Striking the Right Chords – The Indian Express

While other music composers see the Coke [email protected] stage as a platform to exercise their creative freedom on a blank canvas without the narrative brief of movies,Ram Sampath chose to draw out a theme for his set of six songs in the show’s third season. “I need to have a concept,else I wouldn’t be able to create songs. I need a thematic connection that gives it a shape and form,” says Sampath,during a lunch break amid marathon recording sessions for the show at Mumbai’s Film City.
While on its phantasmagorical sets,bathed in the dreamy hues of the soft stage lights,Sampath is seen conducting his entire ensemble,one song at a time — each Coke Studio song at an average takes four takes and two hours to record — as his female singers take centrestage. Sampath’s theme is the concept of Devi,and he has put up an imaginative set — from Rajasthani folk singer Bhanwari Devi to hip hop artist Hard Kaur,from Carnatic classical vocalist Aruna Sairam to his “much better half”,singer Sona Mohapatra.
The ability to find an outline to his music has enabled Sampath to slip effortlessly into the Hindi film music scene. After a somewhat promising but patchy start with films such as Khakee and Family,his career took a new turn with an astounding score
for Delhi Belly,and more recently Talaash and Fukrey. The marked difference in the two career phases has been his ability to reimagine
film music. He composes songs that blend with the narrative rather than filling the chartbuster requirements of a film.
“I have learnt to work around the system to get my songs into the film. When I signed Delhi Belly,it was a one-song film. But when I made the songs and presented Aamir (Khan) the film along with them,he was like ‘arey yaar,this is great,and this is working’,” he says.
Sampath’s music has an indie ethos — he started with rock band Colour Blind in 1998 — but it has never constricted his exposure to music,resulting in his control over a variety of genres,from folk to rock,electronica to classical,and hip hop to dubstep. Like many of his peers,Sampath marks the watershed moment of Hindi film music with the arrival of AR Rahman. “Up until then I think all of us felt we need to have a pop scene as we can’t be operating in Bollywood. But when Rahman came in,we knew how to be a part of this business,bringing the sound of our generation into Bollywood,” he says. Sampath’s admiration for Bollywood music has been inclined towards the not-so-typical film composers. “Shiv-Hari,Zakir sahab,Ilaiyaraaja,Panchamda have done so much more outside film music. They weren’t just film composers,they blended genres,” says Sampath. “You can be really versatile and still be a Bollywood composer. It’s a big space,” he adds.
The trick to strike a balance between personal sensibilities and the Bollywood template is to find the right producer,an open collaborator,as he has found in Aamir Khan. “The biggest difference between him and 90 per cent of Bollywood producers is that he doesn’t come from a space of fear. Ke yaar yeh gaana aisa hain toh film pit jaayegi. He is ready to take a different route. And you know these are opportunities and not problems,” he says.
While making music,Sampath is kicked by the unending possibilities it can throw up when blended with moving images such as Delhi Belly (sample the opening credits set to Saigal blues) and Talaash. But Sampath is pleased with the picturisation of Ambarsariya from Fukrey. “It’s so old school. Boy and girl,neighbourhood and romance,” he says. “I respect directors who passionately shoot songs. It is a craft and that’s what our films are good for. Like Yashji,and Imtiaz Ali. And you get this liberty with new-age directors. You play
them a song,and they get excited saying,‘yaar,let’s do something around it’,” he says.
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