The Bombay film music industry has been dominated by male music composers for the past eight decades. In this essay, the author explores the work of Sneha Khanwalkar, a young female music director who has brought forward new sound practices on popular television in India and in Bombay cinema. Instead of working in Bombay studios, Khanwalkar prefers to step out into the “field,” carving out dense acoustic territories using portable recording technologies. Her field studio becomes an unlimited space as readers see her backpacking, collecting sounds and musical phrases, and, finally, working with the material she has collected. Khanwalkar's collaborative approach to musical sound has challenged genre boundaries between film music and folk music on the one hand and the oral and the recorded on the other. Her radical intervention in sound and music brings together unexplored spatialities, voices, bodies, and machines by foregrounding the process of citation, recording, and digital reworking. Through an exploration of Khanwalkar's work, involving travel, mobility, and a prosthetic extension of the body through the microphone, the author brings into discussion emerging practices that have expanded the aural boundaries of the Bombay film song.
Backpacking Sounds: Sneha Khanwalkar and the “New” Soundtrack of Bombay Cinema
Shikha Jhingan is an associate professor at the Department of Cinema Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her research focuses on music and the technologies of sound dispersal across diverse media platforms. She has published articles in the journals Seminar and Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies. Jhingan is a founding member of Media-storm, an independent women's filmmaking collective formed in Delhi in 1986, and her documentary films include Health Matters, Living through Performance, and Born to Sing. She also codirected The Power of the Image, a twelve-part documentary series on Bombay cinema.
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Shikha Jhingan; Backpacking Sounds: Sneha Khanwalkar and the “New” Soundtrack of Bombay Cinema. Feminist Media Histories 1 October 2015; 1 (4): 71–88. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2015.1.4.71
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