Alokananda Dasgupta has arrived Image: Facebook/ Alokananda Dasgupta
Last week on a random Thursday, a certain Oscar-winning Rahman took to Twitter past midnight to welcome a name to the scoring club. And exactly a week prior to that, her music took the binge-verse by storm in the first desi Netflix original series.
We are talking about Alokananda Dasgupta, the composer who scored the one show that is basically the most relevant ice-breaker in the country right now. But Dasgupta had little idea that Sacred Games is going to end up looking this phenomenal.
"I had no idea about the magnitude of the series and its resonance. I knew it was a special project, and I admired the makers. I remember I loved watching it and there are very few things I really love to watch (I know it sounds arrogant, but it's not coming from that place). Anytime we start working on something, we never think about how big or small it would be, we just do it," says the composer in an interview to T2 Online.
The composer, who scored the series along with four original numbers and the fascinating title track, alongside lyricist Rajeshwari Dasgupta who penned the songs, was one of the first people who got to binge-watch the series. Albeit, without the background score.
"Background scoring can get tedious sometimes, it's technical and there are deadlines, and there's no romanticism to that. Sometimes, you get tired of watching the same reel again and again. But I remember binge-watching on the raw, uncut episodes of Sacred Games, and I knew it matched my sensibilities," says Dasgupta, and also admits there was no aha moment when she decided to start composing, and she just blended her love for music and cinema.
We asked Dasgupta about the stellar Sacred Games title track, which everybody is humming around, and turns out it's nowhere as deep as you thought it was.
"Everyone's asking me about the languages used in the track but it's actually gibberish. It's got no Middle-Eastern or Bulgarian touches as some people are saying. The point was to create a chant as there was a religious undertone throughout the series, but I did not want any religiosity to be attached to it. I wanted it to sound pagan. It was just a random chant that I hummed and it doesn't really mean anything," says Dasgupta, who has also scored for films such as BA Pass, Trapped and the National Award-winning Gujarati documentary Amdavad Ma Famous.
Dasgupta, who studied music in York University and started out as a music assistant to Amit Trivedi for films such as Aisha, No One Killed Jessica and Udan, has issues with the way background scores are still thought of as technical appendages.
"A background score is a creative part of the film. It's as important as writing and editing. It has often been misused and misrepresented and usually, the songs are hailed and not the score, because it's what the Indian audience wants. An album only consists of songs. But we have seen good scoring in Indian films, be it from Rahman, or Ilaiyaraaja or Satyajit Ray," says the composer, adding that times are changing as more and more people are interested in learning about the background score of a film.
"Everyone is asking me when the soundtrack will release, which means they want to listen to it, which means things are definitely changing for the better" says Dasgupta, who plays the piano, but realised she is not a performer.
Dasgupta, who happens to be the daughter of acclaimed filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta, admits that finding the sound of the show was the most challenging part. She wrote four original numbers for the show, namely, Saiyaan, Tabahi, Dhuaan Dhuaan, and Kukoo’s Couplet.
"Initially, I would do all kinds of experimental things and put myself out there and show off. Basically give all that I had to offer, which worked for me and Vikram (Vikramaditya Motwane, one of the show's directors), and he understood that I put everything on the table, because if you have a lot, it is easier to eliminate and extract the best " she says.
"He (Motwane) asked me to follow the narrative and he asked me not to overthink it, and to get inspired from the story. Which is you know, it's dark, criminal and edgy but not supernatural. He was doing Sartaj's (Saif Ali Khan) bit, and Anurag (Kashyap, the other series director) was doing Gaitonde's (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) bit. So, Sartaj had more of the action and the build-up, and Gaitonde was more of a fable, where I could get quirky, though eventually, we blended the two," says Dasgupta, who has always been fascinated by background scoring, even as a child.
She also admits she never thought she'd find a place in the industry and never really identified with it as she grew up. As for Bollywood right now, she thinks it's going through the best of times, and it's also the worst of times.
"I'm not exactly qualified to judge the industry, but personally I think there are some great things that are happening, and terrible things, too, are happening. And I wish the great things would happen more. There's a zone between mainstream Bollywood and parallel cinema, there are things happening, which I really admire," says the composer.
She also wishes things wouldn't be so dumbed-down, as we all do.
"I wish people would stop underestimating the audience and I realise the viewers are intelligent and don't need to be showered with item songs or catchy numbers or just a heapful of songs which accompany a film just to make the film work. Just because it has happened for so long doesn't mean you can't break the cycle. Maybe your film won't get that extra crore from the soundtrack, but I wish people would break the cliche and make it their own," Dasgupta tells us.
"There will always be Bollywood music. There will always be a film which comes out with a giant album and 15 songs. Some of them will be rubbish and some of them won't. But please don't be scared of the changes and allow them to happen," she signs off.