RAISING THE BAR

The new music directors in movie town are young,ready to experiment and breaking into the big league

Written by Pallavi Jassi | Published:March 8, 2009 4:48 pm

The new music directors in movie town are young,ready to experiment and breaking into the big league
When director Anurag Kashyap wanted the rawness of a brass band in a song in Dev.D,29-year-old composer Amit Trivedi got one straight into the studio and the result is the cult track,Emosanal atyachar. “The band had no idea about recordings or studios. We started at 6 pm and left at 3-4am the next day. I had to try different ways of getting my point across to them—writing notes,humming the tune,jamming with them just so they would feel the vibe. It was not the usual session,” he says. Suffice to say,Trivedi’s also not your usual musician. If youngsters pocketed Emosanal atyachar as their pop anthem and bonded over it on Facebook,the 17 other songs in the film showed a masterful command over a range of musical genres and announced the arrival of a rare talent. Kashyap calls the edgy,powerful soundtrack the “Bachchan” of his film; we are happy to second that.

We’re happier still to find that Trivedi is not the only young musician belting out a different sound in movie town. Listen to the rambunctious tracks of Oye Lucky,Lucky Oye and you’ll know how 25-year-old Sneha Khanwalkar gives folk music a contemporary,rakish energy in her soundtrack. Atif Aslam fans tripping on Doorie could get themselves acquainted with 27-year-old Sachin Gupta,who created the “Pakistani sound” for the album and also went on to make music for the popular Dil Kabaddi.

The industry is sitting up and taking note. “Bollywood is looking for new sounds that will break the clutter and all these young musicians are doing just that,” says producer Mukesh Bhatt. Music director Shankar Mahadevan agrees,“They are an extremely talented lot and have come up with completely different sounds that are being loved by everybody.”

What works for the newbies is that they work without a blueprint. It helps that they have directors who give them the creative freedom to be different. For example,when director Dibakar Banerjee asked Khanwalkar for a rustic sound for his film about a Delhi thief,she packed her bags and went straight to the villages of Punjab and Haryana. “The film required an out-and-out Punjabi sound. Given that I’m a Marathi,doing a Punjabi soundtrack certainly required a lot of homework. I had to figure out their humour,how they live,how they talk and how they sang ,” she says. Her search took her to all-night Ragini sessions,a form of Haryanvi folk music contests held in villages the state and which are attended mainly by men. Khanwalkar finally ended up recording a 75-year-old man Des Raj from Lachkani,a village in Punjab,who sang the track Jugni and an 11-year-old boy Rajbir,from a district near Kharak in Haryana,for the haunting Tu raja ki raj dulari.

The big break for both Trivedi and Khanwalkar has come after a fair degree of struggle. Khanwalkar came to Mumbai eight years ago from Indore,trained in Hindustani classical music in the Gwalior gharana but without a toehold in the industry. Her entry point,as with many other musicians,was advertising. She got her first break pretty fast in Ram Gopal Varma’s Go. But the film was in the works for five years and released only last year to sank without a trace.

With Oye Lucky,Khanwalkar arrived into the largely male world of Bollywood music. She agrees it wasn’t an easy job. “People wouldn’t take a girl in capris and T-shirts seriously,” she says with a laugh. “Many people are not used to having women as music directors and this makes a lot of musicians and technicians uncomfortable initially,” Khanwalkar says. She recalls an instance when a musician was so uncomfortable taking directions from her that he didn’t look at her directly. Banerjee feels otherwise. “We didn’t even realise she was a girl until you just asked me that question. When working on a film,we are all creative technicians putting different aspects together,gender doesn’t change anything,” he says.

Trivedi,too,has been a musician for over 10 years,though he was never trained as a singer. The Mumbai boy was in college in Bandra when he discovered his passion for music. He was part of a fusion band called Om for three years and even released an album,which went unnoticed.

From playing the keyboard to strumming the guitar and even singing once in a while,he started a professional career in music with a stint in advertising,which lasted for five years. It was then that he bagged a contract with Sony BMG and was asked to make music for Abhijeet Sawant’s Junoon and Prashant Tamang’s Dhanyawaad. “My journey has involved a lot of struggle,days without food and sleep just like most newcomers in Bollywood. Progressing from playing in an orchestra on dandiya nights to making jingles and albums has had its ups and downs,” he says.

Trivedi’s Bollywood debut was with Aamir,a soundtrack full of little gems like the mellow Ek lau and Ha Raham that told music-watchers he was a talent to look out for. His biggest break came when he was introduced to Kashyap by friend and singer Shilpa Rao,who knew the director was looking out for a new talent for Dev.D. The rest is musical legend.

Like Trivedi,Sachin Gupta was part of a band called Mrigya. A self-taught musician from Delhi,Gupta got lucky when Tips vice-president Rajiv Sogani heard him at a concert in London and put him in touch with Atif Aslam. “Doorie brought a so-called Pakistani sound to India at a time when (Himesh) Reshammiya’s music was getting too much to handle,” says Gupta. In 2007,he composed for a staggering 17 pop albums which featured singers like by Alisha Chinai and Apache Indian,as well as Pakistani singers like Ahmed Jehanzeb and Adeel.

In his debut film Dil Kabaddi,he wove Sufi with rock for the number Zindagi ye—a first for singer Rahat Fateh ali Khan. “That was quite an experience. Rahatji is an exceptional singer and he is used to getting into studios and wrapping up sessions pretty fast. But the rock version took a lot of work. Eventually,he ended up admitting that he had had reservations about his singing range and style,” he says. Gupta has also done the music for Jugaad and has his hands full with the forthcoming Prince of Thieves starring Viveik Oberoi. “I am young and this does not mean that success has come without hard work. The last 10 years I have eaten,slept and lived music,” he says.

Having proved that it pays to break a few rules along the way,the composers continue to look for fresh voices. “Most of the singers in Dev.D are friends with whom I had already done some songs. Like Paayaliya by Shruti Pathak,Dhol yaara dhol with Shilpa Rao,Dil mein jaagi by Anusha Mani. I have never consciously made an effort to work with established singers. I am open to new voices and since this album was so musically raw,I was keener on getting fresh voices on board,” says Trivedi.
Khanwalkar,who is busy doing the homework for her second project,a period film,says she is open to auditioning online to get the right voice. “The newness of the sound depends on the voice that is being used. It is about how interesting the vocals are,which take the song to the next level.”

The young composers also stand out from the crowd because they are clear about doing their own thing—they are working on having their own bands apart from recording for films. Though it’s been long since Trivedi left his college band,he now plans to start a band for his tours. Khanwalkar too is working on an album where she plans to do collaborations with other singers. But Gupta’s ambitions seem to be falling all in place. He has introduced a band called Ni9NE in his second film Jugaad and will be introducing another one,Rooh,with his next release,Prince of Thieves.

“The good thing is that the thin line between the pop scene and movies is dissolving,” says Khanwalkar. “The industry is a nicer place to be in now. There’s such great experimentation which is so inspiring for all the new composers,” she adds.

All he wants to do,says Trivedi,undoubtedly the most talented of the lot,is to be in his zone. “Which is to compose what the script demands. In my next project,a UTV production directed by Raj Kumar Gupta,I’m not plunging into the masala movie music. The sound is going to be on the lines of heavy metal meets Sufi.”
We will be tuning in.

Sneha Khanwalkar,25
Hit list: Oye Lucky,Lucky Oye

iTunes: Enjoys all kinds of regional music. Loves everything from RD Burman to Alanis Morissette
“The title track of Oye Lucky was brilliant. She definitely has potential,” says Vishal Dadlani

Amit Trivedi,29
Hit list: Dev.D and Aamir. Hailed as the next big thing to happen to Indian film music

iTunes: AR Rahman,Madan Mohan,RD Burman. Likes Coldplay,Beatles and Queen.
“He has come up with a great blend. Right from some whacko sounds to some brilliant jazz sounds,I am all praises,” says Shankar Mahadevan

Sachin Gupta,27
Hit list: Composed music for Atif Aslam’s Doorie,Dil Kabaddi,Jugaad

iTunes: Loves Yngwie Malmsteen and RD Burman
“His talent and will to achieve his goals will definitely take him places,” says Kailash Kher

Waiting in the wings

Dhruv Ghanekar
Claim to Fame: Composed some unusual tracks for Goldie Behl’s Drona,apart from Mera Pehla Pehla Pyar and White Noise
Up Next: A couple of untitled projects

Toshi-Sharib
Claim to Fame: The hit track Mahi ve from the film Raaz- The Mystery Continues. The duo was noticed by producer Mukesh Bhatt during their stint at a reality show. Sufi rock is their forte
Up Next: Jashn under the Bhatt camp’s Vishesh Films and Vikram Bhatt’s next untitled project

Siddharth Khosla
Claim to Fame: Member of an LA-based band named Goldspot,Khosla’s score found its way into the popular TV show The OC. His Bollywood debut is The President is Coming
Up Next: Khosla has composed the soundtrack for Sooni Taraporewala’s directorial debut Little Zizou

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