Filmi Music's Place in Bollywood Movies:
To understand filmi music, one must first understand filmi's context: the rich, lavish spectacles that are Bollywood films. These movies, often called masala films, are three hours long, containing multiple melodramatic plotlines, glitzy costumes and scenery, and over-the-top song and dance numbers. They are primarily produced in Mumbai, India, and have become one of the most popular film genres around the world.
Filmi Music - The Sound:
Filmi music is based on the sounds of Classical Indian Music, but certainly has many Western elements thrown in. Though the overall sound varies greatly from film to film, filmi songs are consistently very, very catchy, to both Eastern and Western ears.
Filmi Music and the use of Playback Singers:
A unique aspect of most Bollywood films is that the audio tracks for the films are seldom recorded live. The dialogue is recorded in a studio by the actors themselves, and overdubbed to match up with their voices. The songs, however, are primarily recorded by "playback singers", and the actors lip-synch the songs in the film itself. Many playback singers, such as legend Asha Bhosle, are more famous than most Bollywood actors, and the singers who record the filmi music for any given movie are usually a major selling point to fans.
Filmi Music Lyrics:
Though Bollywood films do tend to be quite melodramatic, filmi music lyrics are often quite beautiful and literary, drawing from classic and modern poetry. This is particularly true of Bollywood films that are produced in Hindustani, and may be less true of the small but growing number of Bollywood films that are produced in English.