Sandeep Chowta disenchanted
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Sandeep Chowta disenchanted

Chowta, many believe and rightly so, is one of the most talented composers of Hindi film music. But, believe it or not, he is a disillusioned man already. Biswadeep Ghosh talks to him to find out why

music Updated: Jan 24, 2003 15:54 IST

Sandeep Chowta is young. Many believe, and rightly so, that he is one of the most talented composers of Hindi film music. But, believe it or not, he is a disillusioned man already. Chowta's non-film music album 'Mitti' has just been released, and he intends to work on more such ventures in future: even if it means that he has to keep away from composing music for Bollywood.

More with the man who, after the soundtracks of 'Bollywood Hollywood' and 'Dum', is one of the most wanted music-maker in town:

What made you think of 'Mitti'?
The album was always on the cards. I have been doing work for films, and have realised that film music is limiting. The success of a song is rightfully credited to the director, because the film is his vision. So, if he wants that an interlude has to sound in a certain way, one has to go ahead and compose that. That imposes limitations on one's creativity. Sony and I had been discussing 'Mitti' for a long time, but the idea sounded very abstract. So I simply went ahead, recorded six songs, and gave the recording to them.

What is the concept behind 'Mitti'?
I firmly believe that there is nothing called fusion, and simply because you cannot fuse two cultures. In 'Mitti', therefore, I have brought two cultures together, and allowed them to meet. In the album, you hear bass, you hear drums, but the Indian identity comes across. Crossover elements have been used, but the guitar has not been made to play like a veena. There is no Indian instrument except percussion, but the voice with its identity serves as the dominant Indian instrument.

A R Rahman also uses the voice as an instrument, doesn't he?
He does, but in film music, I am sure he must be getting a brief. Moreover, there is a lot of complex instrumentation, and that is not the case in 'Mitti' which is the sort of stuff I would love to take on the road and perform.

How did you bump into Sonu Kakkar, the singer?
Sonu was somebody I had stumbled across while judging a contest in New Delhi. She lost the contest, because she was trying to do too much with her voice in an effort to be distinct in a group song. I had warned her then, but she did not listen to me. But I had her voice in mind and, when I went back to Delhi, I did a session with her. She is really special in 'Mitti', and has also done the item number for 'Dum' ('Babuji Zara Dheere Chalo') which has really worked.

One has heard a lot of rock n' roll or mainstream pop-influenced numbers earlier. But the title track of 'Dum' has a heavy metal feel. Why did this genre take so much time to make its presence felt in the Hindi film music scene?
I think it all depends on how you package and present a number. The lyrics are appropriate, the word 'Dum' packs a punch. If the setting was romantic, the same track would have gone for a complete toss. Come to think of it. It would have been an incredible World Cup song.

The title track's feel is heavy metallish, and yet Sonu Nigam with his fragile voice does a version. Any specific cinematic reason for that?
Actually, it is I who insisted that Sonu sing the song. I think he is a versatile singer, that is why. However, the album has two versions: one sung by Sonu and the other by me.

You have done several background scores in a country where the violin weeps when women on the screen do. What is wrong with the average background score here?
There are far too many themes. There is the father's theme, the mother's theme, the hero's theme, the villain's theme: the list just goes on. It is about making pieces and shoving them into the shot, thereby punctuating the actor's performance. What one has to remember is that cinema has changed today, and also that one is dealing with effects that necessitate a consistent theme for the entire film. To be able to do that, one has to get inside the film completely.

In 'Bollywood Hollywood', the song 'Mera Naam Chin Choo Choo' has a cover version. Do you think that tampering with such great originals is correct?
Why, what is wrong with that? In the West, every single Beatles song has countless versions. The director Deepa Mehta wanted the number. So we went ahead, and got the rights from Saregama before recording it because it was necessary in the film.

You sound disappointed with film music. Do you intend to continue making music for movies?
Only if something excites me. Nowadays, in the days of slashed budgets, most producers want songs just because they want to get an opening. There is no method, and I am not at all keen on making music for films unless and until the director wants to have good music.

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First Published: Jan 24, 2003 15:54 IST