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Om boy

From Aamir to Dev D: The man who set the ball rolling

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A dash of dubstep, a few grooves of grunge and suddenly your ears are listening to a fresh, new sound. Meet Amit Trivedi, the man behind the music.

It's a heavy cross to bear but Amit Trivedi does it, simply because no one else will. Audacious, quirky and armed with gumption, Trivedi has quickly - since his 2008 debut with Aamir and Dev. D (2009) - become the go-to-man whenever a producer needs a sound that's a little hatke and young. Offering something other than poppy/clubby electro tunes and mopey love ballads, Trivedi's trademark is music that's earthy and feisty. It grabs your attention and ears with a force that you're not used to.

It's a description that usually evokes a wry laugh from the 33-year-old. The music that everyone describes as fresh and 'new-age' is actually the only kind that comes naturally to Trivedi. "I do what I feel is right, " says the composer, who occasionally sings as well. "It just comes naturally to me and it's only others who think it's experimental. The music I make is reflective of the kind of music I hear and the kind I would like to hear. "

For a man who has received no formal training in music - "just a little bit of jazz actually" - Trivedi has the knack of producing incredible music. Whether it was the multilayered Pardesi in Anurag Kashyap's Dev. D or the gentle, haunting melody of Shaam in Aisha, Trivedi has shown that he can juggle different genres with flair, segueing between indie and mainstream at will.

Born in Mumbai, it was the vibrations created by an electric pencil hitting a silver plate that drew Trivedi to sound and then music. A fusion band in college, Om, was formed and an album made. Done in because of lack of promotion, the band soon dissipated but Trivedi's enthusiasm didn't. He moved to composing background music for television and even dandiya shows. Ten years passed.

His lucky break came when friend and singer Shilpa Rao recommended his name to Kashyap, who at the time was looking for a music director for his millennial take on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's Devdas. The 18-song soundtrack won Trivedi the National Award and gave Bollywood a new beat to dance to. He has since notched up one superlative soundtrack after another, especially for Udaan and No One Killed Jessica. With Aisha, he proved that even candyfloss romances can have well-produced, clever music.

Sure there were a couple of bloopers along the way - Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, an unremarkable soundtrack that sounded like it could've been made by anybody - but his willingness to continue his sonic experiments is what makes even his most stringent critics forgive him. Even in EMAET, he gave most of his tracks a house-ish, trancey vibe. His latest project, Ishaqzaade, isn't in the same league as Udaan but it marks a return to form for Trivedi. The slowly addictive Pareshaan and the grungy Aafaton ke parindey with a generous seasoning of dubstep sound more like Trivedi, who's clearly bending towards bringing EDM to Bollywood, in a way that goes beyond remixing songs, as most filmi music producers are wont to do.

"It's so difficult to ignore electronic dance music anymore. India is right in the middle of this huge wave and people are taking notice of it, " says Trivedi, who listens to artists as varied as Tiesto - who plays Trouse (trance and house), Israeli specialists who play a manic breed of trance, Infected Mushroom and the Grammy-nominated American music producer BT. "Dubstep is suddenly very big because of people like Skrillex but it's a sound that emanated from the UK underground scene. Dubstep matched the aggression that Ishaqzaade needed. I love it when I get the opportunity to indulge myself. "

Indulge himself he also did when he was offered the opportunity to work on the second season of Coke Studio@MTV. After a long time, Trivedi was making music for himself, without a script to follow or director to please. It felt like he was back in college, when he was free to jam with his band Om, which included Amitabh Bhattacharya, the busiest lyricist in Mumbai, who originally came to the city to become a singer.

"Took me right back to the time when we used to make music just for ourselves, " Trivedi says. "There was nothing I couldn't do. I could go all out. There are so many things I can't even think of trying when composing for films. Coke Studio was a lot of experimental arrangements. I really needed this break. " Trivedi went to the Coke Studio rehearsals armed with two songs and created three during the two-week rehearsals.

Choosing the right voice for your song is just as important as choosing the lead actors, and Trivedi has elevated this skill to an art. Responsible for introducing to us singers like Tochi Raina, Aditi Singh Sharma, Joi Barua, Nikhil D Souza, Trivedi chose new talent Shalmali Kholgade to render Pareshaan, a song that starts off slow but blows up into a proper rock ballad. "The voice is what drives the song. You can choose someone who'll either nurture the song or just butcher it. Voice casting is most definitely very important for a music director, " he says. A director may hold voice auditions, just as a director does screen tests before he finds a voice to match the texture and tone of the song. "Luckily I've never had to struggle to find singers, " he smiles. "I get a lot demos and also keep tabs on what's happening in the music scene. Also, I have friends who recommend people. Shalmali was recommended to me by someone who works with me. "

He's currently busy with something "exciting and exclusive" but is reluctant to go into the details. But he's more forthcoming on another project, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, a family drama that revolves around a recipe for chicken curry. Though no stranger to Punjabi sounds and songs, it's the first time that Trivedi, who is a Gujarati, has had to focus on just one region's music. Given his ease with earthy rhythms, Trivedi should've no trouble adapting, nevertheless he's putting in a lot of work listening to Punjabi music and keeping his ears open. One voice that he, along with most of North India is finding difficult to ignore is Honey Singh's. And if Trivedi's enthusiasm is any indication, the Punjabi rapper and composer could be in Trivedi's studio soon. "Oh he's such a dude, " says Trivedi. "In fact, I was planning to use him for the movie. "

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