Some five years ago, I got a call from Samuel Prabhu. He was then working as sound engineer at a studio in Chamarajpet; he has his own studio in Shivajinagar now. He called me over for a recording. He sent a car to take me there. I didn't know what it was all about till I went there. A group called Pulse was recording an album and the music director wanted me to play some veena passages.
The composer was Sandeep Chowta. Pulse was a group he had set up with some friends. Prabhu knew the group well, and had played the bass guitar with them.
Sandeep is one of the judges for the VPopstars contest, and the channel had flown him in for a press conference in Bangalore. When I found him alone for a moment, I asked him what had happened to Pulse. He hadn't forgotten the Chamarajpet recording.
"We were recording a
demo for a fusion album for Virgin records, but I guess we were ahead of our time," he said. The album hasn't yet come out. But before films claimed Sandeep's attention, Pulse had recorded tracks like Reaching out, Maya and Don't Marry, and their videos were aired on Channel V and MTV, which had just then made an Indian debut.
Born into a Tulu-speaking business family, Sandeep took to the guitar at school. The Pulse experiment brought him to public notice, and the Telugu actor Nagarjuna invited him to compose for the film Chandralekha. The Telugu film that clicked commercially for Sandeep was Ninne Pellaadata. His Kannada film Shanti Shanti Shanti didn't excite the box office.
In the last five years, Sandeep has grown into a celebrity composer. He is now known as Ram Gopal Varma's favourite. He has worked on Satya, Kaun, Mast and Jungle. He composed for Varma's protege Rajat Mukherjee in Pyar Tune Kya Kiya. Also in the news is the private album he is composing for Alisha Chinai, tentatively called Ishq se Ishq. Sandeep is one Mumbai music director who has built up a reputation for his stylish background scores.
As we got chatting, I asked him about his rerecording art:
How did that happen? Where did you learn to make background scores?
I have always loved watching films, De Niro and Coppola and so on. You see, in India the background music stands out, and it has its own statements to make. It takes away from what the actor or actress is trying to convey. That is insulting. I don't want music to come and go, or get loud; it must be used sparingly, as an accompaniment to the visuals.
How do your directors relate to this idea?
Directors who want me let me do my thing. Working with Ram Gopal Varma was a great learning experience. When he hired me, he did not know what he wanted me to do. That is, I was an unknown quantity for him to explore and get what he wanted.
What are your current projects?
I am working on Ram Gopal Varma's Company and Deepa Mehta's Hollywood Bollywood which is an English film. It has only one English song sung by a new find from Chennai, Suneeta Parthasarathy. Well, these are not run-of-the-mill films.
Since you play the guitars and the synth, how much of you do we hear on the music you make? Do you play a lot at the recording sessions?
Yes, I play a lot of both on my own compositions.
S Suchitra Lata
on 3 Jan 2002
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