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Interviews |  25 Nov 2008 12:59 |  By AnitaIyer

Sneha Khanwalkar - "I want to let my work speak for me"

If the pucca Punjabi tunes of Oye lucky lucky oye that are ruling the charts on television and radio make you think it's a Punjab da puttar who has composed the score, think again.

The film's composer is a female music director in her 20s, and sports looks that could easily find her a place in front of the camera. The chirpy Sneha Khanwalkar chats with Radioandmusic.com's Anita Iyer about her experience while composing for Oye lucky lucky oye,  the Punjabi genre and the Indian music industry in general.

Excerpts -

The music of Oye lucky... is a cut above contemporary film scores. Did you invest any extra effort in the composition?

Oye lucky... was my solo attempt this time after composing for films on assortment basis earlier. Now I can claim Oye Lucky...as entirely my baby. The music wasn't composed like it normally is and I had to do some research before composing. I and the director Dibakar travelled to parts of Punjab and Haryana for one and half months while he was still working on the script  He didn't want any lip syncing music and yet the music had to take the script forward. The songs are instrumental in suggesting the pre climax, sticking to the theme of the movie.

How difficult was it to compose with singers from Haryana and Punjab?

These singers are used to people coming to them, recording their voices and not getting back to them. I had to convince them and assure them that I respect their talent and will use their work with credits. It was funny when these old villagers used to suspiciously enquire about why I wasn't married yet!

The vocals of the tracks are very different and Khalif (in their pristine form), yet an effort was made to make it palatable for the lay man. They are necessarily sung by the original folk singers retaining the raw instruments used. To make the singers comfortable, we had also recorded the music on their dhool-mitti, in their own surroundings, so that they don't get intimidated by the studio setup.

Can you take us through the journey of the album?

The singers are original folk singers, the track �Jugni' is sung by 72 year old Des Raj Lachkani. You give the track an ear and you cannot guess that it has been sung by an elderly person, because he sounds so fresh.

The track �Tu Raja Ki Raj Dulari' is rendered by 11 year old Rajbir. The song is the Ragini form of Haryanvi folk music. While travelling, we attended some Ragini music competitions which happen during the night in small villages of Haryana, mainly attended by men. It is a very dynamic form of music with great instrumentation and vocals. I was so impressed by the form of music that I wanted to include it in the album and we shortlisted four original folk singers between the age group of seven and 12. These kids were then asked to rehearse and then flown to Delhi to record the music. Finally we zeroed in on Rajbir's vocals.

�Super chor' is a situational track which doesn't follow the usual mukhda and antara format but has a rap element to it. There is a new singer Brijesh Shandilya in �Hooriyan' along with Himani Kapoor.

How different are the tracks of Oye lucky.... different from the clutter of Punjabi songs in the market today?

There is Punjabi music all around and I had to compose something which would stand out from the Punjabi clutter  Punjabi music has been done to death yet there are loads of things yet to be discovered  The Punjabi genre has followed a success formula and delivered the same hip hop, bhangra Punjabi music mixture  In Oye lucky… it is not pure Punjabi music, I have added my own melodies, and locals have rendered contemporary lingo in the tracks. We have served music in such a manner that it is entertaining to encompass all kinds of audiences.

You are one of  the youngest composers in the fraternity, and female to boot...Was it difficult getting a break in the film industry?

It was not that people were against me but it took time for them to get used to the fact that a woman can be a composer. It was difficult initially but eventually people got used to fact that here's a girl who is willing to render good work  You have to sit with directors and match his passion then record with musicians for hours who feel they are big in their own right!

Being a women composer has been an USP for you?

Being a woman composer has its own pros and cons, it is a USP sometimes but it also is a hindrance at many places. However, I don't wish to be addressed as a �woman composer' necessarily because I wish to be part of the composer fraternity and let my work speak for me.

You made you debut with Ram Gopal Varma's Go last year?

I had composed music for GO when I was too young and it took time to release, nearly four or five years of delay! The problem here is if the movie gets dated then the integration gets stretched over a period of time. Having worked on Oye lucky, I would like to perceive it as my fresh start.

How different are tracks from Oye Lucky from the contemporary fast beats ruling Bollywood now?

These songs have a market of their own and have to be commercially packed for their success. While composing for Oye lucky, I tried hard to strike a balance between the commercial part while still retaining the authenticity of the music. So, the outcome is music which is khalif in a way but does not alienate anyone.

Your take on plagiarism prevailing in the industry?

It shocks me that some musicians who are super talented resort to  plagiarism. I believe musicians should be as original as possible and sound like themselves in their compositions. Instead of resorting to lifting tunes, if they invest five more minutes, they could conceive an original tune!

Tell us about your background? You are a Maharashtrain from Indore…

I came to Mumbai from Indore about seven to eight years ago and wanted to compose music. My maternal family boasts of some good Hindustani classical singers and I have always been influenced by them. I wanted to be a composer because that way I can express feelings through poetry, tunes, lyrics, vocals...