You can always tell an Amit Trivedi song from the rest. For a composer, that’s probably the biggest accomplishment. Known for his edgy music and avante-garde sound, Amit stood out from his contemporaries with the release of Dev.D (2009).
Songs such as ‘Emosanal atyachar’ and ‘Pardesi’, in a way, defined Bollywood’s coming of age when it came to music composition and production. His successful run continued with films like Wake Up Sid! (2009), Ishaqzaade (2012), and more recently, Kai Po Che! With his newest project, Lootera, his sonic trajectory takes another turn — this time towards a sound more mellow and period.
In this interview, he talks about rising up the ranks in Bollywood and his upcoming projects.
Do you feel you’ve been typecast as a composer who produces only unconventional, edgy music?
When I compose for any film, I always work with the story in mind. It’s just that the movies I’ve received so far required that kind of music. That’s how people started associating me with that style.
These days, not many composers get to work on the entire soundtrack as well as the background score. Do you think that filmmakers should just have one person do both jobs?
Yes, always. That’s the only way it should be. Otherwise, you lose the soul. So I prefer to do the entire music for a film. And when I’m doing the background score, I can weave the whole film together in terms of themes and songs for a good cinematic feel.
How much time do you spend on every score? Was there a tight deadline for Lootera’s music?
Yes, this time, there was a deadline. It took me one-and-a-half years; I worked on it on and off in that time. I created four songs in the beginning and two others were added later, after the shoot. And then, I started work on the background score.
What other films are you working on currently?
There’s Ghanchakkar. It releases a week before Lootera. It has a very different soundscape from Lootera. It’s edgy, fun, quirky and bizarre.
Will you be back in the third season of MTV Coke Studio this year?
I might not be able to. There’s too much work and I have no time. I just finished Bombay Velvet and have three more films to work on. It’s inhuman to be doing so much.
But aren’t you happy being this busy?
No, not this busy. I don’t have a life. Honestly, I’m not glad to be loaded with so much work. Looking at my condition, Anurag Kashyap recently told me that there are two times in one’s career in this industry that one goes through a bad time — first, when there is no work, and second, when there’s so much work that you can’t handle it. I have seen both extremes; when there was no work, I was frustrated and now that I’m overworked, I feel the same. I’m looking for a balance now.
A lot of composers have turned performers too. We haven’t seen you take to the stage though.
I don’t have any time. I would love to perform if the directors let me free. I’d like to take time off from films and do things like Coke Studio. But this year is gone, so maybe next year. I am saying no to a lot of films now.
But you’ve always been choosy about the work you do.
Yes, but Phantom Productions is my core team. It is like my family. And I love them. The problem is that there are three directors who are part of it — Vikram, Anurag and Vikas (Bahl). And I’m doing all of their films. There’s no question of saying no to them.
Do you take time to see what’s happening in Mumbai’s live music circuit?
I’d love to see what people are doing. But I’ve no idea. I’ve just been in my shell.
How do you think you’ve grown as a composer over the years?
Oh, quite a lot. As a human being, musician and composer, I have matured a lot. It shows in my work now. My productions have become broader and better. Now I get budgets to be able to do a lot of things — like recording string sections and drums live. I love acoustic sound and I’m glad we’re going back to it.
Bombay Velvet’s music is all about jazz from the ’60s. For the past six to eight months, I have been living in that era — listening to music from that decade, reading up on it and researching it.