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Interview Hindi

Rajen sir told me to compose music that has the essence of Bihar's folk music: Amod Bhatt on Das-Capital

A recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award for his contribution to music in Indian theatre, Amod Bhatt composed the music for Rajen Kothari and Dayal Nihalani's film, which was released yesterday after an eight-year wait.

Suyog Zore

Amod Bhatt, who began his career by composing music for plays, has created the musical score for the late Rajen Kothari's final directorial venture Das-Capital: Gulamon Ki Rajdhani, co-directed by Dayal Nihalani.

The film is a satirical take on the deep-rooted corruption in the Indian bureaucracy and tells the story of a Dalit treasury clerk Purushottam Ram (Yashpal Sharma), who is trapped in office politics and rampant corruption.

Das-Capital was released yesterday on the Cinemapreneur platform eight long years after it was completed.

Prolific music composer Bhatt has worked with some of the best directors in his career of more than 30 years. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2014 for his contribution to music in Indian theatre.

In a telephone conversation, Amod Bhatt took Cinestaan.com through his process of composing music for Das-Capital, how he forayed into film music, and his fondness for folk music. Excerpts:

Das-Capital has finally been released after eight years. What do you have to say about it?

This film is very close to my heart. I'm genuinely happy that it is finally being released and I hope people will enjoy [watching] it as much as we enjoyed making it. There were a few times when we thought that finally our film would be released, but again something would happen and every time the release would get postponed. Finally, after Pratik Kothari's relentless pursuit it is being released online. 

What was Rajen Kothari's brief to you when he approached you to compose the music?

The first thing he told me was that since the film takes place in 1980s Bihar, our music should have some essense of Bihar's folk music. The music should feel like it is a part of the daily lives of those people and also help tell the story. He also advised me to incorporate Kabir's dohas [couplets] in the film. Bihar's folk music and Kabir's dohas were the two main centre points around which I was asked to compose the music. Also, all songs in the film are situational. There is not a single song that hinders the pace of the film, in fact, they are used to take the story forward.

So how difficult or easy was it to mould that folk music into mainstream film music?

It was a tough task because we didn't want to use any folk music that was already popular. We actually composed new tunes that resemble the folk music in Bihar. Folk music has a distinct rhythm and style of singing which we incorporated into our music but we didn't lift any tune from folk music. Also, I had to compose tunes on the lyrics. Generally, in Hindi films, a composer first composes the tune and then the lyricist writes the lyrics on it, but we went with the traditional method.

My theatre background helped me a lot in this process. I have composed many songs for plays in my theatre days. And in theatre, usually, the tune is composed after the lyrics. Also, I have explored folk music from various regions during my theatre days, so this is not something I'm doing for the first time. Because I had already done it in my theatre days, I was in my comfort zone while composing for this film. I, Rajen sir, Yashpalji, we used to have a proper musical sitting where we would discuss what kind of music I should compose.

Do you always prefer to compose the tune on the lyrics? Because, as you correctly pointed out, in Hindi films this order is generally reversed.

Yes, this is my preferred method. But it's up to personal discretion. Some prefer to compose the tune first and then the lyrics are written on the tune  There is no right or wrong method. It's all about what you are comfortable with, and what will give you more success.

As you said, Das-Capital's music has a distinct folk musical touch. So, did you choose singers who are familiar with this type of music?

Surprisingly, not even one singer is from Bihar. Swaroop Khan is from Rajasthan, Ajay Jayram is from Gondia, Maharashtra, Raghuvir Yadav is from Uttar Pradesh, and Pratibhaji [Sharma] is from Maharashtra, so none of the singers were familiar with this kind of music. We worked hard to teach them the nuances of Bihar folk music. But everyone stepped up to the challenge and I believe we have all given our best to this film.

You were composing for plays in your initial days, how did you make your foray into films?

I started my career with eminent theatre director BV Karanth in 1981. [Karanth was widely regarded for his use of music in plays.] I composed music for his plays. After a few years, I started working independently. Ultimately, in 1997, I came to Mumbai. Here I started composing for music albums. I did one album with Nirmal Pandey called Jazba. After that, I composed title tracks for serials. Then, in 2008, I composed music for a Bhojpuri film called Kanyadan starring Ravi Kishan and Keerti Gaikwad Kelkar. That was my big break because that film went on to become a huge hit. Then I did Sunny Deol's Mohalla Assi (2018).

Is there a difference between composing for plays and composing for films?

No, my approach towards any new project is the same, be it film or play. And if you think about it, in terms of screenplay structure, there is not much difference between a play and a film. There are minor differences like in films one can afford to spend more money on music, but this doesn't happen a lot in theatre.

Nowadays many Hindi film music lovers complain that we have lost our Indian sound. Music companies are remaking old songs. Even films set in small towns feature electronic dance music and have no room for the music of that region. As a representative of the music fraternity, what do you have to say about this?

The blame for this also lies with the market. Why are music directors forced to create such music? Because it has a dedicated market. People are listening to such songs. Ideally, Hindi film music should have a more local folk music flavour in it. If there is a film set in a small town of UP, then that film's music should have an influence of that local folk music. But, unfortunately, film music is treated as a marketing tool. We finished our work on Das-Capital in 2012 and since then we haven't changed a single thing in our music. Because we are confident that our music is still relevant and once people hear it they will definitely like it.

Any other projects you are currently working on?

There are two or three films, but it's too early to talk about them. I also composed some poetry In the last seven or eight months. In a way, these last seven months have been quite productive for me. During the lockdown, I composed a song called 'Shatru Ye Adrushya Hai' dedicating it to our corona warriors. That was sung by Udit Narayan.

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