Achint Thakkar’s theme song of Scam 1992 currently sits at around 26 million views on YouTube. After successfully creating music for two web series — Scam 1992 and Rocket Boys — Thakkar is set for the release of Monica O My Darling, the Netflix film starring Rajkummar Rao, Huma Qureshi and Radhika Apte.
In a chat with Achint, he speaks about the experience of creating music inspired by the 70s, his journey in the music industry, and more.
‘Monica O My Darling’ is different from your other projects in terms of it being a full-blown Bollywood film. Did that make a difference to how you approached it as a composer?
Yes, it did. Monica Oh My Darling is a full-on old-school Bollywood subject. I’m a 90s kid, so I was not there in the 70s and 80s. But the 90s had people like Jatin Lalit and Nadeem Shravan, who were carrying on the music of Pancham da (R. D. Burman), Kalyanji, Anandji, and Lakshmikant Pyarelal. That’s the music I grew up on. I’m a big fan of old, vintage music, but for this project, I had to actually study it.
What can you tell us about the musical landscape of the project?
The musical landscape is inspired by the 70s. The kind of music that Pancham da, Kalyanji, Anandji, Shankar Jai Kishan, and S.D. Burman used to make. It is in that zone; that sensibility of what film music used to be. We tried to incorporate that throughout the film. A lot of songs melt into the background score as well.
So you had to go back for over four decades. What did that process look like?
Just watching old movies on YouTube. I have always been a big fan of S.D. Burman and R.D. Burman . But this time, I saw those movies to analyse what was happening with the music. I went, not as a listener, but as a student. So it was a fun journey.
What does the journey from ‘Shalimar,’ your 2015 solo album, to ‘Scam 1992,’ a web series, and now to ‘Monica O My Darling’ look like?
Well, it has been a lot of fun. I love making music, and I like spending time with the process. I got to meet a lot of interesting people like Hansal Mehta, Jai Mehta, Abhay Pannu (director of Rocket Boys), Vasan Bala (director of Monica O My Darling), and I’m really fortunate to have worked with all of them.
Your initial trajectory appears to be more relaxed in terms of projects coming to fruition. But since ‘Scam 1992,’ it’s been like a rollercoaster ride. What has that difference been like?
Well, here you sign a contract and you have a deadline. With my music, there is no deadline, which is why it takes so much longer, I guess.
When I was making music on my own, it was more about the vision I had; I could do music however I wanted. In film music, the focus is more on fitting into a narrative because you are getting into the world of a story. You have to serve whatever is required of you. The music is also like an actor in the film, and so it also has to do what the story needs.
Which one do you prefer — keeping your individuality or working with a narrative?
There is nothing like creating music to your own narrative. It is very pure when you do something yourself and there is no one telling you what to do.
Here, you are part of the music department, which is one of the many departments of filmmaking. So, it’s just one of the many parts of the film. And in that part, sometimes the limitation reeks more creativity. When you have less to work around, you try and find the most interesting ways to approach it. You try to make the most of the little playground you get.
What is your process of creating sound?
Procrastination, firstly. It is very important to do nothing, just dream about it, think about it, and see what can happen. And then comes figuring out how to make it happen. Even if you are doing your own music, you sort of have an idea of what it should sound like. It’s like if you decide to make chicken biryani tomorrow, you should think of all the ingredients you might need. Then, you will ask yourself ‘Do I need this or that?’
In a lot of your interviews, you mentioned that electronic music is your comfort zone. How did you pick it up in the first place?
I wouldn’t say electronic music per se, since it is very broad. I struggle to describe what my music is; it is a mix of electronic, rock, and pop. I started playing music in school and then I got into it slowly, and things just kept going forward. I started playing guitar,and then came singing and producing music.
Monica O My Darling will release on Netflix on November 11