Thinking music for an English film on his favourite poet, T S Eliot is keeping Debojyoti Mishra on his toes these days. Rated as one of India’s finest composers of film music,Mishra traverses the world of Bollywood and Tollywood with equal ease.
Having mentored under the iconic Salil Chowdhury whom he assisted for 14 years, the 55 -year -old musician admits that it is films that draw out his creative instinct. He has collaborated with film directors of all hues from the legendary Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen to acclaimed modern greats like Rituparno Ghosh and Srijit Mukherji. Mishra loves the opera too and is ready to perform on the world stage in Europe and Bangladesh. An avid painter, Mishra’s canvases will be exhibited in Mumbai soon.
Debojyoti Mishra, who reads poetry when he is not scoring music, tells Nandini Guha that he is still high on life.
Which are the new films that you are doing music for?
I’m doing the musical score of a new film on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose based on the life of the famous Faridabad sadhu, Gumnami Baba, who resembled Netaji in many ways. The film is titled Sannyasi Deshanayak and Victor Banerjee will play the role of Gumnami baba. Its directed by Netaji researcher Amlan Kusum Ghosh.Apart from this, two Bengali films, a Kiriti film and Raktakarabi are on the cards.
Do you still love to paint?
Of course I still paint. I’ll be exhibiting in Mumbai soon. My theme is life, which to me is bigger than music. You are also orchestrating operas. Where next will you hit the stage? I will be performing on stage in France, Germany and Bangladesh. I have already completed the Edmonton leg of the show. In Bangladesh, the story of that country will be told through my opera in collaboration with Paul Turner.
What interests you apart from music?How do you unwind?
Words touch me, especially when it is delivered through poetry. I read a lot of French, German, Spanish and Bengali poems. My favourite poet is Jibanananda Das. And of course, there is T S Eliot. I’m working on a film which is based on Eliot’s famous poem, The Love song of J Alfred Prufrock.
You were groomed in music by the gifted Salil Chowdhury. Tell us about him?
I met him when I was in Class XII. I was his assistant for 14 years. It was like I had made a sudden leap from the world of Nasefield to the world of Shakespeare…it was like experiencing Hamlet and Macbeth in the same breath. His music was so powerful because he could see the depth of the glorious life in the pavement. We worked together on films like Debika.There were innumerable concerts with him unforgettable memories.
Tell us about your growing up years
I was born to a Bengali middle class family in Tollygunge in South Kolkata. My father Jahnavi Ranjan Mishra played the violin, my uncle taught English literature at Presidency College. My grandmother sang kirtans and I have very fond childhood memories of them all. My father taught me how to play the violin, he was my first guru.The family struggled financially to make all ends meet but there was no sadness, no depression. That was the magic of the times, I’d say.
You have worked for both Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen. Can you compare the two greats and how you blossomed as a musician under their guidance?
I was a very young violinist when I started working for Ray. “Will you play for me?” was all Ray asked when he heard me playing the violin. When Ray met Rabindranath in that classic moment of the film Ghare Baire Swatilekha(plays Bimala) coming out of her home where she lived a sheltered life(Song: Eki Labanye punyo pran).I was at once transported to a divine state of world music. Ray was like God to me. Mrinal Sen on the other hand was full of jokes and camaraderie, the comrade who would share anecdotes and not think twice about putting his hand on my shoulder while posing for a photograph. A complete contrast to Ray’s “no nonsense” attitude. I learnt a lot from both the directors.
Tell us about the score for Raincoat and how did you get Shubha Mudgal to sing for you?
The music for Rituparno’s Hindi film was spontaneous. None of us attempted to do anything new here.When Radha and Krishna meet in a sordid, urban milieu(as in the film), the soundscape changes and Brajabhasa enters the picture. I actually travelled to Delhi and met Shubha Mudgal at her house, to convince her to sing for the film. She’s such a good human being and such a gifted singer. That’s how the song Mathura Nagarpati was born.
Your music for Srijit Mukherji’s Autograph topped Bengali charts. How did the song ‘Amake Amar Moto Thakte Dao’ come about?Are you a loner by nature?
The song is sung by Anupam Roy. In Srijit’s film, I had to deal with younger people, adapt to the contour of a new language. Yes, I’m a loner by nature, I don’t like crowds or parties. I like to live in a world of my own.