Thursday, November 30, 2023

‘Background score lets me explore unknown territories to compose new songs of varied genres’

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Music director Rohit Sharma, who is currently getting all the right accolades for his recent project The Vaccine War, gets candid with The Pioneer about his music, working with filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, and more.
Tejal Sinha
Tears were shed, some intense outbursts were witnessed, and it was also the rare occasion when the chatter of people leaving the cinema hall was replaced by a deafening silence as people walked out carrying a deep grief within them, echoed by the sounds of the cello, woodwinds, and strings in the background, that so aptly captured the pain and essence of a film released in 2022—The Kahmir Files. The emotions were so visible, thanks to music director Rohit Sharma for bringing out such soul-stirring music.
Back again enrapturing hearts, the music director once again collaborated with the filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri for The Vaccine War. The journey, he says, itself has been very exciting and full of pleasant things happening at regular intervals. Though the success growth has been very slow, the silver lining here is that it’s been steady, and after the box office success of The Kashmir Files, things have been going all the way up.
An engineer-turned-music director, Rohit was always good at his studies, but his heart was always there in music. An all-rounder all through his student life, he dropped everything when he got admission to the Delhi College of Engineering and immersed himself in music. He learned the nuances of Hindustani classical music (flute) under the guidance of Pt.
Harshvardhan Ji, and his Western classical (piano) training took place at the Delhi School of Music affiliated with the Trinity School of London. Going ahead, be it Maharani 2, The Kashmir Files, Ship of Theseus, and now The Vaccine War, his compositions have been known to form an emotional connection with the audience.
“For me, composing the background score is a natural extension of creating melodies for the songs. I try to create melodies and motifs that are either hummable or evoke strong emotions while watching a movie. For Maharani 2, Aspirants, and Ship of Theseus, I only composed songs, but for The Kashmir Files and The Vaccine War, I scored the background music. There are many other movies like Anaarkali of Arrah, Buddha in a Traffic Jam, and Dvand: The Internal Conflict where I composed all the songs and scored the background music as well. The background score lets me explore unknown territories in music, which in turn helps me compose new songs of varied genres.”
But did you know that the music of The Vaccine War was a tough nut for him to crack? Reason: Firstly, genuine movies on science, pandemics, or stock exchanges are not made in India. Secondly, such movies in the West have very little or no music at all. In our case, the movie showcased the scientific procedures as well as highlighted the hardships of scientists, especially women scientists, and celebrated their achievements. So, for an Indian audience, the music had to highlight the terrors of the coronavirus, the obstacles, the emotional breakdowns, and the finale, ‘India Can Do It’. There was always a chance of going overboard with the music, but we somehow finally managed to strike the correct balance.”
He has had the opportunity to work with the filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri back-to-back, and he recalls how he has given the music director all the freedom to experiment and even fail, right from their first film Buddha in a Traffic Jam that had 9–10 song tracks in varied genres apart from the background score. Now that’s the best scenario for an artist, he says, to showcase his talent fearlessly. Having said that, his expectations from the musician rise with every new project; the bar is raised higher, and he tries his best to beat his expectations every time.
Right from the critics to even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, everyone has praised the film, and for him, the prime minister’s praise is a huge encouragement for scientists, filmmakers, and artists like him. “Every second review of the movie has categorically praised the background score of this movie. That says a lot about the impact that the music had on the film.”
Initially, he was struggling with music themes for the scenes of the lockdown, the coronavirus, and the scientific procedures. However, the filmmaker advised him to leave them and nail the emotional quotient of the movie first. “His advice played the trick, and I came up with The Vaccine War Theme, which has empathy and the celebration of victory woven into a single theme. Things started to fall into place after that.”
Of late, there have been several musicians who have opened up about how their music either stalled or remained unreleased. Sharing his personal experiences, he says, “My third film, Ship of Theseus was the first one to release in 2013, after 4 years. My 5th film, Buddha in a Traffic Jam was released after 5 years in 2016. My first two films, Coffee Shop (four songs) and FOSLA (Frustrated One Sided Lovers’ Association), with 10 songs, couldn’t see the light of day. Those 14 songs got stuck with those two unreleased films. It’s not easy for a newcomer to get content-based films, and when these films don’t get released or are delayed, it definitely slows down your pace. Nonetheless, one really can’t do much about it. I would tell myself ‘Hard Luck’ and move on.”
As a musician, he strives to have a penchant for breaking the regular structure of song composition because, “what I have learned from my experience in all these years is that songs with unique structures take time to grow upon you, but these songs have the capability to become cult songs. Such songs or melodies last much longer. Even many decades in some cases.”
He also has a strong desire to venture into indie music with his own channel very soon. “There are certain genres that are not Bollywood-friendly as of now, but I want to try those as well. I am definitely looking forward to all kinds of opportunities, including mainstream music, but more importantly, I wish to do more songs now,” signs off the music director, who is currently working on a few movie projects and web series.
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