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"Human feelings don't know borders"

A soundtrack that was created more than a decade ago for the film Donnie Darko made it to filmmaker Mira Nair’s radar and she made her choice - she wanted Michael Andrews, as the composer on her project, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. After a ninety minutes phone call and discussions about success, heart, films and music, Andrews, who lives in California and is the self-taught, son of a music teacher, who had very little knowledge about India or Pakistan, became a part of the film. In a tell-all email interview, Andrews opened up about his camaraderie with his director, exposure to Pakistani music and the challenges along the way.


A still from the film

Excerpts:

What was the experience to work on this film?
Mira was really amazing to work with. She is open-minded, has incredibly high standards and a relentless work ethic. Although there were many challenges over the course of the movie — time, distance, finances — I am pleased with how the movie and the music turned out and it will remain one of my favourite film experiences.


A qawalli sequence from the film

Did Mira Nair give you any inputs, or you were given a free hand? How was it working with her?
Over the course of the film, Mira had many ideas. Making film score is a collaborative process. I love it when the director has a clear vision. She gave me the freedom to make the score come from inside of me. Once it was outside, she had much to say and many revisions. I welcome the chance to learn from someone with such a wealth of experience.


Music composer Michael Andrews

Was it challenging to score music for this film because it was not an out and out American film but had a strong Pakistani angle to 
the plot?
No. Human feelings don’t know borders. I look to the individual characters for cues as to the tone of my music, wherever they are from.

How good was your knowledge of Pakistani music before you started work on this project?
I had very basic knowledge of the music. I said to myself when I came aboard, how lucky I am to be in the position to learn everyday about the world, and be exposed to wonderful new cultures and music.

Any plans of collaborating with any Indian musicians for musical endeavours?
Not currently. However, I did meet up with Alam Khan, the son of Ali Akbar Khan here in California and we plan to do something at some point with Salar Nadir (understudy of Ustad Zakir Hussain).

Overall, are you satisfied with the final product?
I am. I feel like the whole experience was mind expanding on so many levels both musical and non-musical. I am very blessed to have had this movie come into my life. I am very grateful.

Future plans?
More music for movies and records. I have another movie coming out by June-end with Bridesmaids’ director Paul Feig called The Heat. I am currently touring with my Funk group of 20 years, The Greyboy Allstars, surrounding the release of our record Inland Emperor. I am also preparing for the birth of my second child in August.

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