Background scores or BGM have made quite an impact over the past few years in the Indian music industry, especially in Bollywood movies. However, the aftereffect of the pandemic has turned things upside down for the entertainment industry. But it somewhat gave a boost to the digital domain where songs took a back seat and the background score beautifully took the narrative forward
Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor are two such names in the background music scenario. They have been consistently doing exemplary work in the industry and their notable projects include Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus (2013), Avinash Arun’s Killa (2014), Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab (2016), and Sonchiriya (2019), Amit Masurkar’s Newton (2018), and Devanshu Kumar and Satyanshu Singh’s Chintu Ka Birthday (2020). They also scored for the web series Paatal Lok and Betaal, Pushpendra Singh’s Laila Aur Satt Geet (2020), and Prashant Nair’s Tryst with Destiny (2020).
Their recent project with Amit V. Masurkar is ‘Sherni’ starring Vidya Balan in the lead which has become the hot cake.
Talking about their collaboration with Amit, Benedict says, “It was a great experience revisiting and collaborating with Amit for the movie ‘Sherni’.”
Naren adds, “This is the second time we worked together for a project with Amit after ‘Newton’. Since it was a familiar vibe with the whole team, things went well. Amit had the trust in the musical part we were working on. He never really got into the musical terms. It was a great deal of comfort and trust. On our part, we made sure we justified the mood, idea, storyline, and characters in the movie on which Amit and Aastha had researched a lot. ‘Sherni’ is a movie they were passionate about. I think, like ‘Newton’, they both were also very concerned that we don’t try and overly moralize or take a strong stand on anything. We tried to be as objective as possible and gave the characters their dignity in the moral positions that they have chosen. This way the audience can decide what they feel. That happened because they left the musical realization to us.”
The difference between our involvement in ‘Newton’ and ‘Sherni’ is we had come on board when ‘Newton’ was locked. We had come quite late in the process. But in ‘Sherni’, we had a chance to come on board while the edit was going on and there was a much longer working process. ‘Sherni’ is a much larger film in terms of scores. We had a lot more music to compose according to the huge intensity of the film.”
For both Naren and Benedict, storytelling takes the front seat with music.
Benedict sails to understand a story in the boat music. “We had a lot more time to delve into the world and understand the storyline that they had created. The process was an in-depth one we were in throughout. We experienced the process of music evolution from the beginning of the movie till the end.”
Talking about working for future commercial and classic projects, he mentions, “The road is open to all the kinds of ideas. It will be a pleasure to do mainstream, commercial projects as well as projects like ‘Paatal Lok’, ‘Udta Punjab’ and ‘Newton’. Working in two different arenas gives you space to experience and explore more. Musically speaking, there’s a lot to explore in huge space of the commercial world.”
Naren adds, “We could be open to any sort of collaboration to which we can add a sort of value. That’s something we look forward to regardless of the scale and size of the project.”
The journey of the duo unfolded in 2009 when Mumbai-based Naren met London-based Benedict at his viola classes in Mumbai. Their first venture as a duo happened with Anurag Kashyap’s 2010 film ‘That Girl in Yellow Boots’.
However, place, timezones, distance, etc have never stood as a barrier to their professional equation. “If you are open to all kinds of music, it doesn’t matter where you are from and all that. When we were working for ‘That Girl In Yellow Boots’, we were at different places exchanging ideas virtually. So I don’t think it has ever become a barrier. Rather, different cultures, countries, timezones, seasons bring your creative self out more often. So you come up with wildly refreshing angles on your work,” says Benedict
“I think it’s more fun and challenging to do something you’re not familiar with. It’s like jumping into new territories,” opines Naren.
The effort paid off for the duo who received a thumbs up from critics and movie enthusiasts, referring to their work in Sherni as ‘Impactful, effective and distinct’. This comes as no surprise, especially since their last collaboration with Amit Masurkar, Newton, became India’s official entry to the Oscars.
Adding to the stellar 2020 Naren & Benedict had, next on their plate is Netflix’s RAY Anthology, based on stories from celebrated writer Satyajit Ray. Naren and Benedict reunite with Udta Punjab director Abhishek Chaubey for the short story starring Manoj Bajapayee and Gajraj Rao.
Unlike West, the stature of background music in India is gradually coming to the foreground now.
Both Naren and Benedict state, “In India, its still Background Music, whereas in other places, its just music or score. We may hope that background scores will be released separately soon in India. As of now, there is not much hype about it. Scores are becoming important with how makers are using them in projects, especially in web projects. It’s very encouraging to see the hype of BGM in ‘Scared Games’, ‘Scam 1992, etc. Hopefully, with that, will come to a change.”
“There’s a lot of different scoring for web films, web series, theatrical movies, etc. There’s a huge difference in the amount of music you have to compose. That depends on the evolution of the story, gradual development of characters, sub-themes, subplots, and many more. You get a chance to explore the growth of the story for a long period,” they conclude.