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A Different Track

Bollywood music for long has borne the brunt of snide remarks from discerning audiences,but then it also happens to be the ‘sound of India’,for most outsiders.

Published: January 6, 2009 2:00:20 am

Bollywood music for long has borne the brunt of snide remarks from discerning audiences,but then it also happens to be the ‘sound of India’,for most outsiders. “I shudder to think that people across the world recognise only Bollywood music,as Indian music,” says music director Shantanu Moitra,who is in town for the music release of his first Bengali venture,Antaheen. Yet,Moitra chooses to work within the system and redefine it. His score for films like Parineeta,Lage Raho Munnabhai,Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Khoya Khoya Chand are hailed as “fresh”,new and “revolutionary” even. In a chat with Premankur Biswas,Moitra reveals why he chooses to be much more than a Bollywood composer.

You started your musical career with ad jingles. Then you moved on to private albums in the late 1990s. You were an integral part of the private album scene then. But today,the private album scene in the country is quite dismal…
Actually,I would say it’s dead. The big-wigs of the Indian music industry have decided that Indian music should be all about Bollywood music. They refuse to recognise any another genre.

Do private albums sell at all? The last albums of even big groups like Euphoria haven’t done well.
Of course they do. How can you generalize? Bollywood music is popular because they are played all over at all times. I’m sure there are patrons of different genres of music,especially in a country like in India.

Tell us about Antaheen,your first Bengali film.
I was really excited about this project. Aniruddha Choudhury,the director,gave me complete freedom to do what I want. I shared a nice rapport with him.

How do you approach a film score? Do you read the script before accepting an offer?
Actually,I need to bond with the director first. If we gel then I know that we will make good music. I have seen many great scripts fail under the inept hands of a bad filmmaker.

You always compose the background score of films that you give music too…
The background score and the soundtrack make a composite whole. They are interconnected. How can I do justice to a film if I choose to be only a part of the whole?

You reunite with Rajkumar Hirani for 3 Idiots and Shoojit Sircar for Johnny Mastana…
The music of Lage Raho Munnabhai (Rajkumar Hirani) and Yahaan (Shoojit Sircar) were much appreciated,so the expectations from these films are high. Johnny Mastana has a very contemporary soundtrack,and I use a lot of world music in it. 3 Idiots was a challenge too.

Tell us about the documentary project you are working on.
It’s on folk music in India. This project combines two of my biggest passions,music and traveling. I went to the Hornbill festival in Kohima recently to capture the feel of the place. I plan to travel to different parts of the country to understand the music of the areas.

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