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Achint Thakkar talks about Monica, O My Darling and the Scam 1992 track that became a milestone in his career

The music composer talks to Cosmopolitan India about the soundtrack that’s making all the right noises, how he found singers for these retro hits, and much more. 

I, much like the entire world, loved the soundtrack of Monica, O My Darling. It was fresh and was the perfect recall of the retro era. The tracks—Ye Ek Zindagi, Bye Bye Adios (funerals will never be the same again), and Farsh Pe Khade was. I Googled the name and my jaw dropped to the floor when I realised this is the same music maestro who gave the world the iconic title song from Scam 1992. You’ve heard the songs, now you’ll hear the name—Achint Thakkar. 

Cosmopolitan India, in an exclusive interview, caught up with the music director, who is just like his songs—full of energy and good vibes only. Excerpts

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Cosmopolitan India: Since Monica, O My Darling comes with a very retro vibe, did you have to study the music from that era before composing the songs?

Achint Thakkar: Yes, a lot. In fact, I didn’t know Vasan (Bala, the director) wanted to do it this way in the beginning. I thought it’d be a commercial movie. I sent him a track to which he said ‘it sounds like a hit, but I want something that sounds like it’s from the old days’. He wanted the whole antara-mukhda, something that I wasn’t used to. I was always a huge fan of R.D. Burman, S.D. Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan, but I never composed in that style or never studied it that way. So I took some time to understand the music. I watched old movies for a couple of months and dissected how the music was made. That really was a lot of fun.   

Cosmopolitan India: Which brings me to my next question, do you remember any movies that you watched that helped get the mood of the film bang on point?

Achint Thakkar: I saw Guide a lot, Caravan, Teesri Manzil. I checked out some of Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s and Kalyanji-Anandji's work. I was mainly watching a lot of stuff on YouTube that Vasan would recommend and see how background score was at that time and how was it used. Vasan Bala creates his own genre. I realized that while working with him. I’d seen his previous film and he created his own universe in Monica, O My Darling, and I just tried to fit inside his world that was quirky, nostalgic, and funny. 

Cosmopolitan India: What’s the biggest takeaway about learning how music was from the 70s and 80s?

Achint Thakkar: The simplicity, actually. How’s there’s not much happening in the song, because it’s so simple. We did a song named Farsh Pe Khade. I in some way was trying to channel S.D. Burman, because I’m a big fan of his. He has an iconic quote—dulhan khaali ek bindi mein bhi acchi lag sakti hai, usko poora sajaake khoobsurti bigad jaati hai (a bride can look good wearing just a bindi on her forehead, the addition of adornments and make-up ruins her beauty). We tried to keep it simple. And then, there’s Varun Grover and his lyrics. He got the point across in the film so well and fit the melody so well. I think the collaboration with Varun was something that I was nervous about. I’ve been a huge fan of him, so there was a lot of pressure. But once we started, things started flowing and it was us trying to keep things simple. The direction given by Vasan was very nurturing. No idea was a bad idea.

Cosmopolitan India: Who were your music inspirations while growing up?

Achint Thakkar: I’ve had many phases, but the name that has stayed constant is A.R. Rahman. I grew up listening to his music. Because Hindi films are such an integral part of anyone’s life and I was raised at a time when he burst onto the scene. Roja, Rangeela, Dil Se, Bombay, Taal, is the kind of stuff that I remember as a kid. Also Jatin-Lalit and Nadeem-Shravan. I also had a rock and roll phase which is still going on. A lot of Beatles, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin. So there’s a song called Hills of Malabar in the film which is very Beatlesque. They’re my favourite band of all time.  

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Cosmopolitan India: One thing that everyone has noticed was that the songs in the movie are bang on point in terms of their appearance and the way it’s been shot. How important is the visual representation of an audio number? 

Achint Thakkar: I would give credit to Vasan Bala for that. He knew the narrative so well and the role that music should play in the film. All these things are just Vasan putting his stamp on things. I think before Suno Jaane Ja, they’d put Ek Haseena Thi from Karz, but couldn’t get the license to the song at the last minute, so I had to compose this. A lot of songs got added at the last minute. Love You So Much I Want To Kill You was one of them. I’ve written the English songs, while Varun has done the Hindi numbers. I just started singing Love You So Much I Want To Kill You because that’s actually what was happening in the scene and we decided to make it a Goan folk number. It wasn’t planned to come out this way, it just became like this as we went on and on. 

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Cosmopolitan India: A funeral song called Bye Bye Adios is so out-of-the-box. What was your ideation and creation process behind it?

Achint Thakkar: What’s interesting is the fact that the funeral song was supposed to be Farsh Pe Khade Khade. And Bye Bye Adios was supposed to be a montage where Jayant is running to catch the train back to his girlfriend. It was Vasan who decided to use it to switch things. I just had the tune for Bye Bye and he told me to use it for the funeral and it was sent to Varun. And that’s when he came up with Aisa Tha Woh, Waisa Tha Woh, Paani Ke Jaisa Tha Woh, Bye Bye Adios.  

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/embed/KL-A02FZzYw[/youtube]

Cosmopolitan India: Tell us about Farsh Pe Khade and Love You So Much, the former is a ghazal while the latter has that Goa vibe to it. What were the reasons for choosing to do so?

Achint Thakkar: So, it just felt like the right energy for the scene. We decided to go full Konkani for Love You So Much, kind of like how Usha Uthup used to sing back in the day. We had to maintain the character for the soundtrack, we couldn’t come in the present day. It should sound like it was all done then. For the rest of the songs, I didn’t want to break character and it should feel authentic. And Farsh, that’s just Vasan Bala’s thing man, it was supposed to be a funeral song, and he was like why don’t we use it when Jayant is falling off the building. 

Cosmopolitan India: Also, if one pays close attention to the songs, especially the female vocalist in Ye Ek Zindagi, one will realize that the singer isn’t one who sings the songs we hear today. So how did you narrow down on these singers? 

Achint Thakkar: When I did the first scratch and got the feedback from Vasan for Ye Ek Zindagi, we were thinking of who to get. I did a lot of searching as I had the sound in my head but couldn’t find it. I went on YouTube as Vasan suggested that I listen to singers who do Asha Night, and Lata Night. I saw a couple of videos and that’s where I found Anupama Chakraborty Shrivastava. She has spent her whole life singing like Asha Ji. That’s her job. So is Saud Khan, who sang Suno Jaane Ja and made you feel like you’re listening to Mohammed Rafi. The best part about them was that they didn’t face any trouble with regards to the melody and pronunciation as they have been doing that for ages. 

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Cosmopolitan India: We can’t have this interview and not talk about Scam 1992. Did you anticipate the success and traction it received? 

Achint Thakkar: It does feel like my life is divided into two—before and after the show. It was a sudden boom. I didn’t think the song or the show would have gotten so much love. I didn’t think a show on the stock market would garner so much praise. I was so happy to see it do so well. It’s the same with Monica, O My Darling. I didn’t expect people to love it this much. 

Cosmopolitan India: What’s next for Achint?

Achint Thakkar: So I’m working with Hansal Mehta again on a Netflix show that’s called Scoop. I’ve got the second season of Rocket Boys coming up and another show called Pirates (which was called Lootere earlier). So I’m looking forward to that. Add to that, I hope to drop independent singles once I get some breathing space. They are in the pipeline.