From hospitality grad to Bollywood music man: Meet Ankur Tewari
He’s the perfect example of the saying ‘Do what you love and you don’t have to work a day in your life’. Ankur Tewari, 42, studied hotel management but decided to pursue what he loved instead. He’s been making music since 1998, and he’s been singer-songwriter with the popular independent band Ankur & The Ghalat Family since 2009. His work as music supervisor on the hugely popular, 18-song soundtrack for Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy this year, has made him truly famous. Excerpts from an interview…
When did you start writing songs?
Well, my parents had a fantastic collection of records from all over the world. The music was in different languages. As a child, I wanted to sing along but I didn’t know the words. So I would make up my own. And that was my first taste of the adventure that is songwriting. As a teen, I would tinker with a guitar and write words to go with the tune. Aside from a short period after school, I don’t think I ever stopped writing songs.
What was life like when you first moved from Bhopal to Mumbai?
I had finished my hotel management course but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do as a career. Because I loved it so much, I just kept writing songs. And because I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, it never felt like I was struggling. I was making little-to-no money, but my work always felt like fun. And I was fortunate to have people around me who helped me out, gave me a place to stay, fed me, took me around, recommended me to people.
You’ve got a lot of praise for your work on Gully Boy. Exactly what does a music supervisor do?
A music supervisor is someone who understands the script, and helps decide how to use music, sound and silence in a way that helps move the story forward, and elevate it. I wrote screenplays for a long time… for films such as Gattu , which won an award at the Berlin Film Festival, and Tum Mile . I was also a script doctor on Tere Bin Laden . So I have a keen sense of how that works.
With Gully Boy, I used the screenplay to get songs designed, get briefs ready for background score. It also involved deciding when to have a song; what kind of music, what kind of lyrics to use in it; and also, how to play with silence.
You’re a singer, songwriter, music producer and music supervisor. What role do you see yourself playing most, in the future?
Whenever I work on a project, I think about what fun I’m going to have, who I’m going to be working with, and how that project will help me to grow as a human being. I take life one step at a time. I don’t have a grand plan.
What’s the next step then?
I’m doing a project with Roy Kapoor Films, as music supervisor. That’s for Sooni Taraporevala’s directorial feature, Yeh Ballet, based on the ballet boys of Mumbai. Another film I’m working on as music director is by Dharmatic Entertainment, Dharma’s digital content company. Ruchi Narain is directing and it’s tentatively titled Guilty. Both are collaborations with Netflix. Apart from that, our band has a few singles lined up for the upcoming months too.
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