Gone are the days when the central characters and the director owned the limelight when a film became a super hit. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, which is currently ruling the box office, is receiving praise for every perfectly crafted element in the film. Sanchit Balhara, with his captivating background score; has added to the overall charm of this mega period drama. Here is Bhakti Mehta in conversation with him about his craft
On The Brief
I have worked with Sanjay sir before in Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani. When he called me for Padmaavat, the film had not yet been announced and he gave me only a very brief idea about his plan. When it was formally announced, he called me even though the script had not been completely written. Then, just like with the previous two films, he briefed me on the characters, how the story proceeds and how he wanted to execute the climax.
He asked me to create a theme known as the ‘Jauhar’ theme. It was even shown in the trailer. Not many directors give composers the privilege of composing the theme first. It happened here and then they shot and edited it accordingly.
On The Process
I had just emerged from doing Bajirao Mastani. The movies are obviously different but similar in that they are both period dramas. In those times, there were no technological inventions. This means that, musically, the 13th century wasn’t very different from the 17th century. Hence, my first task was to see how I could make it sound different.
Rajasthan and Maharashtra have very different cultures and foundations as far as music is concerned. Yet the instruments were the same, even though they were probably played differently. In Padmaavat, I focused my research on folk music, which is something people connect to most.
I also read the legendary poem of Padmavat, which gave me many references. And while there is a major difference between making a historical and a contemporary one, I want people to relate to it. Take the Jauhar theme at the end… I wanted to show how painful even a tiny spark of fire is, and here there are these women immolating themselves. I had to understand how a Rajasthani queen would feel while immolating herself and make sure it flowed with the climax.
On The Challenges
The biggest challenge was switching from one historical project to another. It took me a year to compose for Bajirao Mastani and soon after that, I had to start Padmaavat. But I took some time. I was frozen for at least two weeks before really starting the work on this film. After a break, my brain starts creating music on its own. Ideas just pop into my head. That’s how I got the first, raw theme for the film and I went to Mr Bhansali. Since he is a great composer himself, he said this was exactly what we needed and told me to go ahead and complete the theme.
On Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali
When we started working on Ram-Leela, I was a music producer. I had just come to India after studying in London and this was all very new to me. So during Ram-Leela, I began to understand him and what he expects from a composer. Then he gave me the big responsibility of composing the whole background score for Bajirao Mastani and it was a huge challenge with a lot of pressure.
In Padmaavat, I knew how he worked and it was great to see him in action. He is so good at getting the best out of everyone. He also uses a different approach for different people. He knew exactly how to get the best out of me. He also gave me a lot of time to think and never rushed the process. He was never impatient even though there was a deadline to meet.
On The Response
It is great! Indian films didn’t assign much importance to background score. But that has changed and a lot of the credit goes to Mr Bhansali. People are noticing the score and I couldn’t have dreamt of that even five years ago. People are appreciating the music and even messaging me about how the score has lifted the scenes. As an artiste, it is the best feeling.
I have been listening to many stories and there are some projects in the pipeline which I can hopefully talk about soon.