He is a great music lover, loves mountain climbing and follows astronomy religiously. He describes 3 Idiots as a wild film. Then goes on to say, “Music isn’t something that I do full time.” He is a music director who is worshipped by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and his team and has scored an extraordinary influence over the rest of the cast and crew of every film he has worked on. He has craft and technique, but for Shantanu, the moments of inspiration is what counts and makes a great composer. After chatting with him over the phone,
one finds out that he’s a good collaborator too – which means he’s cantankerous and opinionated. He likes to compose from a point of view, and that for him is the most important thing to have. In an exclusive chat with UK’s Harrow Observer columnist and Bollywood Hungama‘s London correspondent, Shantanu Moitra bares it all on why he is only restricted to Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s films, why song promos are vital for any film promotion, why are we as a nation inclined more towards film music, the importance of English tracks in Indian films and the mixed response he has been getting for 3 Idiots music.
All is well Shantanu?
Oh yes, all is well (laughs)
It seems that not only actors, but even the music directors have formed a fixed group of directors with whom they’d like to work with.
Well, it’s how the civilization works. If you look at the pattern of people, you’ll observe that they like to work with like minded people from whom you’ll get the support and motivation. In my case, I have so many other interests like mountain climbing, astronomy, etc that music is not something that I do full time. I do it when I feel like doing it.
Music is not something that I do full time. I do it when I feel like doing it.
How different can you be while working with people whom you know?
The human species is far too complex. They do things that are told to them, they do things that they feel like doing, etc. My whole objective is doing things that I want to do, create a piece of melody which I like, melody that goes with the film and the melody which the people like.
What sort of commitment and creativity do Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Aamir Khan bring in while the music is being worked on?
Aamir Khan was not even signed for the film while the music was being made. How Rajkumar Hirani work is different. He first writes the film and then immediately the song department kicks off. Raju works on the song to set up his mood to write better. That’s how it is. More importantly, both Vidhuji and Aamir are tough task masters. But I’m sure about one thing, the recruitments from this college will be very good.
More than the dialogue promos, we Indians give a lot of significance to song promos. What’s your take?
As a nation, we give a lot of significance to our culture, which includes weddings, etc. Music is a part of our culture and not films. Music is an instant catch on. Lage Raho Munnabhai had some great dialogues, so that was used to promote the film and not its music. Here in 3 Idiots, personally speaking, the song ‘All Izz Well‘ has both dialogues and a song fused in one. That’s the power of music. It can do wonders to the dialogue too.
Both Vidhuji and Aamir are tough task masters
Do you compose a track first or wait for the lyrics to be written?
In ‘All Izz Well‘, I had composed the first five to six lines and Swanand was writing on it. Suddenly he came up with a line which was, ‘Scholarship ki pi gaya daaru, Gham to phir bhi mitta nahin, agarbattiya raakh ho gayi, God toh phir bhi dikha nahin‘. Now this wasn’t fitting into the structure of my tune. At the same time, the lyrics were so damn impressive, that I decided to
incorporate this line somewhere. I did, and that is a beauty of knowing that you don’t know what comes first. Like all great songs, it is a combination of both – its melody and writing that happens simultaneously.
Aamir asked me and Swanand if our parents would want to inaugurate the album
If we consider our music to be the world’s best, why do we see ourselves restricted to films alone?
I generally feel that a general perception of an individual towards music cannot be cinema music. There has to be other forms of music too which needs to be promoted and needs to be flourished. I think the unique thing about it is that as a nation, we haven’t been able to express our individuality through a lot of things. But in Bollywood and through Indian cinema, we’ve been able to say a lot of things. It’s our own formula which works here and the world over.
Now that we are experimenting with our films and making cinema like Wake Up Sid, Rocket Singh, Kaminey, etc., do you think there is space to play around with a bit of English soundtrack in Hindi films too?
Absolutely yes. I write for the national and regional forum boards as a Bengali and also for the fact that Bengali films are too popular. You won’t believe, the amount of English tracks I’ve heard is plentiful. People are composing them and singing them. It’s just that, as the stakes go higher, the risk climbs too. English tracks will never be predominant in a Hindi film unless the film is bilingual in nature.
Raju Hirani himself doesn’t know what a genius he is
People who’ve seen the film are coming out with mixed response about the music. What’s the feedback you’ve been getting?
Yes, I am getting mixed responses about the music. Some are liking it and some aren’t. The great part is that when I was doing Parineeta, I was told that it’s not as good as Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, when I was doing Munnabhai, I was told it doesn’t sound as good as Parineeta and when I was doing 3 Idiots, I am told that it isn’t so good as Lage Raho Munnabhai. It takes a year for the people to compliment the work that I’ve done.
Any incident which has left a mark on you while working with Aamir Khan?
I remember one such incident. It is more personal though. When the music of 3 Idiots was suppose to release, Aamir asked me and Swanand if our parents would want to inaugurate the album. My parents were in Delhi then and my mother has just met with a small accident. I thought that the whole act of getting them to Mumbai and all would be a tough task. But Aamir then told me, ‘We get very few situations in life where we can include our parents in our professional joy. This is one such moment
where you can.’ For my parents, it was the proudest moment, standing next to Aamir Khan. I could see the joy on their faces.
Describe Raj Kumar Hirani please
You see, he himself doesn’t know what a genius he is. That’s a revelation.