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From indie musicians to B-Town music directors

india Updated: Sep 10, 2011 14:50 IST
Nikhil Hemrajani
Nikhil Hemrajani
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Delhi’s Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj, collectively known as Midival Punditz (MP), are quite popular in the Indian electronic music circuit. Along with New York-based long-time collaborator Karsh Kale (KK), they’ve even composed background scores for Bollywood films like Karthik Calling Karthik (2010) and Dum Maaro Dum (2011).

Now, having taken on the role of music directors for soon-to-be-released film Soundtrack, the trio talk about this interesting turn in their music career.

This is the first time you guys are becoming music directors for a Bollywood film…
KK: The main difference between composing the background score and composing the entire soundtrack tends to be time. But the work itself entails doing what we have been doing for years, both individually and together, ie. writing and composing songs. The background score is challenging as each project forces us into new and unexplored musical territories.
Gaurav: Soundtrack is the story of a DJ and so it has a lot of music, which ties the movie together. So, we needed to address many different moods and moments in the film. Neerav (Ghosh), the film’s director, had pre-selected a bunch of tracks, and it was our job to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Is there a significant shift donning this new role and is personal creativity hampered in any manner?
KK: We have been lucky that so far our experience of working with Indian film directors has been a satisfying one. I think it is a mistake getting into a film expecting to solely satisfy your own personal style. Each film is different and, like actors, we must adapt to new roles too.
Tapan: Well, if you are working with a director who gives you creative freedom to do what you feel is correct for that scene then it’s not hampered at all. Neerav gave us all that. Of course, we needed to remember the audience of the film and decided to keep a certain level of accessibility in the music. We consciously decided to not make it too ‘out there’.

Did you take musical references from the original Canadian film, It’s All Gone, Pete Tong, on which Soundtrack is based? What’s this film’s defining sound?
Karsh: We did watch the film to see how the music played a particular role within the character’s subconscious mind. But stylistically, both the film and the music of Soundtrack are quite different. It is specific to the DJ world in India.
Tapan: Since the story of the film is about a DJ’s life, the album predominantly falls under the dance and club genre. But in order to highlight different moments that showcase the protagonist going through a bad phase in his life, we’ve used a softer soundscape. So we have thoughtful songs such as Naina Laagey… and a re-produced version of the Kishore Kumar classic, Yeh Jeevan Hai…

This is the nth collaboration between MP and Karsh Kale. What makes you guys work with each other over and over?
KK: Gaurav, Tapan and I have been through 12 years of collaborating, creating albums, live bands, scoring films and helping each other reach our individual goals. It takes time to become a well-oiled machine and though you have three very stubborn and opinionated artists working together, we have all learned to pick our battles, and as they say ‘lay our pistols down’, so the work always gets done.

There seems to be a rising trend of featuring indie artistes in Bollywood by reusing their existing tracks and passing it off as new for films. For instance, Bhayanak Maut’s Unleashed in the film Shaitan. This time it’s Ankur Tewari’s song Jannat, which he released last year, and Papon’s Banao. Is this fair?
Tapan: Of course, every director has the right to choose any song that suits the sensibility of the film. Many Hollywood directors do that too. In fact, the two Danny Boyle films that AR Rahman has worked as music director – Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours – have used previously released songs in the soundtrack because they fit so well in the scene of the film.

Do you think Bollywood music’s sound is changing thanks to inroads by indie artistes?
Karsh: I do not think that this is the ‘evolution of Bollywood’ in any way. The evolution will come when it is not always referred to as one big industry. While always acknowledging this virtual mountain that is Bollywood, we allow the concept itself to eclipse the individual work of great new directors, actors and music directors. If one film comes along to change the entire industry, it doesn’t say much about the industry itself, does it?

Tell us a bit about your future projects.
Gaurav:
MP is working on a new album that will be released early next year. We are also working with Karsh on another album.
KK: We (MPKK) are also continuing our collaboration project with Shekhar Kapur, which is taking exciting new directions. I’ve just released Cinema, my new album in the US and worldwide, and have been touring with it; including a fantastic performance at The Hollywood Bowl with my band Cinema Live. I’ll be releasing Cinema in India this winter.