Recently, we were at a music festival in Chandigarh, and there were five bands lined up before us. Everyone played either Punjabi music or Bollywood music on the dhol. The audience was lapping it up, and the band and I were just getting nervous," says singer-songwriter Raghu Dixit, known for his folk leanings and his band The Raghu Dixit Project. "Then we came on, and the first four songs were thanda, but as soon as we played Shugal Laga Le from Chef, people started getting into it, and they even sang along to the Kannada songs after me. We made Punjabis sing in Kannada!"'
It's Dixit's first time as music director for a Bollywood film — Saif Ali Khan-starrrer Chef, adapted from the Hollywood film of the same name, and directed by Raja Krishna Menon. "I had a block as far as the Hindi film industry was concerned, but the success of Chef's music has made us realise the power of cinema."
Dixit says he didn't think of pursuing a career in Bollywood. It was by chance that Menon heard his music. In the beginning, he was brought on for one song [Shugal...], and later decided to pitch for the entire film score. "Usually, it takes two years before your fans know the lyrics of an indie album. But a Bollywood release introduces your song instantly to the audience."
Working for a mainstream film didn't mean a change in how he made music. Dixit says he went about it organically — first asking for the script and then going with his gut feeling on how to make the music. "I am very bad at being told make a song sound a particular way. I am good at imagining the situation and thinking up tunes, and I am glad I got that freedom," says the 42-year-old Bengaluru resident. What he did imagine was a tapestry of music, using instruments and styles that range from all over India. The movie, which travels from Kerala to Delhi via Goa, has music that uses Kerala percussions, Samba and Punjabi beats.
For now, Dixit is busy working on his next indie release, which is a collaboration with the Berklee Indian Ensemble. He is also looking for a home in Mumbai. "Yes, I have finally decided to make the shift. As a band we had hit the ceiling, and often asked ourselves 'what now?'. The answer to that is Bollywood."
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