Book: Sounding Funny
Chapter: A Special Flavour: Comic Song Scenes in the Hindi Cinema
This study examines music’s potential for highlighting or amplifying the behavioural or verbal exaggerations and departures from the norm that are essential to the production of humour. It engages with the semiotic ambiguities of musical sound and the relations between sound, text and image as these occur and are exploited in the song scenes of the Hindi cinema. Because song scenes occupy a distinctly non-linear position in the linear narratives of the cinema, these scenes are primary sites for the production of humour. The study focuses on three specific issues. First, I examine the sonic process of musical detail in the production of comedy. How does musical sound reinforce comic meanings produced by image and text? I argue that musical sound has inherent limitations in the Hindi cinema’s comic song scenes, but also that comedy’s extra-normal nature is enabled by the conventions surrounding those scenes. Second, and in addition to these inherently structural issues, the study considers the special relationship that comedy in Hindi song scenes has with representations of gender, social class and character type: Comic song scenes are narrative location in which a ranged of potentially “othered” social categories may be constructed as objects of laughter. Finally I suggest that comic song scenes shift between laughter as dramatic representation, experienced sympathetically by the audience, and as an audience response to an objective incongruity.