Indian ragas gave birth to the iconic theme tune of James Bond 007 films

Most of us have watched James Bond films. And we have also heard the iconic theme tune that introduces Bond to the audience. The tune is full of suspense and foreboding. But not many people know that the memorable tune has its origins in a work of fiction connected with Indian culture. The man who first wrote the tune was a British composer, musician and singer named Monty Norman. He wrote the tune for the very first Bond film titled Dr. No and thereafter it was used, sometimes with slight variations, in every James Bond film.

As the Bond films grew in popularity throughout the world, the tune became one of the most recognised themes on the planet. What makes the James Bond theme so appealing is its ability to evoke a sense of excitement and danger. The pounding rhythm and gradually soaring melody create a sense of excitement and anticipation, hinting at the fast paced action sequences that are to follow on the screen.

Monty Norman

Monty Norman has said that the James Bond tune was inspired by “Good Sign, Bad Sign”, a song that he himself composed for a musical stage adaptation of V.S. Naipaul’s novel A House For Mr. Biswas. The novel was set among the Indian community in Trinidad. In brief, the story was about a man named Mohun Biswas, an Indian living in Trinidad, who has married into a wealthy family but ends up being dominated by his in-laws.

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When Monty Norman was approached to compose a song for the stage show of the novel, the composer decided to rely heavily on an Indian theme and ambience. Since the story was about the Indian community settled in Trinidad, he composed a tune with a very heavy Indian influence and sound complete with sitar and tabla. The song was titled Good Sign, Bad Sign.

Later, when Monty Norman was roped in to compose the theme for the first James Bond film, he suddenly had a bright idea of presenting the same tune with a few minor changes.

But even after the changes, Monty Norman’s tune sounded too Indian and the producers felt that it may not be appreciated by a worldwide audience. So they requested another composer named John Barry Prendergast to rearrange the tune. So John Barry made a few more changes and it clicked. It was then included as the theme in the first Bond film titled Dr.No starring Sean Connery and Ursula Andress. The film became a blockbuster and Connery shot to fame as the master spy James Bond, secret agent 007.

After the runaway success of Dr.No, Barry was hired to compose and perform eleven of the next fourteen James Bond films and he did so with great success. So that is how a tune which was originally based on Indian ragas became one of the most popular theme tunes in the Hollywood film industry and was also recognised and welcomed by millions of James Bond fans across the world.

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