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He came, saw and conquered
by Manjula Ramakrishnan February 15, 2013
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He entered the Hindi film scene like a storm and today, three decades later, Padmashree Remo Fernandes has rocked the nation again with his latest tracks in the film David, in which he has composed two super hit tracks Maria Pitache and The Lighthouse Symphony. And for David again, he has single-handedly sung, played all the instruments, handled the recording and pre-mixing engineering as is his normal practice.

Remo’s entry into film music was with the legendary composition Jalwa in 1987 which made him instantly famous in India. His fame and popularity grew with pop/rock albums such as Bombay City and O Meri Munni and hugely popular film songs such as Pyar tho hona hi thaa and the eminently hummable humma humma.

Heralding this year, Remo has resolved to take on film work only as a music director, for which he will either sing the songs or select playback singers as required by the film. Either way the music will have Remo’s individualistic stamp for sure. With two films releasing early in the year, one of which has already given him his first hit of 2013 and the other poised for launch, for Remo Fernandes the stage is set for a glorious return to Bollywood.

While the Hindi film David was received with mixed reaction from the public, your song Maria Pitache won unanimous acclaim…

David is a kind of film that might appeal to a niche audience. Maria Pitache on the other hand is a folk song with a timeless, universal appeal. It has been in my repertoire for years and people from New York to Tokyo have grooved and sung along to it!

Were you apprehensive about seven other music directors for David?

Not at all! Each music director has his own style, suitable for a particular scene in the film and Maria Pitache and The Lighthouse Symphony have a style and mood of its own.

Going back to Maria Pitache, what is the song all about?

It is a folk song from Daman, which together with Diu and Goa formed the Portuguese colonial triumvirate in India. As in most folk songs, each verse is about a totally different topic. However, the chorus is solely made up of the line Maria Pita Che, which I interpret to mean that a woman called Maria enjoyed her tipple.

Why Maria Pitache and why did you opt for a folk song when you could have composed a new one?

The director Bejoy Nambiar felt that this particular song fitted perfectly with the scene he had in mind and it did. Besides I wanted Maria Pitache to reach a wider audience and David presented a great opportunity to take it nation-wide.

My other track in the film The Lighthouse Symphony is an original. This is a background theme that brings out the protagonist Vikram’s complex character and this composition also highlighted the serious composer in me. By the use of different instruments, humming and whistling I have portrayed different moods through this song. And when the hero decides to stop struggling and goes back to being his old self, the music becomes a happy, energetic samba. In this section I did a vocal improvisation, which was recorded in a single take.

Besides, I spontaneously composed The Lighthouse Symphony on location on my little ukulele, while shooting for Maria Pitache right next to the lighthouse in question. It was a fabulous experience.

From your experience of being in the music scene in India for decades, has composing music or singing become more challenging now?

The music scene in India which had opened up to non-film pop and rock in the 80’s has gone back to being solely Bollywood dominated. That is the major change. More challenging? No I don’t think so. On the contrary, with computerized technology available, the job has become far easier. But these tools and technological advancements can also make the music director overlook the human element in music – such as good melody and lyrics. Many concentrate on great digital sounds, which are mind-numbing, thus forgetting the basic essentials.

As a music director how would you select your singers?

I would select the singers depending on the actor in the film for whom I am composing a song. Not just the vocal tonal quality, but the singer’s voice should sync well with the actor’s personality and body language as well. I would also love to record with unknown, undiscovered rural singers with voices that are unsophisticated, like uncut diamonds.

Which directors would you like to work with?

I think Anurag Basu, the director of Barfi used music beautifully in his film. So did Gauri Shinde, the director of English Vinglish. Currently, as a backlash against the excessive importance given to music in the typical masala formula Bollywood films, many new directors have gone to extremes and use just a third or a fourth of a song in their edit. They almost drown the soundtrack with a lot of dialogues and other noises. It would be a pleasure to compose music for a film being directed by somebody who is not afraid of using songs in their entirety and who at the same time would know how to use them intelligently, artistically and differently, far removed from the formulaic, masala way.

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