Is the Bollywood Song Dead?

Indian music is seeing a significant shift from film songs to those of independent artists. For some, it’s about time. For others, it’s an existential threat.

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Diljit Dosanjh performs at Coachella weekend one on April 15, 2023 (Christina House / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Ashritha Karuturi


May 18, 2023

The biggest Hindi film of 2023 (so far) did something that most directors would be shaking in their chairs to do: it had only two songs during its two-and-a-half-hour-long runtime. For decades, Bollywood has used multiple songs — usually at least five — as marketing materials, ensuring radios played them for months ahead of time, to pique people’s interest and enthusiasm to buy that ticket to watch the first day, first show. Today, the equivalent is launching the music video months ahead on YouTube. And that’s exactly what Pathaan did, racking up over 430 million views for “Besharam Rang” and over 510 million views for “Jhoome Jo Pathaan” to date.

As Bollywood songs continue to rack up views, however, music executives have observed yet another phenomenon: the rise of independent South Asian artists. From the likes of Diljit Dosanjh, Joy Crookes, and Ali Sethi performing at Coachella to former U.S. President Barack Obama listing Prateek Kuhad on his annual summer playlist and singer Arooj Aftab winning a Grammy, Hindi film songs no longer seem as dominant as they once did, perhaps snuffing out competition. And so, a race has begun to bottle up this future talent. Could the next Bad Bunny come from India?

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