Sitar player Niladri Kumar on Laila Majnu: Songs take the thread of the movie forward

Sep 09, 2018, 08:45 IST | Aastha Atray Banan

Sitar player Niladri Kumar says composing for Imtiaz Ali's Laila Majnu was all about telling the mad love story through music

Sitar player Niladri Kumar on Laila Majnu: Songs take the thread of the movie forward
Niladri Kumar

If you have ever met director Imtiaz Ali, you will know that he is very involved in the music-making process of his movies. This writer and him have had long conversations about why the AR Rahman melody Kun Faya Kun was so integral to his movie Rockstar. For his next movie, Laila Majnu, which released this Friday, and for which he has written the screenplay, Ali had musical inputs to give sitar player and composer Niladri Kumar.

"I am not the type to make 30 melodies for a movie. I made one and sent it across to Ali, and he instantly liked it. He is very intuitive and has a keen ear," says Kumar, a fifth-generation sitar player who has produced more than 15 albums in a career spanning two decades. Along with being the creator of the Zitar, an electric sitar, you have to have heard his riff lines in songs like Crazy Kiya Re and Bheegi Bheegi. And, even though he has worked with music directors like Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Pritam, it's in Laila Majnu, that Kumar has set out to compose in form of a music director.

"I have a problem with albums where each song is by a different music director," Kumar tells us over the phone, expressing dismay by the subsequent lack of cohesiveness. For Laila Majnu, he composed five out of the 10 songs. "I feel the songs actually denote the thread that is continuing in the movie. And so, some sort of continuity is important. Even if you aren't watching the movie, you should get what is happening by just listening to the song. It's all about storytelling, and music should have meaning as well," says the musician whose father was sitar player Kartick Kumar, a disciple of Ravi Shankar.

Kumar's songs from Laila
Majnu, be it the Shreya Ghoshal-sung Sarphiri or the Arijit Singh-Jonita Gandhi-sung Ahista, are soulful, and mellow yet larger than life. "Hafiz Hafiz was a hard song, as the brief for it kept changing, and because it had to talk of that point when Majnu transforms from being a lover into a mad man. It's a song that is taking the narrative ahead," he says.

For now, Kumar is basking in the appreciation that is coming in with Laila Majnu. Ask him what is next and he laughs, "Things are always in the pipeline. But it's hard to figure what is working these days. In the times that we live in, I am finding it hard to understand what medium to release my songs on. The way music is consumed these days is quite detrimental to indie music. I am still trying to figure it all out."

Also Read: Laila Majnu Movie Review - Love story that never ages

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