady, once the film releases, he says sales could rise, dependent of course on the success of the film and more importantly the picturisation of its songs.

A view that is shared by Sameer Rajput, purchase manager at Groove, a music store chain. "Devdas has slipped to number two this week after almost seven weeks at top spot. It was dethroned by Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai, which climbed up to Number 1 only after its release. So far the music of Devdas has sold on the strength of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, just as Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai banked on the Yash Chopra banner before its release. However, I have a strong premonition that sales will surge once the film hits theatres Friday."

Shah Rukh Khan Universal is sure the film's release will see a rise in sales figures. "Usually, 70 per cent of the gross sales of any album comes only after the release of the film, subject to its success, of course. If the film flops, sales plummet on the opening day itself. But with Devdas, we surely have a winner," says Sapru.

"Devdas fits into the semi-classical genre of music and though it does not have mass appeal, it has been lapped up by a number of NRIs. The holiday season of May-June saw a number of foreigners frequent the store and as CDs were priced at a very reasonable Rs 99, there were times when people bought dozens of copies of the soundtrack to gift colleagues and friends," Rajput says.

On online radio portal's Top 10, Maar dala featuring K K and Kavita Subramaniam makes it to top three. It also occupies third position on the Bollywood Top 10 chart.

"We have been selling the title for around two months now. During this time, we have sold a little over 5,000 units across cassettes and CDs. Devdas has been on top of our charts for the last month," says merchandising manager Sanjay Varma of the Bangalore-based, one of the country's leading e-commerce portals.

"On a more subjective note, the sales have decreased a little compared to a month ago. The audiences are cautiously awaiting the release. If the film clicks, we could see a surge," he adds.

Madhuri Dixit Rajeev Chaurasia, Associate Director, Programming & TAR, MTV India says, "Devdas has been Number 1 on the MTV India charts for the last 14 weeks, and continues to do well. It is as someone aptly put it, 'like slow poison', which grows on you gradually. Once the film is released, the music sales will have another spike of activity, we are sure. The music is outstanding, with a huge classical influence. Shreya Ghoshal's rendition Bairi piya is brilliant. Another visual treat is the jugalbandi between Aishwarya and Madhuri in the song Dola re, which is very popular," she says.

MTV has supported the film in India through music airplay and exclusive special programming all through June and July. "As part of a special tie-up with the film producer and music label, there is an unusually high proportion of the music time devoted to Devdas music on MTV (on an average 10-12 times a day). In addition to specially created vignettes on the 'behind the scenes' of this magnum opus, there is a special program on the director, contests on MTV shows and meet and greet with Shah Rukh Khan," Chaurasia says.


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