Please tell us about yourself
Having recently composed the music for one of Bollywood’s highest grossing films of 2013, Point Blank alumni Sanchit Balhara shares his experiences on student life at the home of electronic music. Sanchit is Indian and studied the Music Production and Sound Engineering Diploma at Point Blank.
Tell us about your beginnings and musical influences . How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and exciting career?
Sanchit’s initial interest was to become a tennis professional. He began playing tennis at the age of 9. In his journey as a tennis player, he got trained at National Tennis Academy in Gurugram and Delhi Lawn Tennis Association, New Delhi. He won many tournaments and also played at international level tournaments. He also won several gold medals for his university during tennis days. But because of a knee injury, he had to quit tennis which also made him take music more seriously. Very soon, Sanchit started taking professional piano/composing lessons and later in late 2000s went to London to study music. After completing his classical music education through Trinity college London, he later when to study post graduation diploma in music composing and music production at Point Blank, London. In his days at Point Blank College, he studied under teachers like Phil Ramacon(grammy winner) and Ian Rossiter(grammy nominee) He calls his experience at Point Blank one of the best ones of his life.
“I am brought up in a musical family with my Father and brother both being in music. Initially, It was my father’s passion in music which got me interested. Later on when I was growing up, I started listening to legendary Hollywood score composers like John Williams, James Horner, Thomas Newman, Hans Zimmer etc.”
Why scoring or composition? What drew you towards this?
I was always fascinated with the way how a score makes you to believe in the emotions of the environment a director has tried to portray with the film. I always felt a film is like a life without soul. Being a very emotional person, I felt this form of music would help me explore the emotions of life better than any thing else and gradually I went too deep into it to eventually make scoring my profession.
You came from India to study at Point Blank. How did you hear about the school and what made you decide it was the place for you?
Although I was brought up in India I had a European classical music background. I wanted to hone my skills within the technical and electronic side of music. So, after a lot of research on the Internet and music magazines, I found out that Point Blank stood far ahead of any other institute.
How would you describe your experience as a student at Point Blank?
It was fantastic. The faculty included highly qualified tutors, some of whom were even Grammy Award winners and nominees. Learning from them was quite an experience. The unlimited access to the well-equipped college studio is an amazing facility for the students. The friendly studio assistants are worth mentioning as well.
How would you compare London’s music scene to that in your home city?
I come from a city called Chandigarh, where the most prevalent form of music is the regional music (Punjabi Bhangra).
In London, the scope of opportunities is very high in terms of various genres. London offers a suitable environment to every musician irrespective of his/her style. However I, now live in Mumbai, which is the music capital of India, and also the hub of Bollywood music.
What would you say was your favourite aspect of being a student at Point Blank?
The curriculum was based more on the practical knowledge. Point Blank is the one institute that focuses not only on the creative part of music but the business aspect as well.
What was your career in music like before you came to study here?
Before going to Point Blank I had played with several live music bands as a pianist/keyboardist. Although I was doing a decent job as a musician, I wanted to explore the music producer inside me.
Tell us about your career path
Post his studies and a few working months as a composer, Sanchit returned to India in 2013. Considering he always wanted to be a music composer, he right away moved to Mumbai and started working as music composer in ad films and commercials.
In mid 2013, Sanchit had a life changing moment where he met film composer MontySharma, who was looking to collaborate with a music producer for his upcoming project Ram-Leela. Sanchit thoroughly enjoyed this collaboration for three movies(Ram-Leela, Singh Saab the Great and Rege) with Monty Sharma. After that, he collaborated with composer Sandesh Shandilya for many film projects before reaching out to SLB productions showing interest as a Film score composer for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani. This was a life changing moment for Sanchit, where he put all his efforts to prove worthy for the decision. Sanchit’s work in Bajirao Mastani was highly appreciated through out the industry and also made him win awards including IIFA,Music Mirchi, GIMA and Zee cine awards.
What projects are you currently working on?
I just finished composing the score for a prestigious film made for the launch of the newly constructed International Airport in Mumbai. After doing some commercially successful films last year, I have already signed 3 movies as music composer. I’m due to start work on one of those films in Feb 2014 then start work on the other two this summer. I’ve also been doing a lot of TV commercials as well.
I did two films as music composer and three films as arranger and music producer/programmer last year. One of the films (Ram-Leela), I produced the score for, was directed by one of the most popular directors of Indian Cinema, Mr. Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The film went on to become the third highest grossing Bollywood film of 2013. The knowledge I gained at Point Blank surely came in quite handy while making music for the films. I have become more confident of my production skills since the course finished. The knowledge and experience I had at Point Blank gave a fantastic boost to the level of confidence required for the professional work that I do now.
In recent years, the music scene in the Indian Cinema (the so-called Bollywood) has become very contemporary within world music. Bollywood music has seen some very good changes in terms of international standards, techniques and quality. Now a days, EDM is widely being used in the Bollywood songs so the knowledge I gained especially from the Sound Design module is helping me quite a lot.
Your biggest take away from your musical instances with Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Sanjay Sir is a genius and master of Art. Whichever style of artist you are, whether a composer, writer, painter, cinematographer etc. , he has a masterly skill to collaborate with you. I feel working with him has made me a more mature composer in my own way. In this whole process, I was able to explore my music more than anytime before.
Do you think Indian directors lack good musical taste and vision unlike virtuosos in the west?
I feel taste in Art should never be categorised to good or bad, Its all about liking or not liking something. Music is a direct way of communicating with emotions. But when it comes to style of scoring to any given industry, its about the environment of style and standards the industry has evolved into. Indian film’s market wasn’t as big as western film’s was, so the style of scoring was also limited to the styles of films make for a particular region. But as now we’re getting more and more global, our creative possibilities(which includes the style of scoring) are too getting more wide.
Take us through the creative process of curating the score for Padmaavat and all the collaborations that took place
Padmaavat’s score was highly challenging considering I wanted it to sound different from my previous Period film “Bajirao Mastani”. I wanted to bring this difference in both composition way and as well the way its going to sound. I began my score by first getting the main theme of the film( also known as Jauhar theme) composition representing the whole set of great emotions going in the character’s head. Rather than having any instrument to play the theme, I thought I would like It to be sung in humming as I feel humming is a way of singing anyone can attempt and easily relate to. Once my composition was set, the next challenge was the rest of arrangement. I wanted the film to have all the authentic touch as possible but yet sound fresh so that today’s generation can relate to. While doing so, I had many challenges to not let the score sound alien to the period the film was made for. In traditional instruments, I used a lot of “Sindhi sarangi, Algoze, Murchang, Rajasthani Dhol, Murali and Folk singing. And representing the other culture of the film (the Khilji’s) I used a lot of folk instruments from turkey, Iran and Afghanistan as this was the route Khiljis had travelled through to finally settle in Delhi. But now I had to find a way to weave both these traditions into one film score, and to do so I blended the whole score with European classical instruments like strings section and Brass section. All these things were not a part of any plan but happened with evolution into the film.
How do you see the scope of orchestral music raising in Indian film scores?
I feel the music is getting more mature with time as the standards of film making is. Whether its orchestral or not, a score should be able to justify the visuals. The most important part of music is to be original and authentic. Now days we see a lot of music in our industry is either a direct rip off of a known western music piece of almost very similar. Even if we have go western way of scoring, we can always make original Indian compositions keeping the vibe of orchestral standards western(if required).
Going further, how do you see your music evolving?
Knowing Indian music for sometime and still exploring more, I am finding we have a lot to give to the world then just take from. I would one day hope to see Authentic Indian music becoming as a main stream score genre at international market. That’s the only we can make our music stand out.