On many tracks

On many tracks

talking point

On many tracks

He loves photography and travelling. He journeys to explore mother nature. But he is more known for his enthralling songs — this is Shantanu Moitra, the man who has directed music for the films Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Parineeta, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Yahaan, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, 3 Idiots, Welcome To Sajjanpur and the recent blockbuster, PK. And, Chaar Kadam, Nanga Punga and Love is Waste Of Time are melodies from PK that have become superhits in no time.

Moitra has a repertoire of work in the world of commercials. His long-standing friendship with lyricist Swanand Kirkire and director Pradeep Sarkar is indicative of his experience in the film industry. But despite this talent, he does not discuss his music much. Why? “Because music is not the only thing in my life. I have a passion for mountaineering and astronomy.
I spend a lot of time on the mountains and take a vacation here to compose music. I believe that you should give yourself space to nurture things you love deeply. Otherwise, you don’t grow. I don’t consider music as my money-making machine, it’s rather a passion,” says an enthused Moitra, who is a Bengali by birth and has learnt music from his father — not a professional musician.

Letting one be

This is also why Moitra’s rapport with directors Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Raj Kumar Hirani works like magic, because, in his own words, “they understand how I work and allow me to be that way.”

Taking a recall trip, Moitra admits to first meeting Pradeep Sarkar while he worked on jingles in Delhi. (This was after Moitra’s graduation in economics and crushing of the thought that music could not be his vocation). “Pradeep and Chopra teamed up during Mission Kashmir. I was introduced to Chopra then, who had heard my composition Ab Ke Sawan (sung by Shubha Mudgal and directed by Pradeep Sarkar), and advised me to enter music production for films. This was 12 years back,” shares Moitra.

The Chopra-Moitra partnership has continued. Their latest hit, Chaar Kadam, has an interesting backstory. Moitra explains, “Raj Kumar Hirani (the film’s director) said he missed old songs. So, each one of us wrote our favourite romantic tune on chits. The common song was Ye Kahan Aa Gaye Hum (Silsila, 1981), and in that its picturisation.

My composition of Chaar Kadam is inspired by it, and of course, S D Burman. I am thankful that the filmmaker gave me space to execute my idea.” And, here is the secret he shares, “People think Aamir Khan is a perfectionist. But Raj Kumar Hirani beats Aamir in this area.” These friendships are what Moitra cherishes the most, professionally and personally.

Radio intake

Moitra swears that his confidence in music composition is drawn from listening to All India Radio since his childhood. “Film tracks, folk tunes and what not! The radio is a wealthy source for musical inspiration, especially for composers. Also, my travels to the north-eastern part of India have exposed me to its influential local music,” he beams.

The composer expresses his fondness for live music during recording instead of pre-recorded electronic tracks when he says, “In the song Pal Pal Har Pal (Munna Bhai MBBS), legendary flautist Manohari Singh, who often played with R D Burman, played for me. It was a great feeling. He later told me their shared memories. If you use electronic music, how can one collect such memories?”

Moitra’s recent music composition is for the Telegu film Na Bangaru Talli — based on the true story of a sex worker. He is also busy scoring for a television show, Songs Of The River. It’s a journey where he hopes to discover music through rivers.

The composer expresses discontent when he rues that only film music gets all the attention despite the existence of music variety in our country. He adds, “Film music has always been great because legends like Salil Chowdhury, S D Burman, Anil Biswas and their likes have used thumri, raag and loksangeet in music, but now, unfortunately, people are seen borrowing tunes from western countries more. It’s good to take inspiration from our own surroundings. I believe in my heritage and history. If I can create music with that, it will be my achievement.”

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox