After dabbling in direction, production, acting, scriptwriting, and theatre, Mahesh Manjrekar has now turned singer-songwriter for his upcoming directorial venture, City of Gold.
The movie, which will also be released in Marathi as Lalbaug Parel, is based on the life and fate of Mumbai’s mill workers, who lost their means of livelihood after mills all but shut down in the 1980s. Although the movie doesn’t have songs as part of the narrative, Manjrekar has incorporated a few numbers in the background.
“The movie isn’t a song-and-dance one, but music is an essential part of it,” Manjrekar says. “Like we have a lavani number as part of the title credits. ‘Lavani’ shows were the only source of entertainment for mill workers at the time. They used to go to Hanuman Theatre to watch them.
“There’s also a Marathi poem in the background of an important scene, because I felt poetry could best explain the plight of mill workers. And there’s a promotional number, which I’ve sung,” he smiles.
Manjrekar says he was amused when the composer of the movie, Ajit Parab, asked him to sing on the title track. Parab, incidentally, is the son of an ex-mill worker.
“We call out-of-tune singers as ‘Aurangazeb singers’,” Manjrekar laughs. “I wouldn’t say I’m as bad as an ‘Aurangazeb singer’, but I’m definitely no singer. I just sang because I feel if you do anything confidently, and from your heart, it turns out well.”
This is not the first tryst with music for the director of acclaimed movies like Vaastav and Astitva, with music. Manjrekar had earlier sung a full-fledged song in his movie Pyaar Kiya Nahin Jaata, which never saw the light of the day. He also sang a few lines in his big screen acting debut, Kaante.
“In fact, I started my career as a theatre actor, along with Sachin Khedekar, with a musical play called Aflatoon, where I sang quite a bit,” Manjrekar, who cites Kishore Kumar as his favourite singer, recalls. “So ,,singing isn’t alien to me, but over the years, because of the constant abuse of smoking that I’ve put my throat through, my voice doesn’t sound as good.
“Earlier, I could even control my breath while singing. I still managed to wrap up this song in an hour though,” he grins proudly.
Manjrekar has also rapped for the movie, but explains that keeping the social theme of the movie in context, the rap has serious lyrics. “We are slowly losing the city’s culture,” Manjrekar laments. “Flats are being sold for 1 lakh per square feet even though the poor can’t even afford one meal in the day. It’s an inhuman and insulting display of wealth, and I wanted my movie’s title City of Gold, as well as the title song to reflect that. The song is about how we are pushing the middle class out of the city.”
More to come
Though the movie is hitting the screens in two languages – Hindi and Marathi – the songs of the movie remain the same in both versions. “The lavani song wouldn’t have sounded right in Hindi, so we retained the Marathi version,” he explains. “Even the poetry has more impact in Marathi. The promotional song is a mix of English, Marathi and Hindi in both versions.”
Manjrekar has also penned the lyrics for the movie, and wants to continue writing lyrics for his upcoming movies. “I really enjoyed the process of writing,” he smiles. “I find songs today very fake. I can’t write according to the meter, but I can write from my heart.
“I’m quite happy with the lyrics I have written for the promotional numbers. But for the remix of the ‘lavani’ song, whatever I’ve written is rubbish,” he laughs.
The director, who also took part in a dance reality show a few years ago, is not opposed to taking part in a singing reality show now. “But only if they let me train for a few months before the competition,” he asserts.
City of Gold
Starring Satish Kaushik, Sachin Khedekar, Seema Biswas, and Anusha Dandekar, City Of Gold is based on the plight and apathy faced by mill workers after their means of livelihood was taken away in the 1980s. It is also an account of the birth of Mumbai’s crime underbelly.