His three compositions from director Abhishek Varman’s historical drama Kalank are topping the charts already but Pritam Chakraborty hasn’t had the time to sit back and enjoy any of the applause. Ghar More Pardesiya, First Class and the Kalank title track-together notching up more than 100 million YouTube views, haven’t made the composer entirely happy.
“All the songs have been designed for the screenplay so the four-and-a-half minutes that are out right now actually play out to eight minutes in the film because it’s all connected to the script and have to flow with the scenes," the 47-year old composer said adding that there are three more songs to still come out and he will keep working on all of them, as long as he can.
“What can be done in one day, I can do in a hundred. I keep mixing and mastering the track. My nature is such that till the song is not snatched away from me, I will keep working. I can’t help it. Because you may not find faults with the song but I will," he said.
His first album release in nearly two years (Jab Harry Met Sejal came out in August 2017), makes sense given the amount Chakraborty has had on his plate so far. Having broken up with composer partner Jeet Gannguli in 2004 after which he embarked on a solo stint with Yash Raj Films’ blockbuster action thriller Dhoom, the Film and Television Institute of India alumnus never looked back. And chartbuster albums have been many- Gangster (2006), Life in a..Metro (2007), Jab We Met (2007), Race (2008), Love Aaj Kal (2009), Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010), Cocktail (2012), Barfi! (2012), Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) and Dilwale (2015).
The schedule of course, has been even more choc-a-bloc since Karan Johar’s romantic drama Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) that remains one of the most streamed albums across audio-on-demand platforms. In 2017, Chakraborty had as many as four releases- romantic adventure Raabta, Salman Khan-starrer Tubelight, Imtiaz Ali’s Jab Harry Met Sejal and Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos, the last an eclectic musical mystery comedy with 29 songs which played out as part of an ongoing narrative and lead actor Ranbir Kapoor saying his dialogues in verse.
“That took a toll on my health, Jagga Jasoos was like five films in one so it felt like I was working on nine projects at the same time," says the composer whose starting point for any film is a connection with the director.
“Every script has a soundscape in itself, which is in tandem with the sensibilities of the director. The journey on a film starts with a narration though I prefer reading the script because I have an attention problem and often lose the plot (while listening), which I then discuss with the director at length. He or she is the captain of the ship, the film is playing out orally and visually in his mind and I have to interpret it," he added.
The composer then starts on the basic germ of the tunes, just the mukhda or the first verse after which the lyricist comes into the picture.
“Film music is collaboration between the director, composer and lyricist, it will work only when that happens. For me, good collaboration with the director is the biggest takeaway from a film. For instance, Anurag (Basu) and Imtiaz (Ali) are friends, Ayan (Mukerji) is very good at articulation, Karan (Johar) and Abhishek (Varman) are instinctive so you just have to mould yourself accordingly," Chakraborty said. “That’s why I can never imagine myself working in a multi-composer film. There have been times when I have landed a film, done two songs and left because connection nahi hua."
In his 19-year career, Chakraborty has seen several great songs fade into oblivion when the film it is part of doesn’t work and has come to believe that is part and parcel of the process.
“Songs are the first look of a movie, but the survival of a song depends on how the movie does. Plus the first two or three songs that are promoted are the chatpata (fun) ones, the good songs are not promoted as much," Chakraborty said citing the example of a soft number like Ilahi which would have been completely lost if Ye Jawani Hai Deewani had not worked.
“My favourite songs from Jab Harry Met Sejal are Ghar and Yaadon Mein. So yes, if the film doesn’t work, it’s a huge disappointment. A lot of good songs get lost," the composer said.
Chakraborty has collaborated with media services powerhouse Prime Focus Ltd and talent management company KWAN to create Jam8, a platform for budding musical talent to come together under one roof, gain the best facilities to compose music and then be guided towards projects. He also has his hands full again, with films like sports drama 83, director Shonali Bose’s The Sky Is Pink starring Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar, Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmastra and director Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore.
He says the hectic schedule hasn’t allowed him time to listen to any recent releases, though he was impressed by the soundtracks of Gully Boy and Black Panther.
“The current biggest challenge (in the music industry) is that the audience is very fragmented, earlier a lot more people used to listen to the same music. Be it indie, rap, rock or pop—there are many modern styles and languages which youngsters seek. The approach (in Bollywood) needs to change to accept and absorb everything and bring the audience back into one coalition. Till that happens, the audience is a bit fragmented which is challenging," he said.