Fresh off the boat

Fresh off the boat

His third Hindi film as a music composer, Chef, had a delectable score. Raghu Dixit's music was appreciated even as the film sank without a trace. However, essentially, Raghu is someone who has been a live musician, performing in multiple countries besides his homeland Karnataka, skipping smoothly across languages and cultures, and making a mark in India as well as internationally. He performed at the diamond jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth in the UK alongside celebrity dancer-choreographer Mayuri Upadhya, his wife. And you cannot slot the man, as he may himself not know what he will be up to next. Collaborations are a special forte, and the partners can be from anywhere.

Third time lucky?

He shares a special rapport with Hindi film composers Vishal-Shekhar. When the duo launched their own music label, he was their first artiste with 'The Raghu Dixit Project'. His first fling with Hindi cinema was a single song in the 2009 film Quick Gun Murugan, after which he started out with Yash Raj Films's Mujhse Fraaandship Karogi as a full-fledged composer. Up next was Bewakoofiyan with the same team.

He now states that he has formed a special team of friends with Chef director Raja Krishna Menon and its lyricist Ankur Tewari, with whom he had been associated with  even before the release of his film.

We straightaway move to the aspect of film music direction: why has he done such less films until now? He laughs and says, "I am a free bird in my music - I can do just about anything I feel like. But film music is different, and a live musician like me had to grasp the technical aspects of it. Production, sound engineering, programming - I had to go back and learn these aspects. It took almost two years, and I was not only studying on my own but also enrolling for online courses. Today, I can tell my sound engineers and programmers what I am looking for, which I could not do earlier."

Raghu also says that he has a team in place now, though earlier he had to work with "people I did not know."

Technical aspects apart, what about the creative side? "When I make my normal songs, I do not have any restrictions. But composing music for films is defined by the parameters of a script," he replies. "We have to take guidance from that. We have to assess the atmosphere, the director's take and vision, the needs of the song - like solo or duet, and whether it is a silent, montage kind of song or a lip-synched one. Finally, the market demands are the biggest determining factors."

Which was his favourite song from among his compositions in Chef? "My top songs are 'Khoya Khoya' and 'Darmiyaan'. 'Khoya Khoya' is a rare ghazal in a modern mode. 'Darmiyaan' was a very different song for me, and lyrically it was so simple yet so emotional."

 

In more than one song in Chef, especially in 'Shugal Laga  Le' (which Raghu sang himself), we felt that he is influenced quite a lot by R D Burman? "Really?" asks the composer-singer. "But as far as I know, the only aspect we share is our initials 
R D!" A guffaw follows before Raghu goes on, "Actually, I have not grown up on film songs at all. My growing up influences have been, first, Carnatic, folk, and later, Western music that I would beg and borrow CDs of from my friends. I have also learnt bharatanatyam for 18 years. Film music was never played at home!"

 

Now the bharatanatyam, Carnatic classical and folk angles must be the reason why his wife Mayuri told us that she cannot work at her choreography without the support of his music. A roar of laughter follows as he says, "That's not true, you know. Our interaction is more like her telling me, 'Jaao, grocery leke aao (Go get the groceries)!' Actually, she has worked with people like Ajay-Atul and others. I have always told her to work outside the comfort zone and widen the ambit of her work. But yes, we do understand each other completely, and it becomes easy to follow each other's brief, and that makes us happy."

Keeping busy

In the last decade, Raghu has taken to film music in a big way and has achieved immense success. His first film, Psycho (2008) as well as Just Maath Maathalli (2009) were both musically huge. Another hit was Kote (2011) and yet another one was Happy New Year earlier in 2017. And while all these films were in Kannada, Raghu is also widening his horizons now.

Coming up are eight movies, of which  five are in Kannada (Fly, Pradesha Samachara, Orchestra, Relax Sathya and Garuda), one in Telugu (Deeksha), and one in Malayalam (Joshua And Jenny). Raghu is also scoring for a Telugu web series called 

 

B. Tech.

But all said and done, the live musician in him is also thriving - after all, that is Raghu Dixit's forte. Did we not hear even the hero of Chef telling us that he is the famous musician who sings in a lungi?

 

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