Composer Ashutosh Phatak on OTT Soundtracks, Music Places in India –
Considering the dramatic change the True School of Music (TSM) has undergone during the pandemic – closing their central Mumbai campus and partnering with Vijayabhoomi University to move to Karjat – it’s no surprise to hear TSM co-founder Ashutosh Phatak claim he is “neglected” his life as a seasoned composer for film as well as for independent projects.
He said on a video call, “I felt a little bad about this. I decided it was time for me to take on things that I didn’t have time to do […] I was going to try to be selective about the kinds of things I do because there is so much work out there. Among the projects that came to him was Mumbai Newspapers 11/26, directed by director Nikhil Advani, who is best known for Bollywood films such as Kal Ho Naa Ho, D-Day and Batla House.
The new series on Amazon Prime Video is a fictional narration of doctors and medical personnel on duty during the November 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Phatak said, “I was like, ‘This is something very cool, this is something that I would really love to do and be a part of.’ And that’s how it started.
The composer’s recent work on OTT platforms also includes romantic anthology series Feels like Ishq and The empire, a period drama centered on the Mughal dynasty. With Mumbai Newspapers, however, Phatak delivers a poignant score as well as three rock, pop and fusion songs – “Yeh Haalath” with singer Jubin Nautiyal, “Paar Hoga Tu” with Anand Bhaskar and “Tu Dafn Bhi” with Altamesh Faridi. Overall, he says he appreciates the OTT support hugely. Mumbai Newspapers, in particular, “did not feel typical” for the composer.
Phatak adds: “It was like a challenge. So I was excited about it […] My job was to make things better, not to catch up. The composer draws a comparison between the creation of advertising jingles and OTT soundtracks and how it creates different interest compared to Bollywood projects. “Here we are the ones doing it all behind the scenes and your work speaks for itself more than your name. […] I found it to be the comfortable space in this one, where I can just be me and I don’t have to be anything else, ”he says.
A soundtrack project like Mumbai Newspapers also gave Phatak the chance to continue to dive into the independent music pool to appeal to young musicians and engineers. “Paar Hoga Tu” brings together several students and graduates of the True School of Music to form a choir. Phatak says he brought in Bhaskar because of his “sort of Leonard Cohen voice”. The song features lyrics by Niranjan Iyengar, drums by Jai Row Kavi, guitars by Sanjay Divecha and a sarangi by Sabir Khan. As for “Yeh Haalath” with Nautiyal – who also has an alternate version sung by singer Zara Khan – Phatak says he was able to bring the famous singer back to his roots. “I think for him it was fun because he told me it took him back to his roots and why he started with the band and stuff, because it was kind of a rock song. “said the composer.
With more OTT projects to come, Phatak is still selective about songwriting work, given the commitment involved. “When you do something like that, you’re with it for three months a year,” he says. And then of course, another season is put into service and work resumes. “And then it all adds up! Phatak said laughing. He adds: “The good news is that there are some really good projects out there. […] I think it’s a good opportunity to introduce new music and indie music, so I’m looking forward to having bands and getting other artists involved now. “
Independent music is always on Phatak’s mind, given that he was one of the founders of not one, but two important venues in Mumbai – the Blue Frog in Lower Parel (closed in 2016) and The Quarter inside the grounds of the Royal Opera House, which has also had to close. Even though he plans to have a festival and regular concerts on the campus of Vijayabhoomi University, Phatak says it is godly to expect Blue Frog or The Quarter to return.
When it comes to a long-term music venue for Mumbai (or even the rest of India), Phatak advises to be “extremely realistic”. He adds: “Someone who does it has to be autonomous. Otherwise it doesn’t last. I think it will be a few more years before anyone ventures into this space from a venue designer or promoter perspective.