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Shahid was an exercise in musical discipline: Karan Kulkarni

For music composer Karan Kulkarni, inspiration comes in many forms. “Nature, life, cities, animals, culture, stories, characters in films and books, that divine occurence that hits you from the heavens and puts a song into your head,” he says with a smile. And it seems the heavens have been kind to him. The 27-year-old has composed music for Peddlers, which has received rave reviews in film festivals around the world. But it’s his first release here in India, Shahid, that’s getting Kulkarni all the attention. The musician, who started playing the guitar when he was 15 and then went on to get himself a degree in Music Production from Australia, is glad his work is getting noticed. Excerpts from an interview:


Karan Kulkarni counts Flying Lotus, Nitin Sawhney, The Chemical Brothers, Squarepusher, The Beatles and Michael Jackson among his many influences. Pic/Satyajit Desai

How did you decide to take up music as a career?
I realised that there were a bunch of things that I could do. But music was the only thing I was doing consistently and with love. I was very enthusiastic about music as a teenager. When I got back from Australia, one thing led to another and I started composing music for short films. I assisted Amit Trivedi. He is a musical magician and I’m fortunate to have gotten that opportunity. It’s important to work with someone who has been around for a while. That said, I have always tried to keep my own music as unique as possible.

Was it difficult to score music for an off-beat film like Peddlers?
It’s because such films are off-the-beaten-path, that it’s always an interesting process to score for them. There is greater scope for experimentation and a lot of the new directors are exposed to and encourage originality and modern forms of music. Of course, the risks aren’t as great as a commercial film and the resources are somewhat limited but the freedom to express is greater. Every film is a challenge and it should be.

How was the experience of scoring for Shahid?
Shahid required a minimal score for it to remain effective. The film is extremely realistic and it was challenging to contain the music within the film without jumping out and appearing larger than the characters. Some of the obvious points in the film aren’t scored, as music would kill how engaging the scenes are on their own. This was the greatest challenge while scoring Shahid. We, as a country, are used to listening to music in every little thing we see. But it’s important to know when to stop and how much is required. Shahid was an exercise in musical discipline.

Since these two films have music that’s not ‘commercially mainstream’, are you scared of being slotted in a certain category.
Not at all. Good music, is good music, whether it’s commercial or not. A good director can tell whether you have something good to offer, irrespective of whether your previous work has been mainstream work or not. I know I can drop a dubstep track, a love song, a nightclub hit or an explosion of dhols with ease...so it’s sorted (laughs). I’m probably more confident about doing a commercial mainstream film than one that isn’t.  

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