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Nitin Sawhney's tribute to the master

Suspense symphony


Composer Nitin Sawhney is a huge Hitchcock fan. His new score for the filmmaker's recently restored 1926 thriller, 'The Lodger', will be a tribute to the master of suspense. Nitin Sawhney is no stranger to film scores. In recent years, the multi-instrumentalist - he has studied piano, classical and flamenco guitar, sitar and tabla - has been commissioned to compose for a number of different projects, establishing himself as an in-demand composer for film and television.

His latest celluloid collaboration with the British Film Institute (BFI) will be showcased at the July 21 screening of the newly restored version of the silent Hitchcock classic, The Lodger, at the Barbican in London. Sawhney will be directing an all-new background score for the film which will be performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The music, he promises, will be as exciting as the film which is full of unexpected twists and turns.

The Lodger, released in January 1927, was Hitchcock's first thriller and it became a major commercial and critical success in the UK.

This isn't Sawhney's first project with the BFI. "Nitin has earlier composed a new score for an important Anglo-Indian co-production of the silent era, The Throw of Dice. The film was presented with a live musical accompaniment at the Barbican Hall and separately outdoors in Trafalgar Square. We wanted to work with a range of important British composers so it seemed natural that we would want to work with him again, " says Brian Robinson of the BFI's archive and heritage section. Sawhney, who is also scoring Deepa Mehta's adaptation of Salman Rushdie's book Midnight's Children, is a big fan of Hitchcock. "I was drawn into the world of Hitchcock when I was a kid, " says Sawhney. 

Sawhney saw The Lodger and was fascinated by the way Hitchcock played around with perception. "Hitchcock had the technique of switching where your empathies lie. With The Lodger, you're constantly switching your allegiances because of the way he plays with your perceptions. And that's something I was left thinking about when I was scoring the film. "

But it was also the music of Bernard Herman who composed for most Hitchcock films that drew him in and the weight of expectations did sit heavily on his shoulders. "It is a huge challenge to follow in the wake of a great composer like Herman. Having said that, I find it is important to look for a new vocabulary and new ways of expressing ideas to accompany The Lodger. It precedes Hermann's work and is very different in nature to any other Hitchcock film, " he observes.

Understandably keeping the score under wraps, all that Sawhney is willing to share is how he approached it. "I initially started working on the titles, pulled apart different strands of narrative and saw what kind of built into the story later on. It's interesting because on one hand, it's about murder and suspense but on the other hand, it's romantic as well. I'm a huge fan of The Rear Window which is a great love story but all the great moments you remember are of suspense. I think Hitchcock was a great romantic too, " he said at the launch of the BFI initiative.

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