Pritam on composing music for The Sky Is Pink, and why Kalank's failure did not bog him down
Pritam talks about how challenging it was to translate the emotion of The Sky Is Pink into a soundtrack, and why 'Zindagi' song is special because of Gulzar's lyrics.
In an industry obsessed with deifying the star, the spotlight often evades those who work tirelessly behind the scenes. The success of a film is often attributed to its face but seldom to those who constitute the spine. And so, in this column titled Beyond the Stars, Firstpost highlights the contributions of film technicians who bring their expertise to the table.
Shonali Bose's family drama The Sky Is Pink, which released earlier this week, benefits from a lot of ingredients. One such particular ingredient is the music, composed by Pritam. In an exclusive interview, the music director opens up on composing the music for a film that deals with the death of a loved one, collaborating with Gulzar, and his upcoming projects that include a number of reunions with his favourite filmmakers.
You made a remarkable return to Hindi film music this year through Kalank, Chhichhore, and The Sky Is Pink this year. Since your last film was Jab Harry Met Sejal two years ago, how do you think this gap has enriched you?
Well, the break wasn't because of enrichment. I took a break because I was mentally tired juggling between multiple projects. Working on Jagga Jasoos was equivalent to working on four projects. So I needed a break. During the break, I traveled a lot, did a lot of live gigs. Since I wasn't composing Hindi film music, I was relaxing. I took rest and so I got enriched in the process. But the break was only for six months, not two years. I had started working on Kalank and other films but they released only this year. The year started with a non-film collaboration with Marshmallow, called 'Biba', and Kalank followed suit.
You have said the reason behind doing The Sky Is Pink was an emotional one. Shonali, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Rohit Suresh Saraf have all said they did the film also to deal with deaths of closed ones. What was your emotional hook here?
First, I got emotionally connected to Shonali. When she was narrating, I knew she could feel the pain. I felt the pain through her. I got touched by what she went through in personal life. And through her, I got emotionally attached to Aisha Chaudhary's story.
You have collaborated with Gulzar again, 16 years after Just Married. Your best work came after that film. How has the relationship with the veteran lyricist changed now?
The equation with Gulzar saab will never change. I'm a fanboy, who's grown up admiring and worshiping them. I still admire and worship him.
You have said out of all the four songs you have composed for The Sky Is Pink, 'Zindagi' is your favourite. What makes it so special?
The lyrics, especially the antaras (stanzas) - they moved me. Also, this is a rare song which I composed on lyrics. Normally, lyricists write on the tune. But there are times where I've composed as per the lyrics, like 'Zindagi', 'Phir Le Aaya Dil', and 'Mauja Hi Mauja'. The other two still required some scanning when I was composing. But 'Zindagi' was more challenging because Gulzar saab asked me not to change or rearrange a word. So, I composed it completely according to the writing.
What were the challenges of translating the emotional core of The Sky Is Pink into a soundtrack?
Initially, I differed with Shonali because I wanted emotional and soulful compositions to translate the emotion of The Sky Is Pink. But Shonali's idea was to focus on the happy, positive aspects of life. So, we've songs like 'Dil Hi Toh Hai' and 'Naadaniyan'.
You have said it aches when some of your good songs get lost because they are not promoted well or the film fails at the box office. Though Kalank did not work at the box office, every song was duly promoted. How was your experience of working on that film since music was an integral part of the narrative?
Kalank was something I hadn't done before. It was a period drama so (it) was rooted in Indian classical music. It demanded a lot of acoustic music so I reunited with a lot of musicians, like the Bombay percussion musicians. I hadn't worked with them for a long time, since Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai (2002).
In the near future, you are reuniting with a lot of filmmakers you've worked with in the past, like Imtiaz Ali (Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, Jab Harry Met Sejal, upcoming untitled film with Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan), Kabir Khan (New York, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Phantom, Tubelight, upcoming period sports ensemble 83), Anurag Basu (Gangster, Life... In A Metro, Barfi!, Jagga Jasoos, upcoming anthology), and Ayan Mukerji (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, and upcoming supernatural drama Brahmastra - Part One). How different was collaborating with them in their upcoming films, since some of them are very different from what they have done so far?
All of them are very close to me. I've done multiple projects with them. Collaborating with them is always fun. Of course, the scripts and subjects are different this time. But the process of working with them remains the same as before.
Amit Trivedi has said though he invested a lot in Bombay Velvet, the film did not work. Do you feel the same for Jagga Jasoos?
Do I consider Jagga Jasoos time wasted? Not at all. The amount of love I've received for its music is incredible. Jagga Jasoos has a terrific fan following. And it has enriched me as a person. Working on a soundtrack like that was very special.
You have steered clear of industry trends like rehashes. What gives you the core strength to maintain your stand for a long time?
Recreating old songs, if it's a part of the script, it's never a problem. For example, in Imtiaz's film, the protagonist is a fan of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. So we've used a part of that soundtrack there. If used interestingly, it's never a problem. Anything that becomes a trend is a problem. These days, remixes are being used as a hook. All films have one or two remixes to cater to the demands. It's quite silly.
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