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Beyond Words

He has given us one beautiful tune after another, and with his latest theme from October mesmerising the audience, composer Shantanu Moitra speaks to Bhakti Mehta about this film’s musical journey

Shantanu Moitra gave the audience something unique when he composed the theme of October. About his inspiring association with the film’s director Shoojit Sircar, he says, “I have known Shoojit (Sircar) since college. We studied together and were in the same football team. So, we share a rapport where we don’t really have to explain our thoughts to each other; we just know what the other wants to say.

“I knew he wanted to share an extraordinary love story. It was a simple and an honest story. I was determined to make sure that Shoojit had the score ready well before shooting started. Usually, the score is created after the film is completed but in this case I wanted it to be different because his world and his thinking revolved around this score. I didn’t have any visuals, no story as such and I had no idea who the actors would be. I simply believed that Shoojit would make an incredible love story. Based on that, I made this composition,” says Moitra.

The composer says that, sometimes, too much information can block creativity. “When you read the script, it is like reading a book and you conjure up an image about what it should be. Here, because there was nothing else, just a line for the story, I became the filmmaker in my mind. That’s where this theme came from. The first time Sircar heard it, he approved it. That became the corner stone of the entire film,” he reveals.

The idea of releasing an original soundtrack for a Bollywood film is novel and Moitra agrees that there is excitement attached to it. “Every time I have planned something, things have never gone that way but every time I have let something be, something crazy has happened. Yes, there isn’t a trend to have an instrumental soundtrack release separately even though it is the norm in many international movies.

“But we are a song-centric society. For October, who would have thought that the music in that final line of the trailer would become so big that the audience would demand to hear more of it? It is really the people who made us think that if they want to hear this music, this theme, why not give it to them? If they hadn’t asked for it, we wouldn’t have thought of it. That’s really interesting and democratic,” he muses.

On what the makers of October had to say regarding this, Moitra reveals, “I have to say that Shoojit and Ronnie (Lahiri) believed so firmly in this theme from the very beginning that it was always going to be a part of the soundtrack, as a separate song in the October album. They were so sure that this would work and that’s why so much work went into perfecting it. They were clear that all the embellishments needed for this song would be done in the best possible way and that’s why we went to Russia to get the sound right. What else do you need from a filmmaker?”

Asked about what inspired this beautiful theme, Moitra says, “I didn’t have any initial rough versions or drafts. It just came to me in a flash. I recorded it and that same version was used till the end. Once it was a ‘yes’, I didn’t want to reinvent it and make it something else. It is so much about heart and feel, about small things. But one thing we didn’t have was a fear of rejection. We didn’t think about acceptance from people or whether or not it would work. A lot of people do that and I want to tell them not to play God. You have no idea what will work with people in a country of 1.2 billion, so don’t pass a law on that.”

The composer also talks about the other two songs he has done in the film. “There is one song called Manwaa, which is sung by Sunidhi Chauhan and written by Swanand Kirkire. This song was not part of the design file from the beginning. This should show you how Shoojit’s mind works. There is no situation exactly like this in the film but I thought maybe we can fit this in. A tune came to mind based on the footage I had seen. I told Shoojit that I couldn’t stop humming the tune and he said, ‘’Don’t stop’. He’s the kind of director who says don’t worry about anything, just do what comes to your heart.

“The other song is Chal, sung by Monali Thakur. It is really an adaptation of the theme of October. But we have kind of made it into a 70s, happier, brighter version of it. The lyrics have been written by Tanveer Ghazi, and Monali has sung this amazingly.”

As for the future, the composer has no plans except to enjoy the reactions to October. “I don’t really plan my movies or my music. I try to take breaks in between. After October, I will be ready for my next adventure. I don’t take my work too seriously and get stressed by it. That is the philosophy I live by.”

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