The soft-spoken composer of Slumdog Millionaire’s soundtrack on the movie, the Golden Globes and the Oscars
By Bobin James
Congratulations! First the Golden Globe win, and now the Oscar nominations. When you first did the music, did you think it would be appreciated so much?
When I did the movie, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was just concentrating on the work at hand.
Had you heard of Danny Boyle, seen his work, at that time?
I had heard the name, yes. I knew about Trainspotting, but hadn’t actually watched it. But when I met him, he came across as a really nice person, who respected the place, Mumbai. And who respected my music.
You’ve got two out of the three nominations in the Best Original Song category at the Oscars. Are you expecting to win?
I don’t know… [laughs]
What prompted you to take this project up, when it came to you?
I was very excited. I was excited by the story… and the collaborators like Gulzar and MIA…
I read somewhere that you finished the score in under four weeks. Would that make it one of your fastest projects ever?
I would say, the fastest. I did it in 2-3 weeks. It helped that Danny gave me very specific cues [individual pieces of music on the soundtrack] to score. So unlike working on say a hundred cues, I could work on those specific ones… I could focus.
Do you think these wins and all the attention will help other Indian artists break into the Western markets?
Big time! All of us have always felt that we make good music but there’s nobody out there who wants to listen to it. With this, I think I have broken those clichés… And there is also a certain respectability that’s been achieved…
What, about the movie and the music, do you think has suddenly captured the imagination of people across the world?
The important thing is that the intention is right - the intention of the movie, the intention of the music. The movie talks about optimism, the fact that life is worth living. All of us go through these phases of negativity, but what this tells us is to be optimistic. It’s about the victory of truth. It’s like our national motto, “Satyamev Jayate.” And we built in this subtle reference to that too, by making ‘Jai Ho.’
What’s your take on Slumdog Millionaire, the movie, purely as a viewer? If you were to disconnect yourself from being part of it.
I always see myself as a viewer… I only take up projects that appeal to me [at that level]. And I think that’s how I have established myself as a brand over the last 18 years. I would not take up anything that I am not convinced with.
What’s next on the anvil? Any more international projects?
As of right now, it’s only travelling and promotions [for Slumdog Millionaire]. Once things settle down, I will get back to work.
(January 27, 2009)
© Bobin James/Rolling Stone India, 2009