Heard Music

Sync Licensing Sours: “Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” Misses The Beat

Dharma Productions is back with a bang, and this time it’s bringing the enchanting melodies of yesteryears to the forefront. In Karan Johar’s latest film ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’, we witness the attempted revival of old Bollywood songs through sync licensing. This strategic collaboration between Dharma Productions and the renowned music label SaReGaMa was meant to breathe new life into the iconic tracks that once ruled the hearts of millions – but did it? Let’s dive into the world of sync licensing and discover how – and if – it transformed the musical landscape of this film.

The Melodic Journey: Something Old, Something New, Something Meh. 

Director Karan Johar and composer Pritam’s vision for ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ was to transport the audience back to the golden ages; characterised by evergreen romantic melodies, heartfelt lyrics, and LPs (long play), that were once cherished possessions for music lovers. To achieve this, they sync licensed various timeless tracks that have shaped the landscape of Hindi cinema for decades. The film  weaves perhaps too many of these songs into its narrative, creating moments of reminiscence, but also randomness. 

Most of the licensed songs in the film set the scene for Dharmendra’s character’s imaginative reminiscing and silent, floundering appeals of love, and are quite adorable in their earnestness. Unfortunately, most of them devolve quickly into quirky, modern remixes of the original, which really distracts from the overall romantic setting. 

One virtue I really wish the filmmakers followed is “less is more”. Quite early into the film, one gets the sense of an absolute hodge-podge of vintage songs, starting so randomly that they are barely recognisable! They seem to have left the emotional development of the characters’ relationships almost entirely up to various heart-touching hits from the past, with the songs saying everything that the storyline didn’t bother to.

The melodies of ‘Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar,’ ‘Yeh Shaam Mastani’, ‘Do Dil Mil Rahe Hai’, ‘Aaja Meri Gaadhi Mein Bhaith Jaa’, ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’,  and more resonate many, many times throughout the movie, evoking a hard-earned sense of familiarity and celebration. But probably the biggest crime this film commits is the lipsyncing – it is diabolically laughable at best. Every character gets their moment of breaking into song mid-sentence, and absolutely butchering whichever well-loved melody they try so triumphantly to exalt. 

The soundtrack of ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ relies so heavily on a sound of the yesteryears that even the movie’s main theme song sounds like a jingle straight out of a 90s soap opera; or worse, a washing powder Nirma-esque ad campaign. Reprised old songs made up the majority of even the background score of the film, and no matter how heartwarming, the film really did seem like it had no soundscape of its own. 

One of the true highlights of the film is the song ‘What Jhumka?’, a clever reinterpretation of the iconic song ‘Jhumka Gira Re’ from the 1966 movie ‘Mera Saaya’. Pritam Chakraborty and his team have managed to give a fresh spin to this beloved melody, making it as catchy as it is annoying. Another beautiful musical scene is Ranveer Singh and Tota Roy Chouwdhury’s kathak routine to ‘Dola Re Dola’ – you’d never guess they’re both novices to the dance style! That was definitely the highlight of the film to me, appearing as a flawless and captivating sync choice in a very visually satisfying setting. 

The Resonance and Importance of Sync Licensing in Bollywood

While Bollywood is no stranger to tapping into the nostalgia of vintage tracks, ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ takes it perhaps one step too far. They’ve fashioned the soundscape of the film into a jumbled jukebox musical, by licensing a plethora of memorable, iconic Bollywood melodies that try to say too much – and subsequently, end up saying nothing.

The collaboration between Dharma Productions and SaReGaMa was announced in 2021, creating a buzz among Bollywood enthusiasts. This partnership signifies a strategic union of two cinematic entities that goes beyond business – it is a deeply emotional investment for Karan Johar. As far as the public knows, there was no money exchanged because instead of selling Dharma Productions the rights to use ‘Jhumka Gira Re’ and then charging them the usual exorbitant sync licensing fee, SaReGaMa smartly acquired the entire album of ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’. This is a prudent purchase because now the company has a hot-selling film album plus they can give a fresh lease of life to the original written by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan. 

Sync licensing in Bollywood has the power to showcase the collaboration between filmmakers and music labels in creating a cinematic experience that resonates with audiences on a deeper level. It can bridge the gap between generations, introducing younger audiences to the timeless melodies that shaped the cultural fabric of India. ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ failed to do so as well as we all expected, taking too much advantage of this business barter and letting that outshine the creative intent of the deal.

Fortunately for audiences, there’s yet hope for Dharma and SaReGaMa, as their partnership is set to continue; with SaReGaMa securing music rights for upcoming Dharma Productions releases, including Ajay Devgn’s highly anticipated film ‘Maidaan’.