Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Interview- Bapi-Tutul

The rustic charmers

Tutul, the music composer duo for films like Sarkar, Khosla Ka Ghosla and now Sarkar Raj, speak to
Sandhya Iyer on how they’d like to do a full fledged musical

Bapi-Tutul’s name has been mostly associated with Ram Gopal Varma, for whom the duo has composed music in films such as Bhoot, Ek Haseena Thi, James, not to forget both Sarkar and its just-released sequel.

Their big moment came with the ‘Govinda, Govinda’ track, which made quite an impact. “The song became almost synonymous with Sarkar,” says Tutul, the chattier one between the two brothers.Now again, the duo’s music in Sarkar Raj has been noticed -especially the Jalwa Re Jalwa track. In fact, there has been a fair addition to the music in the sequel. Bapi says, “Prashant Pandey, who wrote Sarkar Raj’s script wanted more songs, which is why he composed Jalwa Re Jalwa and added some lines to Govinda Govinda,” he tells us.

Hailing from a small village in Bihar, both brothers have a keen understanding of local folk music in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh etc, which enables them to create authentic Indian music that is rooted in its culture. Says Tutul, “We are second generation musicians in our family. My mother is the Head of the Dept for Music at a University in Bihar. She’s a well-known personality in her own right. So music runs in the family and both me and Bapi took to it from the very beginning. But we also knew that if we had to succeed in the profession, we needed knowledge of western music. That’s how we came to Mumbai.”

The duo composed music for several years before they got their first break in Hindi films. “It was Manisha Koirala who was the first one to sign us. She gave us her film, Paisa Vasool. It was a big movie for us at that time and I’d say she was bold enough to take us on.”

As for Ram Gopal Varma, he says, “We knew Ramu through a common friend. When we met him, he asked us to sing something. I sang about 20 numbers and he told us he liked all of them. That’s how our association started.”But as one knows, majority of Ramu’s films have minimal scope for music, which is why Bapi-Tutul’s name never really rung a bell. Tutul agrees, “Yes, people thought we only do music for Ramu as that we were part of a camp. Also, people assumed we could only make music for dark films, so a lot of producers never approached us.”

In that sense, their music and background music for Khosla Ka Ghosla enabled them to break free. “All the songs in the film were immensely liked and it made people realise that we could tackle different genres,” he says.

Besides heavy influence from folk music, Bapi-Tutul also like using many Indian instruments. “Folk music is entirely unexplored in Hindi film music, which is why we always take inspiration from it. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Ultimately, the expression should be original -that is important. Otherwise it would seem like we’ve just copied a song and that’s not acceptable to us,” he says, “As for Indian instruments, we like using the piano accordiance -the one Raj Kapoor used. Like we did it in Khosla Ka Ghosla in the theme song, O Re Mora Bhaiyya.”

The duo also seems to like the use of high-pitched singers and unconventional voices like that of Kailash Kher etc. “Not really, but I do feel there is immense beauty in emerges though a high-pitch voice. We have used Kailash for Sarkar Raj’s Jalwa Re Jalwa, because it was a situation which demanded his voice. The song portrays a crowd chanting so the central voice had to be in high octave to make an impact. It’s like one person leading the whole choir,” he explains.

Between both of them, Bapi is the technologically savvy one, while Tutul concentrates on making tunes. Even though their strength lies in Indian music, the composers are eager to experiment. “We’ve tried Blues for a forthcoming film called Rewind -a film which moves backwards,” he says.
In recent times, the dup enjoyed the music of Taare Zameen Par. Is that a film they’d have liked composing for? “Why not? Any composer who has ‘ras’ and ‘raag’ in him can do it,” he says.Tutul says they would have also enjoyed composing for Jodhaa Akbar. “Today’s films don’t have much of stand-alone music. Many filmmakers are weaving it into the narrative and I feel we bit the bill where new-age cinema is concerned. But yes, we would love to do a fill fledged musical, where we will find the opportunity to use our talent to the fullest.”

All eyes on the future

In a candid interview to Sandhya Iyer, Harry Baweja, director of Love Story 2050 talks about son Harman’s comparisons with Hrithik Roshan, among various other things

Harman seems to be eliciting a positive response from the promos. But more and more viewers seem to be comparing him to Hrithik...

Newcomers are always pitched against a new face, there’s nothing new about it. When Shah Rukh Khan came in, he was compared to Dilip Kumar, Shahid Kapoor was compared to Shah Rukh. In my days, Dimple was compared to Nargis. The only similarity between Harman and Hrithik is that both are well-built, lean and fair. And yes, both dance well. Besides that, I can't spot any resemblance. People are just trying to make some news out of this.

But aren’t comparisons with Hrithik a sort of compliment?

(smiles) Well, thank you if it’s a compliment but my worry is that it unnecessarily raises the bar of expectations. You’re pitching a newcomer against someone who has done more than 25 films and has been in the industry for about eight years now. Also, Hrithik is the youngest superstar we have, so these comparisons can hurt Harman. I just feel that like every newcomer, Harman too should be given a discount. Why pitch him against someone so well-established?

It must be heartening that Harman has already signed a couple of prestigious films -one with Anees Bazmi and another one with Ashutosh Gowariker?

Absolutely. It shows people have confidence in Harman. In fact, Ashutosh signed up Harman only after he saw some parts of Love Story 2050, that implies we are on the right track.

Did the fact that you were directing your own son come in the way at any point?

Yes, initially, Harman was very shy to perform with me around, so he would insist that I was not on the sets. I would watch his portions on the monitor sitting in another room. It took some time for the ice to be broken. But I should say, I always approached the film as a director, not as a father. My biggest challenge was to make a good film and justify a newcomer as an actor.

You faced some difficult challenges while making the film...

Yes, first of all, we were making a film that had never been attempted. Also, before we knew it, we had gone one and a half times over budget. We felt the original budget was not enough for some scenes, so we had to throw in more money. Every point was a challenge as we didn’t know what was coming next…there would be technical glitches galore. Some days we could only shoot one scene, on some other days, we didn’t shoot at all. Our biggest challenge was in ensuring that what we had on paper could be convincingly portrayed on screen and be made relatable to the audiences.

So how have you conceptualised a period that is 40 years ahead?

The film is a sci-fi film but you’ll see nothing illogical in the film. If I’ve shown flying cars, it’s because such models are already being attempted in some European countries. If I have shown Mumbai as developed with plenty of skyscrapers, it’s because I do believe that’s the future. Even the teddy in the film, which moves around and talks to Priyanka won’t appear far-fetched. The idea actually came to me when I saw a small toy-dog in London or some such place. It actually guards your house and checks emails for you.

Have you spoken about any attitudinal shift in relationships etc in the future?

There are some references, but I have stayed away from talking about the political scenario or any such thing. I really didn’t want to get into any controversies. Also, my focus has been to make an entertaining film.

Not too many people in the industry were confident about the concept of 2050…

Yes, people thought I was being crazy. They wondered why I needed three times the budget of a normal film to launch a newcomer. They didn’t understand that it was the concept that was costing me, not the actor. That’s when Krrish came along and everyone got excited about my film again. Financers were willing to talk to us again, but I had moved on.

Another big crisis you faced was when Kareena Kapoor walked out of the film, wasn’t it?

Yes, we were hit very badly when she left. It seemed like our world was crashing. I was more worried about the negative publicity it would bring to Harman. People would think something was wrong with him, which is why she was leaving. Thankfully, Priyanka stepped in and that didn’t happen. I knew why Kareena left and the reason was not Harman. I knew her reasons though I never spoke about it in the media. I didn’t want a controversy. When she said she was leaving, I let her do what she liked. I knew there was something fishy and didn’t want to force her.

But considering Harman already knew Priyanka so well, why wasn’t she your first choice?

Priyanka was still an emerging star while Kareena was already established. I was sure that I needed a top star and a good actress because the role is quite complex. At that point, I could only see Kareena fitting the bill. She left after the first schedule and it was very sweet of Priyanka to do it. She too couldn’t give us dates immediately, so we waited for seven months.

Love Story 2050 releases on the same day as the Aamir Khan produced film Jaane Tu..starring his nephew Imraan. Have you got the opportunity to check out Harman’s competition?

I won’t say anything about Imraan because anything I say is going to be taking in the wrong way. All I can say is that I’m completely focusing on my film. The other film is a romantic comedy, which one keeps seeing on and off. Our film is a path-breaking one.

You’re obviously not pleased about two important films releasing on the same day…
Who will be? Everyone wants a solo release for their film, because otherwise straight away you lose 30 per cent of your collections. Aamir is a friend… I called him up and tried my best to convince him to postpone Jaane Tu’s release. He said, he’d try. It didn’t happen. I guess Aamir know best.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Review: Sarkar Raj

In spite of his fall from grace in recent times, I’m someone who has always considered Ram Gopal Varma a ‘safe’ director. Not so much in terms of box-office but in terms of his realistic handling of subjects and a wonderful ability to penetrate through human actions. In that sense, he’s one director who may not always make a great film but he’ll seldom insult the audiences’ intelligence. Which is why even his ‘flops’ like Naach, Nishabd, Jungle, Mast, Daud etc are eminently watchable.

And then of course RGV has his inspired moments when he comes up with something truly astounding. Sarkar Raj is not a remarkable film but thankfully, it’s also not a film that goes seriously wrong anywhere. For example, Sarkar had an extraordinary 30 minutes in the start. The role of the Subhash Nagre’s volatile elder son, Vishnu (Kay Kay) was central to the film’s dramatic and emotional conflict and I think some of the early scenes with Vishu was what added great punch to an otherwise dull endeavour. Similarly, I thought Subhash Nagre (Amitabh) to be way too placid in Sarkar… too much of a victim at the hands of his political rivals.

To that extent, Sarkar Raj is an improvement. Even though there’s nothing that particularly stands out, the action remains uniformly engaging. The structure is similar to Sarkar in almost every sense, except for some twists in the end.The reason why Sarkar Raj rarely touches great heights is precisely because RGV hasn’t constructed the story on an ambitious scale. Having already established its central characters and circumstances in its prequel, the filmmaker should have ideally scripted a more complex, elaborate game of political intrigue. Sarkar Raj, however, is a little tame and basic in that respect. Also, the whole angle about the power plant project and how it ends in a tragic way, is treated simplistically. Having been a war-horse in politics, it’s unlikely that Nagre wouldn’t have seen through the plot much earlier. Shankar’s character Abhishek Bachchan, in particular, behaves like a Johney Come lately whose idea of running the show is shutting up everyone in his vicinity and keeping a perennial scowl on his face. Even otherwise, Shankar is the weak-link in this film.

Also, one expected more shades and spunk to Aishwarya’s character but there are none.
So what works for Sarkar Raj? Amitabh Bachchan of course, who comes up with a true gem-like performance. Some of his final sequences in the film establish firmly why Bachchan is the best we have. Even some of smaller but important characters in the film are impressive. The dialogues are striking.
That leaves us with Ram Gopal Varma. Since I never really gave up on RGV, it’s pointless to call this his comeback film. This is a well-paced, well-made film, though it isn’t one of his best.
Stars: **1/2