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On A Grander Note

 Background music director Julius Packiam gives us the inside track on what to expect with the score of the much-awaited Salman Khan-starrer Tiger Zinda Hai



The story begins when background music director Julius Packiam began scoring Tiger Zinda Hai’s prequel, Ek Tha Tiger. Long before the latter’s director Kabir Khan and producer Aditya Chopra locked in on the final two, Packiam had to create close to 70 musical pieces. “For Kabir, the theme was paramount. Adi and he wanted to crack that first. They wanted something iconic, big and grand. Kabir mulled over the 70 pieces for two months. I had to ensure each version was grand. Finally, Kabir couldn’t decide and Adi stepped in. He heard all and shortlisted ten which came down to five, then three and finally two,” recalls Packiam. For him, the Tiger journey had only just begun.

When Yash Raj approached him to score the upcoming sequel, the brief was, well, different. “Bigger and grander than Ek Tha Tiger,” laughs Packiam, adding, “I am going to be sensible and correct. My idea is to sound not only big but also impactful.”

Packiam wants to push the boundaries. “It’s like you make an awesome dish but someone wants you to make the same dish even better, mind-blowing. Because you have already made it well in the first place, what else can you do to make it mind-blowing? What is the ingredient that makes it better, grander and bigger? So you sit in a think tank with your guys and talk about what works nowadays. What is the buzz? What is the process? You want to understand why people like Justin Bieber or Selena Gomez are so big. If you see electronic music happening, you may create something similar, incorporate the beat, the pulse that is required for a particular scene. That is the way to work it,” he says, giving us an insight into his creation process.

For Tiger Zinda Hai, Packiam is leaving no stone unturned to infuse as much soul into the score as needed. “I am currently recording the orchestration for Tiger Zinda Hai. I am going to a place in Macedonia called the Macedonia Radio Philharmonic. I have done two other films with this orchestra – Dhoom 3 and Gunday. This time, apart from recording the choir, strings and brass section, I am going to record a female solo vocalist who sings in Gaelic. She will do chants which I will modify a little to the Arabic tone. The movie has been shot a lot in Morocco and Abu Dhabi. It has a middle-eastern look. So I am going to give a touch of Gaelic and middle-eastern which probably has not been done before,” he reveals.

It helps, of course, to work with a film director who has a flair for the dramatic. “Ali Abbas Zafar, the director of Tiger Zinda Hai, was an assistant director on a lot of Kabir’s films. There are a lot of influences of Kabir in Ali’s filmmaking as well, which he will never admit (laughs). Yet, he has his own intensity and style which is also important. While Kabir is from the documentary background and a little non-dramatic, Ali is filmy. Both are beautiful filmmakers,” he says.

“Ali is actually brilliant with music. He has great acumen for it. As a director, you might have knowledge about music but how to extract the sound from the music director, how to communicate and get what he wants and giving the right pointers is what makes Ali strong. Most directors have a temporary edit — they take music from Hollywood movies and patch it together as reference. Then they tell you, Aise bana do. They don’t exactly want that but want that sound and orchestration. During Sultan, Ali had used Game Of Thrones which is a brilliant theme. We obviously couldn’t rip it off but we had to create something as beautiful as that. Kabir also has the same process of working where he will use temporary music from big banner Hollywood films and ask me to make something as grand as that. So then I ask them to give me budgets as grand as that, which they don’t have!” he continues, laughing.

Talking about the ever-changing scene of music in Bollywood, he says, “I think more than the music, filmmaking in the industry has changed. The running-around-trees formula and the masala movies are not working anymore. Leave-your-brains-home kind of films don’t really work, though some people still make them. Our audience has become smarter. Everything is on the internet. They have seen what Friends, Game Of Thrones and good Hollywood films look like. They want quality.”

For Packiam, quality is the result of preparation. Having learned the hard way with Ek Tha Tiger and Tiger Zinda Hai, he is now ready. While his hands are full with projects like Baaghi 2 and ’83, the cricket world cup movie, he is excited about the Kabir Khan-directed, five-part Amazon web series The Forgotten Army. “I am going to have my themes ready prior to Kabir leaving for the on-location shoot for three months. When they get back from the shoot, they will edit to music. This is how it is done in Hollywood. This is how I am doing things now. This time, they will work to my tune.”

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