'If not together, we would hire one another anyway'

Updated: 14 September, 2020 07:58 IST | Sonia Lulla | Mumbai

Nominees of the Asian Film Awards, Gully Boy composers Salvage Audio Collective, on finding strength in unity

(Clockwise from top): Rohan Rajadakshya, Viraj Saxena, Sohrab Nicholson, Stuart DaCosta, Rohan Ramanna, and Jehangir Jehangir
(Clockwise from top): Rohan Rajadakshya, Viraj Saxena, Sohrab Nicholson, Stuart DaCosta, Rohan Ramanna, and Jehangir Jehangir

Salvage Audio Collective, along with Karsh Kale, count themselves among the nominees in the Best Original Music category of the upcoming Asian Film Awards. In an interview with mid-day, the band of six — including Rohan Ramanna, Stuart DaCosta, Sohrab Nicholson, Viraj Saxena, Rohan Rajadhyaksha, and Jehangir Jehangir — discuss venturing into Bollywood music-making, and what binds them together, despite their success as individual artistes. Edited excerpts from the interview:

Considering the number of musicians involved in the making of Gully Boy, did you all find it difficult to weave together their different styles and lend the film's music an identity?
Rajadhyaksha: Zoya (Akhtar, director) is a good shepherd. Usually, only one supervisor is involved in the making of a film's music. While that wasn't the case here, it helped that there were different departments (for different artistes to cater to). Ankur (Tewari, music supervisor) and Zoya looked into (creating) the hip-hop (songs), and we had nothing to do with that. We were involved in scoring with Karsh (Kale). So, this bifurcation made things easier. But, it is true that accommodating all the tracks was daunting. Jehangir: Also, rhythm and poetry (Rap) is integral to hip-hop, and was consistently there throughout the film. So, even if there were diverse styles, they all had a strong connection with the genre, as a whole. Here's an interesting fact — Naezy (on whose life the film is based), would come to our old studio, Cotton Press Studio, where some of us have recorded him. This is prior to the film's making. Recently, we dug up a hard drive comprising his initial songs. It contained scratches of songs that also made it to Gully Boy.
Ramanna: We felt connected with the film because we were part of his journey. Those among us who did record him got quite emotional. We were making this film and watching what had happened in our life, unfold before us.

From that film, you jumped right into Yeh Ballet, which had an entirely different musical palette. How did that movie come your way?
Ramanna: It was serendipitous. A day before the release of Gully Boy, we were called to the Roy Kapur Films office to meet director Sooni Taraporevala. They asked us if they could see our work, and we told them that if they'd wait a day, they could watch it in Gully Boy. We exchanged notes on the concepts of both films, and realised that Gully Boy and Yeh Ballet were similar; they were both based on inspired artistes who aspired to reach somewhere. Though the films were similar, the treatment towards making music for each, was distinct.

How was it different?
Jehangir: Yeh Ballet had a lighter take (on the subject). Sooni wanted it to be that way, even though the film was quite emotional. Zoya wanted Gully Boy to have a hard-hitting impact; it was darker.
Ramanna: Also, Sooni and Zoya have different aesthetic vocabularies and are inspired by different types of music.
DaCosta: (Taking to a different style of music wasn't daunting because) in the indie scene, we've worked with great instrumentalists. Many of them have skill sets that we exploit quite often. We have so many friends from the indie music industry that we can pepper our film music collection with their works.

Each of you is established in the independent music scene. What inspired you all to form a collective?
DaCosta: It pushes us to do challenging work. If any one of us was to individually take on the projects that have come our way, they would be tough to pull off. We're doing long-format TV shows, and are pulling them off comfortably (since there are so many of us). We can take up better projects as a unit.
Rajadhyaksha: If we weren't working as a unit, we'd be hiring one another anyway for projects that came our way. As a collective, we have four other people to bounce our ideas off. And since all of us have different skills, we bring different perspectives (to the table).

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First Published: 14 September, 2020 07:29 IST

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