Dive into the musical “Gehraiyaan” with magical Bollywood musician, Ankur Tewari

In 2017, when I heard the track Dil Beparva for the first time, I had no idea that singer, songwriter Ankur Tewari would make a permanent place in my playlist. I guess it was also the time when we explored independent music and discovered extraordinary talents.

Fast forward to 2022, before everyone drowns in by Gehraiyaan soundtrack, it was Tewari’s last independent heavyweight single Ashita it has become my morning anthem. The Hindi-Urdu track was a romance of words that spoke of silence, calm and balance in life. The description itself sounds soothing, doesn’t it? While Gully Boy’s the success of the album turned all eyes on him, and now Gehraiyaan adds more to the notoriety of the songwriter, in between there were some tracks like Jiyo Mahro Sa, Chaand Chahiye, Musafir, Woh Hum Nahi and more that makes Tewari’s work quite interesting and versatile. Now that his Deepika Padukone, Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Dhairya Karwa starrer album has become a certified hit of 2022, the music supervisor discusses his work with Shakun Batra, the difference between the independent and commercial film space and what he plans to do next.

Do you have a fixed musical process?

There is no fixed process, but there are practices that I follow. I try to spend a lot of time with my instruments and listening to new music. I spend a lot of time reading other books. It really inspires you, seeing what other people are doing and writing. It’s quite a process. You are constantly writing in your head where you are investigating characters, people, personalities, conversations. Sometimes you end up putting all those thoughts together, putting pen to paper, and a song comes out on its own.

What was your experience working with Shakun Batra?

It was rewarding. He’s so mature for his age, expressive, knows what he wants. He is resilient, does what he wants and does not give up until the end. There are many times when you think, ‘Okay, now he’s done with that’, but he will continue to dig deeper and deeper to explore and extract the best from each artist. It’s very inspiring to see someone so passionate about storytelling and someone so passionate about the expression of film. I learned a lot throughout the process, took notes and kept them with me and hope to apply them to my work.

Do you pay attention to the likes, the number of views?

It gives you a dopamine rush, which is nice. But as long as we take it for that, it’s good. It’s like gurgling a pint of beer. It gives you a high but it’s like the words, wo marz hai dawa bhi. You also have to be careful, keep your distance.

What exactly is a music supervisor?

The music supervisor would be someone who designs the film’s musical palace. Kind of draws the plan of how the music will play a role in the film, whether it’s background music, songs, or lyrics. You sort of design a template and share it with all the contributors like the people doing the score or the people doing the songs, the lyricists and making sure the director’s vision is intact.

You have a great knowledge of music creation, but how do you work to make music when your vision and that of the creator differ?

Usually I only take on projects after spending time with the directors of the film. You try to find common ground. It’s not a class of what you want to say, ultimately it’s the director’s vision. I always feel that cinema is a bit anarchic in its structure. You’re sort of trying to enhance the director’s vision instead of trying to pit your vision against the director’s. You’re just trying to enhance what the director wants to say. So, from the beginning, when you decide if you want to be in a project or not, it’s a very important phase. When you spend time with the director and try to understand what the vision is, then you try to assess what the vision is in a positive way.

How is independent music different from commercial music and how do you create music for the same?

The difference is that when you make independent music, you just make it for yourself. There is no external brief for the song. You do what you feel instead of feeding it a story that isn’t written by you. But when you’re making music for a movie, you’re trying to improve the director’s vision. So you kind of try to figure out what the story is about and try to be honest with it.

You were in management and then how did music come to you?

Music has always been in my life. I was writing songs even in school. I was studying at university, but studying wasn’t really what I was doing. I mainly played music in the cafeterias and the hostel. I was playing weekend gigs in hotels and just enjoying my life as a musician. I think when college was over, I decided I had to keep doing what I did most in college, which was singing. So, I just carried on somehow.

When you create music for films, do you often also ask the actors for music?

Not really the actors, but the characters of course. If you know the actors, then you find out. I happen to know a bit about Siddhant’s musical tastes, so that helps. Nowadays all the actors are on social media and they put music there, so you kind of know what kind of music Deepika or Ananya puts on. I didn’t know Dhairya before the film so I couldn’t follow. But it’s mostly the characters because they don’t play themselves. They play personalities that aren’t really them, so you have to investigate that aspect.

How often do you rework your creation after the first cut?

A bunch of times until it feels good. There’s always a point when you’re creating something where you give up that work because you’re done. But often it comes quite late. You work and rework until you really feel it’s right. There were instances where I wrote a song and played it for two or three years before I finished that song. I changed the lyrics and the chords and the way I play it. And I think giving it a physical shape is when you have to commit to it. So, there will be times when you abandon it and give it its own life.

Did the actors of the film bring their contribution during the creation of the song?

They don’t actually participate in creating the songs, but what really helped me was the script that Shakun and Ayesha wrote. It was very tight from the start and expressive. You could read the characters and understand them, so it was actually the characters that gave you more than the actors themselves. We had the chance to do some songs after filming the movie so we could see how they acted and acted on screen. The performances are splendid, be it Deepika, Dhairya, Siddhant or Ananya; they just expressed their characters so honestly. It was a good starting point to make the songs.

How was the whole process of creating music for the film?

It was quite amazing. Shakun himself is very musical, he has great taste. It always features amazing songs to listen to just to get the vibe. He has great references and a great view of history too. Most of the references we used to design the palace for the film were from OAFF and Savera, who are incredibly driven young musicians. Not once did you feel like it was their first movie. They are very insightful with the story and what the scenes and the movie were saying and came up with some great ideas. Then you ended up working with someone like Kausar who has immense experience in writing movie lyrics. She took to the cinema very easily. It didn’t take him long to mingle with the musicians. There are beautiful voices in the film. Lothika sang beautifully, while Shalmali, Savera and Mohit Chauhan also lent their vocals to the songs. It was just organic and we never felt pressured. We were just following our instincts and everything fell into place mainly because the script was so good.

Dil Beparvah, Gully Boy and now Gehraiyaan, tell us how each project challenged you? And one thing you learned from it as a music supervisor?

These are the few of my projects that have caught people’s attention, but there are many others that I have worked on for many years but have not caught people’s attention. Each project is a challenge. Some of them vibrate with people and others remain discreet. But every project is difficult because you don’t know where you’re going to land. You start with a feeling and you end up somewhere. It’s an adventure that can take you anywhere.

And after?

I’m working on Zoya Akhtar’s Netflix movie called Archies. Then I’m working on Arjun Varain’s first film titled Kho Gaye Hum Kahan. Other than that, I just released a single called Ahista, which is about moving slowly through life. I finished the work on my album which is called Akela. It should be out this year.

QUICK FIRE:

1. A looping music track that you are listening to.

Mohabbat by Arooj Aftab

2. Your best track to date?

Sabse Peeche Hum Khade

3. If you’re not a music supervisor, would you be?

Something else? I do not know (Laughs). I don’t think about what I would be, who I am right now, I’m talking to you right now so that’s all I can think about. As long as I’m having fun with what I’m doing, that’s fine with me. Could be anything.

4. Five key elements you follow when creating a song?

Honesty, feelings, intuition, inspiration and expiration.

5. A musician who inspires you the most?

AR Rahman always inspires me. I love how it keeps reinventing itself.

6. A living or dead person you want to make music for or work with?

It would have been amazing if I was doing music with Leonard Cohen.

7. One thing you enjoy doing the most when you’re not working?

Reading

8. Your evergreen music playlist consists of?

A bunch of them depends on the mood. A song that keeps coming up in my playlist is Milegi Milegi by Lucky Ali.

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Posted: Sunday February 6th 2022, 07:42 IST

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