One of the most awaited releases of this week is Tanu Weds Manu. While the music of the movie has already made it big on the charts, a lot of our readers were miffed at very little info available online about the debutant composer Krsna. We set out to resolve the problem, and the result is this exclusive (and extensive!) interview, conducted jointly by Music Aloud and Pavan Jha, music and movie critic with BBC India, and owner of the site http://gulzaronline.com. We are really thankful to him for providing some really insightful questions. Apologies for not getting the composer’s real name or his snap, Krsna is very particular that his music do the talking, and people associate his music with Krsna and this logo he has fashioned, rather than go by his actual personality. Read on then.
Let us start with your unique name reminiscent of the spelling in ISKCON. Is this your actual name or is there a devotional aspect to it? Even the logo which you have made your online identity seems to be an adaptation of the peacock feather commonly associated with Lord Krishna.
KRSNA is actually my adopted musical identity. No, there isn’t any devotional aspect associated with it. For me, music is my only religion, faith and language. Since globally, Krsna is symbolic entity for music, love, poetry, hope, victory, truth and life itself, I felt liberated to imbibe such a powerful name for all my musical expressions.
Anyone who hears your version of Rangrez would have little doubt that you are classically trained. Even the other 2 melodies had a semiclassical touch to them. So tell us about your classical upbringing. Your music had specific nuances related to North Indian music. Did you grow up in North India?
Well! You might be surprised to know that, my upbringing is anything but Indian classical music because I hail from a completely non-musical background. My musical learning has mostly been self taught, listening to pop, r&b and soft rock. It’s only when I struggled in Mumbai with my half-nurtured dreams of becoming a pop singer and dabbled in music direction for ad film industry, I realized the importance of learning Indian music formally. I started my Hindustani classical training only 3 years back, under Ustad Mehboob Khan.
As a music director, my role will always be to create songs that weave well with a film’s requirement. Since Tanu Weds Manu is a story based in Lucknow, Punjab and around, the nuances of the music had to be North Indian by default. If I really have been able to create that association well, I am humbled.
And about my background, I did my schooling in Kolkata from CBSE, and then graduated in films and video communication from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Thereafter, I shifted to Mumbai to pursue my dreams. This is when I met my mentor, Jawahar Chavda, who helped me become the musician that I am today.
In today’s times it is difficult to get a film without a profile. So were you involved in albums/jingles or any other assisting job in Bollywood before TwM? And how did you land this composition job?
I started my professional career by directing and producing ad films in Mumbai. Since my heart always remained in music, I quite naturally changed my destined path in a year or two. I put behind my professional training of film making without a second thought and started focussing only on music direction for jingles, corporate theme songs and likewise. And with every project, I kept learning hands on about music production and the technology involved, from concept to completion. That was the only experience I gathered which came to good use.
Yes, I agree it is difficult to get a Hindi feature film without a profile. But I have come to realize, that in Bollywood, everyone does get an opportune moment when he or she is needed to prove his/her abilties to the fullest. And when I felt ready for feature films and decided to venture out in Bollywood, I had a chance meeting with Rajshekhar for the first time, who by then had finished writing Mannu Bhaiya. I created the composition overnight for a hearing. On listening to the track, Aanand Rai and Himanshu Sharma (Writer) heartily welcomed me in the team. Mannu Bhaiya was all that Aanandji ever needed as my portfolio to put in his blind faith for the rest of the songs. Thereafter, Shailesh Singh, the producer of the film also shared equal confidence in my music and stood by me throughout the process like a pillar.
How much did the director contribute to the music? The music in TwM seems to be nicely integrated with script/characters (like Mohit Chauhan’s vocals suiting Madhavan’s image of an Intense lover superbly.. or Mannu Bhaiyya having that family ambience, Rangrez probably been used at a highpoint or important juncture and Saadi Gali being used at a marriage, also Jugni highlights the character of Kangna very well..). What kind of directors would you like to work with?
Yes you’ve got this so right. We genuinely wanted to create music that gets smoothly integrated with our story. My director Aanand Rai had a very simple brief to Rajshekhar and me. He visualized the songs to be a continuation of the story and characterisation and not as mere entertainment fillers. Hence, all the songs are thoughtfully placed as vital ingredients of the story telling process. It is only Anand Rai’s vision which I translated into the music that came out to be.
I now fully understand the role of a good director being responsible for inspiring good music. Whether a first time director or a veteran, I would just need to stay excited with the script and the director’s vision through the whole process, to be able to deliver my best. With so many promising new directors in bollywood today, I’m really hopeful to come across more opportunities and challenges to create good music in my future projects. Also, I definitely feel ready to work with all the reputed directors of the industry today.
Given the rock and dance-y flavors that dominate Bollywood music these days, are you concerned regarding the acceptance of your songs among the audience (and by songs I refer to my 3 fave songs from the album — rangrez, piya and yun hi)?
Although, this Friday onwards, I will be more clear about the acceptence level of TwM songs, I definitely can never want them to be any lesser accepted. But from what I have understood always as a musician, melodies with Indianness at the core do linger on our minds for long. Which is why, we are still hooked to everlasting melodies of the golden era. Honestly speaking, I never had any pre-concieved notion about the kind of music I was to create. I just followed my heart without a concern whatsoever.
The resultant sound, rendition, style, lyrics and intensity of the songs are completely governed by the story, background and characters. This film demanded certain kind of nuances that are there in the album. Being inspired by all genres of music from Western, Indian, World music, I know I will experiment with various flavours in my future projects. But with TwM, I feel lucky that I got to compose these kinds of melodies in Bollywood today. The real feedback from the audience will help me improvise my music the next time around.
You used the fabulous Wadali Brothers for Rangrez. The inspiration for using them? Did you use any other veterans on the instruments section as well?
When Rangrez was born, being the ambitious musician I am, I just couldn’t think of anyone else but the legendary Wadalis, who I felt could leave an eternal impression with their divine voices. Rangrez is a song that needed to ooze romance, intensity, crescendo, pain, confession, submission, prayer and a mix of many feelings in one go. Although the music of Wadali Brothers is beyond the commercial realms of Bollywood, I still wanted to reach out to them.
Both the maestros, Puranchandji Wadali and Pyarelalji Wadali loved the composition so much that they decided to bless me with it, thus making it one of my most priceless possessions til date.
In the instrumentation section, Im priveleged to have got Sanjiv Sen on tablas, Madhukar Ji on Shehnai, Firoz Shah on the harmonium amongst the veterans.
Your lyricist for the movie Rajshekhar is also a debutant. How was the experience of working with him? Could you share something about his background too? The sync between lyrics and music in TwM hints that you and Raj have been working together for quite some time. Is that so?
Working with Rajshekhar has been a very heart warming experience for the kind of human being he is and the way he approaches his art. He is basically from Bihar, who majored in Hindi literature from Kirorimal College, Delhi. Thereafter he pursued his Masters from Delhi Unversity. He continued his creative expressions through theatrical art often by acting, directing plays and writing scripts. Poetry has always been his constant passion which found place in all his creative endevours. He considers lyrics to be a form of musical diaogue that sprouts from within the characters and must justify the context of a story. He is extremely sensitive to the objective of his lyrics and the intensity of a situation he is writing for.
We struck a chord the very first time we met, and have become lifelong friends over the music of TwM. He according to me is one of the finest poets in bollywood today. Any appreciation for TwM Music would be incomplete without crediting him for his meaningful poetry. Definitely we worked in close tandem and all of us in the team enjoyed the whole process. All the songs were written first under Aanandji’s able guidance, and then I tried to compliment them with my compositions.
Like you told us, you are currently busy with the BGM composition for TWM. What after that? Any other projects in the pipeline? Are you working on anything in the in-rage genres (rock/Punjabi etc)?
Since, I can never again repeat the experience of a debut release, I did not want to divide my attention beyond TwM in Bollywood after committing to this responsibility. It’s only after the completion of BGM composition, I intended to explore newer horizons. Though I have already started to look at fresh opportunities that have come by, in due time I myself will let you know of all the projects I commit to.
The choral work for Mannu Bhaiyya and the electronic ambience of the traditional Piya were evocative of ARR of the 90s. So who are your fave musicians? Who have you considered your inspiration in your formative years? And what are your thoughts on fusion (considering you have incorporated some yourself), specifically the folk, sufi and semi-classical genre?
My favorite musicians have been R.D Burman, Michael Jackson, Neyo, A R Rehman, George Michael, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Norah Jones, Lataji, Stevie Wonders, Ashaji, Madonna, Salil Choudhury, Nat King Cole, Pundit Jasraj, Boyz II Men, Lionel Richie, MlTR, Rahat Saab, Scorpions, ABBA, Bappi Lahiri, Eminem, Himesh, Anuji, Purnadas Baul, Eagles, Beyonce, Rihanna, Mariah, Britney, Christina and Justin and the list is endless. I must say, Michael Jackson was one soul whose boundless energy and superlative perfection gripped me to music the very first time I heard him, and the idea of becoming a musician was born sometime during my school days.
I think, most music in Bollywood today can be aptly termed as World Music. Knowingly or unknowingly musicians around the world are fusing various elements today and experimenting with cross cultural sounds and styles. I too, definitely aim to create various forms of fusion music, whether folk, oriental, Sufi, semi-classical, pop, rock or any style for that matter.
Do you believe in assembling of music or prefer live recordings?
I wouldn’t necessarily call assembling of music a preference but an integral part of studio music production today. The final product is all about assembling of live recordings, vocals, backings, musical instrumentation and everything else that goes in the mix. Being a composer and a music producer, I do look at a live recording and imagine the possibilities of the same in a final product. It is because that’s what matters in this business. When we talk of music releases, any live recording, when captured on tape or digital format is meant for mass production. So the best output calls for the best of all elements in the assembly. But I will always try to retain the essense of live recordings in my songs.
What are your thoughts on the change in the way the music production is being done today (moving away from Live recordings, post production of music, moving away from lip sync songs to on screen songs etc.)?
Although I consider myself a technology’s child, I can’t stop emphasizing the fact enough that, one can’t give away the core soul of music to technology no matter what. Music production techniques are so powerful today that you can dream of doing wonderful things with music singlehandedly, which were impossible to imagine even 10 years back. I feel, it is not a choice but a must for every music director and producer to know about the nitigrities of music production today. But at the same time, one’s top priority should only be to retain the soul, feel and expression of a song through the words, vocals and instrumentation using technology as the means and not otherwise.
The gadgets and softwares do make it fun, intuitive, offering you tremendous scope to experiement with the renditions. So much so that electronic music can at times completely replicate live instruments with superb perfection. But there is a downside to it which I realize every moment.
With audio technology growing more powerful by the day, trying to perfect the sound of real instruments, live musicians are suffering a lot with reduced session jobs and people getting lesser inclined to take up these instruments for a profession actively. We have pros and cons with the way we record vocals too. The ability to deliver one take vocal lines like in olden times is almost an unnecessary thought today. Although we save studio time, money and churn out near perfect takes in the final product, the need for rigourous riyaz and song sittings are getting compromised a lot too.
I personally do swear by audio technology in my profession, but still will always strive to retain the human touch in my tracks as and when I can.
As far as lip sync songs and screen songs are concerned, I feel they both have had their respective appeal in films since the beginning. As long as it justifies the plot and the entertainment value intended, both the treatments are just perfect to go by.