With a National Award under his belt, Vipin Mishra, is emerging as one of the most prominent names in the music industry. He is one versatile music composer whose music seamlessly moves across genres. Vipin Mishra is a songwriter, singer, guitar player and much more. He dabbed into the advertising, feature film, short film, and has been a part of the band Parikrama. As Ghayal returns to the silver screen after 25 years with Ghayal Once Again, it is Vipin Mishra’s music that is all set to recreate the magic!

Music Composer, Vipin Mishra

Music Composer, Vipin Mishra

Can you tell us about your journey in Bollywood so far?

I started in Bollywood with a song called ‘Mera Pehla Pehla Pyar’ that was sung by K.K and it was for a film called MP3. Then I did a movie called ‘Let’s Dance’, which came and went without a trace.  The album was pretty decent and I got to work with some good people and Mohit Chauhan had sung a very nice song in that. Then came another single with a film called ‘Aloo Chaat’ it was the title track and then was Aurangzeb, for which I did the background score. After that is Ghayal Once Again that pretty much sums up my feature film journey. Besides feature films, I have done a couple of short films and a lot of work in Advertising.

How did you get on board with Ghayal Once Again?

I am actually doing songs for another film, which is being produced by Vijay, through whom I met Mr. Deol. We started talking and he started asking me about my work. We really got along well on a couple of ideologies. He has quite an audio feel in terms of knowing about high-resolution sample rates and is keen about getting good quality out there. He knows what he wants to hear in his music, so that was one thing that we connected on. The second thing that we connected on was the human element of the background score. He liked my work and that is how I got on board.

Plus, over a period of time, there is a genre that has evolved by itself, especially in the west, which is known as ‘cinematic scores’. If you look at early 2015 one of the most downloaded albums of the month was the background score of Dark Knight, which was a big surprise even for the music world. Therefore, we agreed to do something that is classic in nature and the moment you get into classic, that means you go orchestral. Here you have to work with a lot of people if you want to get the sound right. We agreed on that and we started working towards it. Working on this was great and creatively the process was very different to what I have done earlier.

What was the brief that you received from Sunny Deol?

Sunny Deol narrated the film to me. The advantage of an actor-director is that the narration is really great. It gave me a very clear picture. I understood the graph of the film and the emotional quotient, which he had in mind.  The other thing we did was that we saw the rough line up because almost 80% of the film had been shot by that time. That provided a visual sense. Now, even his visual sense in terms of editing patterns, lighting is very classic. He does not like to take unnecessary stylish roots.

After hearing the narration and seeing the film, I suggested a pretty simple route. At the end of the day, this is a superhero film, the only difference is that Sunny Deol is not wearing a cape. Other than that, like the earlier film, the story of this film is about one man who will stand against the system of wrong and one man single handily brings that system down to it’s knees, so basically it is a superhero film. I said let’s have a superhero sound. Therefore, we decided to treat it with that kind of sound and grandeur as far as the scale of the sound is concerned. We started working on it and tried our best to achieve it. We recorded with all live musicians. Then I took all the notations for every part. There were first violins and second violins, cellos, and then there were the trumpet sections and various others. Later we recorded all this together with the musicians and that made a huge difference.

How involved was Sunny Deol with the music?

He was extremely involved, but not in a stripling manner. He was very forthcoming with his opinions and would share what he is feeling and what he would like to feel while listening to a particular piece of music. This made it very easy.

What I did was after the score had been composed and before we had taken it to record live, I had the entire canvas of the soundtrack put on his phone and I suggested Sunny Deol to hear it. Since he himself had written and directed the film he will be able to imagine which piece will go beautifully where. And, if an element from the sound palette is missing or the aggression or sadness or isolation of a character is not shown properly then he would also be the best person to tell me. We repeated the exercise once we recorded the music.

Since this is largely an action drama, how difficult was it?

It wasn’t difficult because earlier one was pretty much an action drama. Moreover, the action in this film is outstanding because they have got Dan Bradley, who has done action choreography for movies like Quantum of Solace and other famous films. He is also the second unit film director so, the action sequences are outstanding.  

I have never really worked for a film which has action at this scale. That was a very interesting part because over here you have to leave the drama behind and stay in the action. Here you keep building the graph so that viewers connect to the characters when the main character gets hurt, you want the viewers to feel for him and when they get up you want the viewers to cheer for them.

Was the first movie, Ghayal a reference point for the music?

I saw Ghayal and there were two key themes that clearly emerged and we were keen on using them in the new film. The two themes that we picked were very memorable. When you will see the new film through these two themes you will immediately connect it to the first Ghayal. But that was not the only point of using them; it wasn’t just about creating a connection between the two films. Even if people have not seen the previous movie and are unaware of the background score these themes beautifully worked with the story. It is similar, but we have added contemporary sensibility to it. The themes are similar, but the treatment is quite different.

Are you a bit apprehensive about the music being compared to that of the first film?

That is no issue, I’ll be more than happy if people compare. Plus, we have got the advantage in our day and age. We have the advantage of technology, the exposure, I mean with the internet we are all aware of everything and you cannot be shamed into believing anything. It actually is not fair to compare because what the music scenario was almost two decades ago is very different from today’s scenario.

How was your experience working on Ghayal Once Again?

It was lovely, creatively it was great. Ghayal Once Again is a big step in terms of orchestral scores. Moreover, the music was backed because if you want to get 45 musicians to record in a studio, you need to spend a lot of money. When you are working with 45 other human beings and multiple mikes and engineers things are not always under your control. You are in control about the idea; about what you have in mind.  What you play on your keyboard through your sample is in control because you were hearing it in your head so you were absolutely clear. But the other 45 musicians are not because they are only looking at the notation which you have printed out for them. Each one will interpret according to their individual sensibility. Here each one is reading their own part and they don’t know what the other is playing. But it was fantastic to create music and I have to thank all the musicians and Sunny Deol for that. The music for Ghayal Once Again was about backing the composure’s idea. So yeah, creatively it was a great journey.

Music Composer, Vipin Mishra

Music Composer, Vipin Mishra

How do you connect the characters to the music?

There are many ways of approaching a film from a composer’s point of view. A lot of people work on themes for a particular character and on the other hand, a lot of people work on a larger theme, which can be adapted in multiple ways. Then there is a midway path, which is the way I work. There are two main characters on which I will focus on and from there all the other derivatives will come out.

Now, for me, there are three elements that are extremely important and on which I concentrate from the start. One is to set the scope, so right from the opening shot of the film; I want the viewers to understand that this is an intense film. The second thing is to establish the mood. Here I want the viewers to realize that the movie is funny or this film will take you for a roller-coaster ride. Then obviously, what happens is that you start building up towards the climax and towards the two main characters that are going to clash. That is the graph. There are a series of incidents where one is ahead, then the second one is taking the lead and there is a revelation and then the tables are turned. But then there is another revelation and the tables are turned again and finally the two will collide. But here comes the tricky and fun part because as a composer you have to hold your ground when it comes to genre. Let me give an illustration- let’s say that a film opens in a village, so the composure decides tumbi will play. In the next scene, the villager is shown walking into a Krishna temple with his baby girl, here the composer has decided that a flute will be played. As the man comes out, he falls and the baby falls who breaks her head. This is a very sad moment, but the composer decided to play the western classical violin. Now, that is a bad example because you just jumped, it’s like your character in one shot was wearing denim jeans and then for no rhyme or reason he suddenly switched to 80s discos with long hair. Therefore, the real fun or challenge for a composer is when you decide on a genre and then you communicate everything with that palette. This will not shock or confuse the viewers unnecessarily. From a very early stage, you have to decide what your palette of sound is going to be. When that is clear a composer can get the viewers in that zone and in that mood where they can enjoy the film.

From commercials to Independent movies you have done it all and you are even a part of a band, what is closest to your heart and why?

It is really hard to say because for me it has always been that when I am doing one thing, I miss doing another thing. When I was in college, I wanted to play in a band and in my second-year Parikrama was looking for a guitarist and I thought that it couldn’t get any better. I played for 7 years, after which I wanted to compose; I wanted to have complete creative control over what I do without sharing with other 4-5 people. At that time, the only place you could meet people, work with them and later have a drink along with some interesting conversation was advertising. Advertising went on for a while and then my interest in film sort of grew, but I don’t think I’ll completely fit in the industry for multiple reasons. I think films for me came along with people whom I got along well with, who will be interested in what you have got. And now, that I am here; I really want to get back to indie. I have been writing and I had put out an album about two years back and I am working on another one. Now, I really want to get back on the road.

Any advice for composers who want to make a mark in Hindi cinema?

The biggest advice that I will give them is that they should respect themselves. Today, the younger lot is so keen and so enthusiastic, which is good, but the biggest problem, according to me is that they are also unscrupulous sometimes. It is necessary to do the work that you are proud of.  I wouldn’t think twice before calling myself an artist and if you are producing something you first need to be proud of it. If you are not proud of it, then work harder, learn more, and come back.