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‘ Vande Mataram was challenging'

sangeetha devi dundoo
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chat Sohail Sen used Baul music and live orchestra to recreate the sounds of 1930s

pre-independence era ‘Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se' was challenging, says Sohail Sen
pre-independence era ‘Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se' was challenging, says Sohail Sen

M usic director Sohail Sen realised that the soul of a period film lies in the use of live music. He had earned appreciation and confidence of director Ashutosh Gowarikar, having worked with him in What's Your Rashee. But that was a contemporary film that demanded racy chartbusters. Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se, bringing back episodes from the Chittagong Uprising in the 1930s, was a different setting altogether. This fourth generation musician spent much time researching the music of the pre-Independence era, before composing for the film.

“I drew references from the five different genres of Baul music of Bengal and managed to record 90 per cent with live orchestra. We have almost forgotten the days of live orchestra and are addicted to synthesisers. The sound textures are so different when a live orchestra is involved,” says Sohail Sen. “It was an exhilarating experience to have musicians perform the string instruments live,” he adds.

The young composer is the great grandson of Jamal Sen, grandson of Shambhu Sen and son of Sameer Sen (of the Dileep Sen-Sameer Sen duo). “I grew up listening to music, being a fourth generation musician in the family,” he says. Sohail was formally initiated into music at the age of eight. “It was quite a shift for me to work on a period film after What's Your Rashee. Some of my family members were shocked that I could do a period film,” he laughs.

Sohail used instruments of the Baul music for the film. “Every song presented a different challenge. We used instruments such as the ektara, naal, madal, duggi tarang and tabla,” he explains. The biggest challenge was redefining the Vande Mataram.

“We have been listening to Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay's version of Vande Mataram for almost a decade now. It was tough to erase those tunes from my memory and come up with fresh tunes,” confesses Sohail.

While composing for the film, Sohail spent days at a stretch at the location, when the crew was shooting at Sawantwadi near Goa. “I used to watch the shoot and interact with the actors and the crew. This helped me understand the proceedings better. I would compose tunes in the evenings. We would have music discussions till late night and at times, Ashutosh would listen to my compositions as late as 2 a.m.” says Sohail.

In his second film with Gowarikar, Sohail could understand the filmmaker better. “He had more confidence in me and I knew the kind of music he liked.”

Sohail's next project will be the fun flick Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar and produced by Yash Raj Films.

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We have forgotten the days of live orchestra and have become addicted to synthesisers.

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