Ankur Tewari: 'Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti helped shape my cinematic aesthetic' - Hindustan Times

Ankur Tewari interview: 'Powerful storytellers like Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti helped shape my cinematic aesthetic'

ByDevansh Sharma
Aug 29, 2023 10:51 AM IST

Ankur Tewari reveals how his collaboration with Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti on Made in Heaven and The Archies has helped make his own music more cinematic.

Ankur Tewari has been closely collaborating with filmmakers Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti in films like Gully Boy (2019) and shows like Made in Heaven (2019-23), and the upcoming Netflix India adaptation, The Archies (2023). He is also developing their music label, Tiger Baby Records.

Ankur Tewari is out with his new album Akela
Ankur Tewari is out with his new album Akela

(Also Read: The Archies stars Suhana Khan, Khushi Kapoor channel Veronica and Betty at Tudum in Sao Paulo. See pics)

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In an exclusive interview on the sidelines of his performance at Today at Apple -BKC in Mumbai, the singer-songwriter talks about his new album Akela, how it boasts of a sonic space different from his discography, and working on the music of the diverse stories penned by Zoya and Reema. Excerpts:

You've said that though independent artistes are not dictated by music labels, they often get stuck in invisible cages of viewership and social media validation. What was the cage you were stuck in that this album helped you break out of?

I was stuck in a comfort zone. I've been writing music for a really long time. There's a sound that made me feel comfortable. The singer-songwriter type, pick up a guitar, go to a studio and record it, very intimate. It's still my comfort zone. But I really wanted to break out of it, write music that's more cinematic, more empty, as I felt during the pandemic. So this album helped me break out of my comfort zone.

Now that you have some distance from the pandemic, what do you think those years gave you and took away from you as an artist?

As an artist, what it really gave me is a perspective, about what I'm doing, about my life. It kinds of ends up getting reflected in my work - what you're going through, priorities in life. It was quite intense in the way of things being taken away from you. We lost so many people who were close to us. It was just a period of vulnerability and you were forced to confront that vulnerability, step back a bit and look at life with a fresh perspective.

Your album speaks of loneliness. But you've always had your bandmates making music with you, unlike many independent artists who go solo. How did you bring them on the same wavelength as you when the music is about loneliness, that's something extremely personal?

This time, it was easy conceptually to bring everyone on the same wavelength because that was something everyone was going through collectively. But practically, it was a little difficult. I'm used to going to the studio, sitting and jamming with my bandmates, see where the ideas go. This time, I had to send them voice recordings made on my iPhone, Facetime with them, it almost felt like we were all behind a glass wall. Creating that connect was difficult yet intense, because you were really putting yourselves out there to express yourselves.

This is your second album under Tiger Baby Records. The first one, Aaja Nindiya, was based on lullabies. The second one, on loneliness. What explains this range?

Basically, the story dictates it. I had recorded Akela before I did Aaja Nindiya. That was also a huge shift from my previous work, the single Shehzaada Shehzaadi. So you see that shift in experiences. I feel it too. They feel like different people.

Apple Music helped you with the luxury of spatial audio. How did it add value to the cinematic appeal of Akela?

Specially for this album, Akela, the sonic landscape is very exciting. So when we decided to record a spatial version, I got really excited. It's like mixing it for a big theatre. If you shut your eyes, it can take you to a very nice sonic space, which I described as a suspended dust particle in air.

Since you're thinking of music cinematically now, how much has collaborating with Zoya and Reema influenced your cinematic aesthetic?

They've always been influential in my life, even in my earlier work, in terms of the power of stories. Coming from a time in school when I was just writing songs that were just good rhymes to now, when I feel I'm expressing my life and my stories through music, it's quite amazing. When you work on movies, you have a story to tell, of the characters that are there in the script. But when you're working independently, it's your own story that you're telling. When I see such powerful storytellers around me, it really inspires me.

You've collaborated with them on creating rap music (Gully Boy), wedding songs (Made in Heaven), and now, musicals of the 1960s. That's quite a diverse soundscape, from contemporary to traditional to retro. Can you walk us through how this creative collaboration works?

The idea with films and shows is always that you read the script, create a sonic space, and work with musicians to bring that sonic space to life. The idea is not to create anything retro or contemporary. The idea always is to stick to the soul of the story and try to replicate that in a sonic manner. It's what a production designer do with the visuals of the story. Just that here, you try to do it through the sonic space.

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