High on music

A decade in Bollywood and a National Award later, composer Shantanu Moitra still considers music his hobby. The artiste, whose next offering is Aamir Khan’s film PK, tells Deepali Dhingra why most of his compositions come to him when he’s in the mountains

As he zoomed into his camera to capture the elusive Black-Necked Crane in Leh, a hint of a tune flashed across Shantanu Moitra’s mind. He immediately turned on his recorder and hummed the melody. On returning to Mumbai, he met Rajkumar Hirani and made him listen to it. Today, that very tune, along with many others, has transformed into a composition for PK — Hirani’s upcoming movie starring Aamir Khan, which releases on December 18.

Shantanu Moitra
Shantanu Moitra has a simple formula to what constitutes a good song — a combination of a good melody, good lyrics and good singing. The rest is intellectualisation, he tells us. Pic/Atul Kamble

“Most of the tunes for the film came to me when I was on that 10-day camp in Leh, and during my earlier trip to Nagaland,” the music composer tells us.

The mountains have been a part of Moitra’s life ever since he can recall. The 46-year-old left his job as a client servicing executive to get into music full-time. “On mountaineering expeditions, one needs to camp in villages. While it’s fascinating to learn about different music and food cultures, travelling also makes you humble. You need to break the shackles of your idiosyncrasies and be a part of the journey. And this is the reason why many of my compositions come to me when I’m travelling. That’s when my mind is truly free,” he explains.

Bollywood beats
When Moitra is not scaling mountains, he’s busy climbing the music charts, what with movies such as Parineeta, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi and 3 Idiots in his kitty. However, the musician doesn’t believe in the number game, and prefers to let his work do the talking. “On my website and as the closing line in my email, I have put an inspiring line by pianist Glenn Gould: ‘Music is not about instant gratification but the slow poison that fills your body and gives you divine sublimation’. This, I believe, is the point of music. My music is about songs that can become a part of your life. That is why I’m extremely proud when I know what effect Behti hawaa sa tha woh has on people,” says the musician.

PK will be Moitra’s third project with Hirani as well as lyricist Swanand Kirkire after Lage Raho Munnabhai and 3 Idiots. Ask him about his rapport with Hirani and he laughs, “If I have given four-and-a-half years to PK, then I had better be friends with Raju.”

As for Kirkire, their friendship goes back 10-12 years, when they worked together on the song Baawara mann for Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003).

Counting the similarities between them, Moitra says, “Both of us did not want to be part of Bollywood, but both of us landed in this industry. While our music has socialist undertones, good poetry and offbeat voices have contributed to our popularity. While he is a fantastic theatre actor, I’m an avid mountaineer. Our worlds outside music are fascinating, and we admire each other for that.”

Off the beaten track Moitra, who was part of Coke Studio and The Dewarists, is excited about working on the fourth season of The Dewarists. “I think these shows are fantastic. I’ve said this many times earlier, that a country’s representation of music cannot be its film music. Film music is influenced by various genres such as folk, traditional music and ghazals. Without these, it will fail. These shows are a platform for the incredible singers and music of my country, and that’s what makes them so exciting to be a part of,” he says.

The musician is also working on a seven-part television series called Songs of the River, which is still in the making.

3 films Shantanu wishes he had composed for

>> Haider
>> Lootera
>> Rang De Basanti

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