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Interviews |  18 Jan 2010 17:05 |  By harpreetkhokhar

Shantanu Moitra - 'Raju Hirani likes a film's music to be composed along with the shooting'

He is one of the  regular features of Vidhu Vinod Chopra films. Having composed for movies like Parineeta, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Munna Bhai and private albums like Shubha Mudgal's Mann ke Manjeere, Shantanu Moitra has earned critical acclaim as well as accolades from the masses. He started his career with composing jingles but says, "Music isn't something that I do full time." Riding high on the success of the year's biggest grosser, 3 Idiots,  Moitra in conversation with's Harpreet Khokhar, dwells on the music industry, films and his own vision for the future.

3 Idiots has worked wonders. Tell us something about the making of the album.

3 Idiots was composed a year and a half ago. Raju (Rajkumar Hirani) likes composing the music alongside  the shooting of the film. In fact, the music is one of the first departments which kicks alive in his films. 'Give me some sunshine' was the first song that was composed for the album. All the songs in the movie are very thematic. The flavour of the music and movie is humour, which is a very important expression for today's youth and Swanand while penning the lyrics, has captured that essence very well.

Making the music of the film was a very tough journey. The movie makes you laugh and cry at the same time, hence encapsulating the emotions made it difficult even while composing the background score.

It seems that not only actors, but even the music directors have formed a fixed group of directors with whom they'd like to work with? You often team up with VIdhu Vinod Chopra...

I have done several projects with Vidhu now. Hence, the comfort level we share is great. Otherwise, it takes time to get to know his style. It is human nature to stick with people you are comfortable with. We know each other well after years of working together 

Do you compose a track first or wait for the lyrics to be written?

I have worked with Swanand in so many films that there is a mutual understanding amongst us when it comes to ideas. For example, Give me some Sunshine was written first and then I composed the tune around it. Sometimes, the words are written first and sometimes music is composed first. It is a very cohesive process. There is no set rule. All the songs are a combination of both melody and words - they have to be in sync. Though personally I am more comfortable composing first and then the lyrics can be tailored   

Do you think there is space to play around with a bit of English soundtracks in Hindi films too?

Today, there is space to play with any language especially English, which is the language of the youth. What is being talked around in the colleges represents the language of today. Bad content in Hindi is a horrible idea; similarly, bad content in English is also lame  What you say is more important rather than the language. There are a lot of tracks today which have used English words including a few of my tracks in 3 Idiots. But it is the content that should be paid more attention. Bilingual tracks are the order of the day since that is the language that the youth today converses in. Bad content will not work whatever be the language.

You have worked with Swanand Kirkire quite often. Tell us about your equation with him.

I met Swanand for the first time during the making of the film 'Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi'. That is where I recognised his talent. He had written one song which was later even sung by him. Since then, we have worked on several projects like Parineeta. We are very comfortable working with each other and understand one another's style of working.

I am also working on an album with him. It is after long that I am composing something that is not a part of a cinematic experience. The last album that I composed was Mann Ke Manjire for Shubha Mugdal. It is some time now and I desire to do something beyond movies. The album is still in the conceptual stage and the final nuances haven't been decided, hence it will be too early to talk about it 

You roped in Suraj Jagan from the band Dream Out Loud. How did that happen?

I had worked with Suraj while composing for an advertising jingle. I liked the texture of his voice and was sure to use it some time  The song Give me some sunshine was completely apt for his voice, so I roped him in. In fact, I would not have used the song if I couldn't get him to sing. I was that certain about him. He has done a tremendous job and we all were very happy with the outcome.

You have worked for several Bengali projects also. How is working in Bengali industry different from working in Bollywood?

There isn't much difference between the two industries. Bengali musicians produce some very original songs. They are a very talented bunch with a lot of depth in their music. It is a place where you can experiment. Also, the Bengali market is the largest non film markets in India. Most places ride high on film music sales,  but in Bengal, it is non-film music that sells more  

How do you view the proposed amendments to the Copyright Act? Do you see it working for the composers?

The amendments would be very welcome. Any identification that the music belongs to the person who created it,  is a fantastic idea. It would be very helpful for the makers of music. It is important that the makers who have put in so much get their due. At the moment, there is no co-ownership amongst the producers and makers of the song which is proposed in the Act. Even that would be fine because good music still needs to be created and we require producers to do that. Empowering the composers is very important step that needs to be taken.

What is your take on reality shows on television?

It is a good place to discover talent but I try and stay away from it. I dont like the whole SMS business that goes on  I generally feel that the idea is not justified. I have been associated with Zee Bangla in the past, but that's because there was no SMS route taken there.

A lot of musicians are releasing singles on the web. Do you plan to do follow that path?

It is a great idea. A lot of stuff that is not a part of the album can be sold over the web. The digital space is the place for the future. It needs to be seriously looked at. In fact, I will sell music on my website in future. Anything to make money!    

What are your future projects?

Currently, I am working for Shyam Benegal's Well Done Abba, which is awaiting release. Apart from that, I am not doing anything as such. I have several hobbies and I like to do several things apart from making music.