Thursday, August 10, 2006
Shantanu Moitra started off his musical career with the popular Bole Mere Lips I Love Uncle Chips jingle. He then graduated to composing music for films like Leela, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Yahaan and Parineeta. Now he is ready with his first commercial project Munnabhai Lage Raho. So without further ado, over to Shantanu!
How did you start of your musical career?
I was working in advertising and have done a lot of jingles. Music was actually a hobby and I discovered that there is something like jingles. One can make money in that. My first jingle was Bole Mere Lips I Love Uncle Chips. It became very popular which increased my confidence. Gradually, music became my career.
Did you have any specialized training in music?
It's genetic, I guess. My father is from a family of musicians. I've been hearing classical music since I was very young. I have been hearing different kinds of music like folk and world music, since I was a child. I guess that is my forte when it comes to composing music. It's difficult for me to answer what kind of music I like, because I listen to so many kinds.
Do you still continue to work in the ad industry?
Of course! I just did an ad for Happy Dent. I love advertising.
So how did films happen?
I guess some opportunities came to me. I did the album 'Ab Ke Sawan' with Shubha Mudgal. That was heard by Sudhir Mishra and he offered me Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. Pradeep Sarkar who made Parineeta is a friend from advertising. I guess one thing led to another. And Parineeta happened. I have known Pradeep since about 15 years. I have worked on practically every commercial that he has made. He has even directed my song, Ab Ke Sawan. We've had a long history. It was very obvious that when he would do his first film, he would offer it to me, subject to Vidhu Vinod Chopra liking my work. Soojit Sircar who made Yahaan is also a friend. So he offered me the project. Even before Parineeta was made, I had created a song called Raath Hamari To, sung by Chitra. Vidhu Vinod Chopra loved that song. That became my passport to bagging Parineeta.
Parineeta had a Bengali touch whereas Yahaan had a Kashmiri touch. Is folk music your forte?
I love folk music. It's my hobby to hear folk music. I can adapt very well to different styles. Even Yahaan has nothing to do with folk. But I know the nuances that are there. I think it is very interesting when a film has a backdrop of a particular region. Your talent and creativity gets really tested. I enjoy the challenge.
Munnabhai Lage Raho is different from what you have done earlier.
Yes, it is completely different. I was fortunate enough to get this project. The range from Parineeta to Munnabhai is mind blowing. This is what we do in jingles, actually. One day you're doing washing powder whereas the next you are doing shoe polish. Everyday, there is a different product. There are two aspects to composing. The first is of course you have to be a good composer. Secondly, you have to understand the medium of cinema. In a film like Munnabhai Lage Raho, that is really tested. The music is scene and character specific. There is a prequel wherein the character of the film is coming from. One has to keep in mind the soundtrack of the prequel as well. And then create something new.
This is the first time you have a hardcore 'masala' film. Was it difficult?
I was fortunate enough to have a good team. Even during Parineeta, I was told to create whatever I felt was right and not worry about what was 'in.' I was true to the film and era. Similarly, in case of Lage Raho Munnabhai I was true to the film and characters. If there is any strength in my composition and packaging, then people will like it. There used to be a time when a good song was a good song and a bad song was a bad song. I still believe that is true.
Who is your favorite music director?
I am besotted by Salil Chaudhary. He has amazing talent. Then of course, there is R.D.Burman. Internationally, I love John Williams. I love his scores right from E.T. to Schindler's List. I like to hear songs in foreign languages. They become my passport to traveling to different lands. It gives me a flavor of the place, culture and the people. That really excites me. So I have a huge collection of world music.
What about from the current lot of composers?
I love Vishal Bharadwaj. He did a brilliant job in Omkara. I like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Of course there is A.R.Rahman as well. I loved Sandesh Shandilya's work in Chameli. Then there are Vishal-Shekhar who bring a certain amount of freshness in their work. There is a lot of new blood and some great stuff is happening around. These are exciting times.
Who are your favorite singers?
I have worked with very few people. Sonu Nigam has an outstanding knowledge of not only the song, but the situation as well. He is a director's delight. I love Shreya Ghoshal's voice. I think Sunidhi Chauhan is so versatile.
Are there any rare musical instruments used in Lage Raho Munnabhai?
I don't know about rare. But in the film I have used whistling as a very important metaphor for friendship. Whistling comes from the heart! It portrays the friendship between Munna and Circuit. I have incorporated that in a song as well, which I think is very interesting.
Munnabhai MBBS had music by Anu Malik. Did you bag the film because you did Parineeta?
You have to ask the producers! I am not complaining!
Which is your favorite song in the film?
It's a song called Pal Pal. It's a beautiful ballad. It has a certain amount of shyness which we don't get to hear these days. This song stems from a different sensibility, wherein you keep your feelings in your mind.
How was your experience of recording the song?
This song was recorded 4 times! Sometime I or sometimes the singer wanted something changed. As it developed, it became better and better. It's a refreshing song.
Tell us something about the other songs.
Well, the title track Lage Raho Munnabhai features Munna and Circuit. It is shot in the middle of Mumbai. I think the song is the epitome of Lage Raho Munnabhai. It had to be a fun loving song. That's where I have used the whistling. It's a typical male bonding kind of song.
There is a song called Samjho. It stems from a situation. Munna and Circuit are drunk and are imagining bizarre situations. It's a completely lyrics based song. Arshad has sung in this! It has rib tickling lyrics. There is a song sung by Karunya titled Aane Charane. I love the lyrics. He has sung it so well. Hats off to him since it is his first film song. The nation was mourning when he didn't win Indian Idol. Now there is something for his fans to look forward to. One of my favorites in the Bapu song. It's a beckoning to call Gandhi. I believe he still exists today by way of his ideologies. He is just being called to kind of take stock of the situation. It's soulfully rendered by Sonu Nigam.
Apparently Arshad Warsi was very nervous when he had to record the song. Tell us about that experience.
We didn't tell him that he was going to sing! He thought that he was coming for dialogues. When I told him that he had to sing it in tune, he said he couldn't do it! He got really afraid and started saying that his career would be over. He ended up doing a marvelous job. We recorded the first take itself. The subsequent takes were not up to the mark. Arshad could not believe that he had recorded a song. He calls me a brave music director!
What is your take on remixes?
I think they are an essential marketing tool these days. I have a problem with the way they are picturized. I don't have issues if my songs are remixed, as long as I know about it. I have a problem when songs of music directors who are no longer living are remixed. No credit is given to them. My fear is that the new generation won't even know who the original composer is.
What according to you is the main reason for piracy?
Overpriced products! So people want an alternate way of listening to music. Piracy is bad. There is no reason for people to indulge in it. It is not ethical. It's as true or as away from your heart as pollution, cruelty towards animals and wife beating. There was a time when LPs were replaced by CDs. I think when LPs died, some of the greatest artworks in the world died. It was such a beautiful illustration of art. When you saw a Pink Floyd LP, the stuff that was on it because of the space was phenomenal. You don't get that kind of artwork anymore, because the space has become so small. I think it was the death of an artwork. Technologically if man can go to the moon, I'm sure he can even find a way to stop piracy.
What are your future projects?
I worked very hard on Parineeta, Munnabhai Lage Raho and Eklavya. I'm looking at new scripts right now. I am also doing jingles. I'm traveling which is something I love! I'm doing astrology, looking at stars, cooking, whatever! I can't be in a recording studio day in and day out. I need to recharge myself. That's all I'm doing.
Tell us something about the music score of Eklavya.
It is a cinematic score. A cinematic score adds to the film. In Schindler's List, the score added to the characters. That's the kind of film Eklavya is. I am very proud of the score that I have done. I think I have rediscovered myself as a composer.