The sniping between the music industries of India and Pakistan ceases occasionally. In June, for instance, when the musical team of Mehreen Jabbar’s Ramchand Pakistani, led by composer Debajyoti Mishra, will get together in Mumbai to wrap up the score of the film with an elaborate chamber orchestra recording.
When Jabbar, an alternate Pakistani film-maker, wanted to create a soundtrack for her film, she had a one-point agenda. She wanted the music composed by whoever did the outstanding solo, Mathura Nagarpati Kahe Tum, from the Rituparno Ghosh film, Raincoat.
“I found that music so haunting I could think of no music director other than Mishra,” she says. Jabbar was clear she wanted mood music for the film, but not a musical packed with lip-synched songs.
Mishra signed up after he heard the film script and two months ago he was in Karachi finalizing the blueprint of the music. It went on to become for Jabbar, Mishra and his singers a unique cross-border experience. Mishra has roped in Sufi singers Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan and Abida Parveen and Shubha Mudgal for the songs.
“Jabbar wanted global sounds, so we have used instruments such as bouzouki, saaz, udh, cello and viola. But the orchestration is simple despite the number of instruments we used,” says Mishra, who has also done the music for Chokher Bali and the forthcoming film, Dharma. Two of the songs sung by Khan and Mudgal have been recorded and the composer will wrap up the project in July.
Jabbar says she found Mishra a spirited musician, but one open to ideas. “He was never once didactic about the music during the fortnight he was here in Karachi composing,” she recalls.
Mishra is one of the few Indian composers to have been involved in a Pakistani film. The last venture to have Indian artistes was Khamosh Pani, starring Kirron Kher, with some traditional and Sufi songs by Delhi-based singer Madan Gopal Singh. Bollywood songs are hugely popular in Pakistan and pirated versions of most tracks are eagerly devoured because Indian labels are not allowed in (incidentally, the reverse also applies, so Ramchand Pakistani will be available to only one of the countries unless they come up with a smart business idea). At a classical music concert Mudgal gave, the crowds stayed on till dawn to hear her.
Classical music is also what draws Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan. He takes on Bollywood projects with some trepidation. He is quite sure he does not want to let go his classical roots when he sings for films. Mercifully for him, his big hits last year—Mitwa from Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna and Yeh Hosla from Dor—were both deeply melodic. His song for Mishra, he says, was music after his own heart.
“I’ve got to admit I never heard Raincoat before I took on Ramchand. The song I have done for Mishra, Phir Wohi Raste, is very soulful. Shankar-Ehsan-Loy and Salim Suleiman gave me great songs and their music has its own place in my life. Mishra belongs to another league and I am now a big fan of his music,” says Khan.
Jabbar’s film revolves around a real incident of a child who grows up in a prison with his father, both caught while straying across the border. The child grows up with no memory of his mother and the film is about the emotional crisis the family is thrown into.
The film is in the process of being edited and it is due for release in September when the film festival circuits start to come alive.