The piper at the gates


No formula, no imitation, no greed, but music director Amit Trivedi will surprise again, says Tusha Mittal

Photo: Deepak Salvi

FEW NAMES strike a chord in the music directors guild: AR Rahman, Ehsaan-Shankar-Loy, Vishal-Dadlani. Now, a new name, with a newer sound, is leaping its way up the golden ladder. It was past midnight when director Anurag Kashyap and his producer Vikas Bahl walked a “shy little guy” to his make-shift garage studio in Juhu. Common friend and singer Shilpa Rao had introduced him as an undiscovered talent. In that “small hole in the wall,” the duo heard grunge rock, folk, jazz quartets, and dhol beats in combinations previously unfamiliar to Bollywood. A little-known composer making ad jingles and theatre tracks, Amit Trivedi suddenly became the impetus for making Dev.D a musical. “That night is when we realized what we are really making, when the movie truly came alive to us,” says Bahl.

The son of a photo company administrator, an afternoon walk in Bandra changed Trivedi’s life. Songs from an open air music festival —Wigfield, Queen, Pink Floyd, — drew him in. “I went mad seeing all these local bands perform covers exactly like the original,” says Trivedi, now 29. Incredulity — ‘must be a CD’ turned to a rush of adrenaline. That evening, Trivedi stopped doing all the things 16-year-old college boys do — “bunking classes, eating out, dating.” Until then, he had been the shy guy who “got alot of attention from girls,” because “I was kind of cute.” His first girlfriend was soon replaced by his first investment — a tiny Casio keyboard for Rs 1,800 after months of saving. It became his raison d’être. Suddenly, his musical oeuvre grew beyond Bappi Lahiri and Madonna to an exploration of jazz, rock, and Indian classicals.

NO SURPRISE, then, that the music of Aamir and Dev.D is an intense exploration of range, so charged with the subaltern and the kinky that you expect its creator to be a sort of hip underground rockstar. But no punk flamboyance greets you. Instead, you are startled to find a placid Trivedi who picks the homely, mainstream Coldplay as the decades best band. A musician who’s surpassed the trappings of worldly categories, you reconcile. “I don’t know what’s mainstream and what’s experimental, I just follow my instincts,” he says. But this intuitiveness and raw originality is perhaps why Trivedi’s music will last. In Emosanal Attyachaar, Trivedi’s melody merges brassy Punjabi street band sounds with cymbals crashing to heavy metal effect. Pardesipierces classical sitar rendition with hip-hop vocals. Yet Trivedi steers clear of cheap easy fusion and the tired east meets west formula. From Sufi aalaps, to bellowing jazz trumpets, you can’t pigeonhole Trivedi’s music into any genre; that is why he is significant. Trivedi may not yet have redefined Bollywood music, but he has made the act of defining laughable.

“He’s a killer musician,” says director Vishal Dadlani. “He has the rare ability to surprise. It’s not some box-pack standard, one doesn’t know what to expect.” Trivedi’s quirky tunes are often born at odd moments, while waiting at Subway for friends, or soon after waking up; he rushes to capture them in his phone before they slip loose. He seems bashful of his only rule: “You have to be a clean person,” he says softly, as if guilty of naivete. “Songs should be an outburst of honesty. I’m not chasing money or fame.” But neither will be hard to come; the industry is raving: “He understands the story and makes his music the soul of that storytelling,” says Bahl. “He breaks norms and formulas to create sounds that find their own antara, mukhra and become music.”

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Special Correspondent

Tusha Mittal has been with Tehelka since March 2008. She was educated at La Martiniere, Kolkata, and has a bachelor’s degree from Depauw University in Indiana. While in the US, she worked as a reporter and a special sections editor for a local newspaper in Boston. She also interned with CNN Internationalin Atlanta and NBC Universal in London. In her final year in college, she studied the idea of peace journalism and the role of the media in covering conflict.

She travelled to Kashmir for her graduation thesis, which dissected the role of the Indian and Pakistani media in shaping public perception of the Kashmir conflict. Her journalism interests include reporting on environment, human rights, and conflict. She has recently won The Press Institute of India award for best articles on humanitarian issues published in the Indian media. AtTehelka, she has written extensively on land rights and displacement struggles. She is based in New Delhi.


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