HE MUSIC ROOM
From left, Prakash Jha, Wayne Sharpe and a colleague
Composer Wayne Sharpe tells
how a chance
meeting with filmmaker Prakash Jha opened the doors to
Bollywood for him
Musician Wayne Sharpe started his film career with American indies, including
. He worked on commercials and television sports shows. Then a chance meeting
with Indian filmmaker Prakash Jha changed his life.
Sharpe has composed background score for Jha’s
, for which he won a
. Along the way, he has com-
posed music for three other Indian films —
Hope and a
and the just completed
This correspondent met Sharpe in his studio in Jersey City
(with a framed
poster up on the wall), where the
musician talked about his collaboration with Jha, played
some his compositions from
and even a brief
piece of Jha singing.
How did you meet Prakash Jha?
I met him in New York through (
a common friend
Sait. Prakash was here for a film festival and Gopi said to
Prakash, ‘I have a music guy you should meet and listen to
his music.’ He came to my studio and we hit it off creatively.
And then he asked me to come and work on
Did you just do the score or the songs, too?
The score. I got to work with Ustad Sultan Khan.
, you composed a song and worked on the
Yeah. I attempted my first Bollywood song
. And I did the whole score. Gulzar (
) was great; he explained the lyrics to me. Shankar
) sang the song.
He talked to me on the phone and explained that the film
was about the reservation system, the politics around it and
that Amitabh Bachchan was in it.
Do you know about India’s caste-based reservations?
Yes, I have been away from India for some time, but I am
fully aware of it. While it started with good intentions to
help people who belong to lower castes in the Hindu system,
who were also economically deprived, some people think it
is reverse discrimination against people who are qualified. I
know there are so many different perspectives in
India. Prakash addresses that in
. He loves con-
troversy, but this film has such a balanced perspective. He
addressed both sides.
He flew over here, he brought the whole film and we sat
down and watched it. It took three days to break down the
film, while he took me through every detail, where he want-
ed the music.
He’s a seasoned filmmaker and that makes it very easy. I
shot about eight hours of videotapes, in case, after he left, I
wanted to revisit what he had said. Also, this time it was eas-
ier since he subtitled the film. And he developed the
themes. He sang the
Vaishnav Jan To
notes for me. I have it
here in my iPod (
he plays it
). But it was very complicated for
Western notes and to play it on the piano. We spent a day
composing it. It was important for me that the Indian audi-
ence recognize it, although it had to be subtle. And this was
) theme. But we changed
the whole sound.
The one piece that is Deepak’s (
Saif Ali Khan’s character
theme, and it became the theme of the larger caste conflict.
I wanted something different in the sound. I said to
Prakash, ‘I don’t want anything like
. Let me try
something from the south of the United States, like the
blues.’ One night I woke up and started playing the guitar
sitting here and the theme evolved.
How was your experience of working with Indian musi-
I met the musicians through Yogesh Pradhan, an arranger
over there. He helps hire the musicians. I tell him I want the
best flautist or the sarod player.
I was humbled by the musicians there. Not only can they
play, but their musical memories of melodies and timings
are impressive. And the melodies and their meters are far
more complicated than in the West.
How different is the experience of working on American
indie films and a Bollywood film?
First of all, there are songs in Indian films and you have to
incorporate them. Also in Indian films, there is two-to-three
times more music. In Prakash’s film, there is two-to-two-
and-a-half hours of music. In an American indie film there
is maybe 45 minutes to an hour of music.
Am I right to say that the music is much more subtle in an
American indie film?
I think in India, the audience is more used to being direct-
ed. Sometimes that also happens in big Hollywood block-
Have you studied Indian music?
Not formally, but mostly from listening to the music. I did
study Middle Eastern music. I did other overseas projects.
But with India it was maybe a karmic thing.
Did you have any exposure to India?
I have been to India about 12 times, but the first time was
with Prakash with
. I walked into the set
and went, ‘Wow.’ Prakash played the theme of
the film on the set to get the actors and the cinematograph-
er in the mood. A lot of guys, here especially, will do the
movie and then say, ‘Oh now we have to do the music.’
So, just a chance meeting and your life changed…
Yes, the experience has changed my life, changed the way
I approach melodies and instrumentation. We have become
such an interconnected world. I went to India as a musician
and it just changed my perspective. First, it was fun and now
I keep getting asked back.
What are you doing these days?
I just finished a reality show. I am doing a song for a
Hollywood film called
. It’s in English, but
with one song sung by Sonu Nigam. He has written the
in this issue
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