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I had to work a lot on the tone of the dark title track of Dancing on the Grave: Tushar Lall

The musician, who features in the docuseries Sound of 007, is excited to turn composer with the Paresh Rawal-starrer Jo Tera Hai Wo Mera Hai 

I had to work a lot on the tone of the dark title track of Dancing on the Grave: Tushar Lall
Tushar Lall
  • Dhwani Desai

Last Updated: 10.10 AM, May 08, 2023

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When the four-part docuseries Dancing on the Grave released on Amazon Prime Video recently, it was the talk of town. If you’ve watched this docuseries on the shocking case in Bengaluru from decades ago, then one thing that stands out is its unmissable background score. 

OTTplay recently spoke to Tushar Lall, the man behind the background score, title, and end tracks of Dancing on the Grave. 

A member of the band The Indian Jam Project, Tushar is living his dream: he’s been creating music for big projects in the OTT space, along with Bollywood films such as the Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt-starrer Brahmastra. 

Tushar, who featured last year in the international docuseries Sound of 007 thanks to his successful rendition of James Bond’s Skyfall, is excited about becoming a composer for the first time with Paresh Rawal’s upcoming film Jo Tera Hai Wo Mera Hai. 

In a freewheeling chat, Tushar spoke to us exclusively about all this and more. Excerpts from a conversation…

How did your life change as a musician after the Skyfall rendition and being featured on Sound of 007?
After being featured on Sound of 007, I definitely started getting more attention as a music composer since I was featured next to big names like Hans Zimmer, Billie Eilish, etc. What made me really happy was the fact that the Indian soundscape was a part of a documentary that was released on a global scale for an iconic IP that is decades old and has a rich legacy. It has also given me a sense of responsibility for how I need to carry the soundscape forward and present it better to global audiences.

What was the brief that you were given for Dancing on the Grave? Were there any challenges you faced with the background score, considering the subject of the docuseries?
Luckily, the team for the show is made up of very talented individuals. Patrick Graham, the incredible director, and Ankit Gupta, the creative producer who carried the show through, presented an exceptional Bible to me in the pre-production stages. I was so floored by the treatment that I told them that I was in right away. 

The only challenge I faced was depicting the crumbling aristocracy and sociopathic behaviour in one score. These are two ends of a spectrum and have completely different tones, but that's also what made the show a lot of fun. Scoring was an amazing experience.

You've studied Western classical and Hindustani music and often incorporate the two in your work. How challenging is this, considering that both forms of music are poles apart?
I think that beyond a point, the process becomes symbiotic. I see Western classical music in a horizontal way: it’s unbounded and full of colours. While Hindustani is more centred, due to an absence of harmonic structure, it’s more rooted as well. In a way, Hindustani can tame Western classical structures and give them more depth. The outcomes are always beautiful if done correctly.

Do you make a conscious attempt to ensure that there is a blend of Western and Indian classical tunes, or is this something that comes naturally to you?
I grew up listening to Abida Parveenji and Abba in the same house. I think I've been conditioned to do both for a very long time. Then, studying both theoretically only helped, as I understood quite a lot of parallels that run between them. 

Now, it pretty much comes naturally to my composition process, and funnily enough, sometimes that does not help because what's needed from me is very much on the surface and something that is light. I'm constantly trying to unlearn and not over-intellectualise music.

Give us an insight into what your creative process is like when you're composing a fresh piece…
I believe that everyone’s artistic intent, especially when they're creating something, should be unadulterated. I do anything that facilitates this theory. I generally sit with my instruments in a dark room and shut off my phone. I only think about what the music is doing to me and respond to it. It helps me capture some form of truth, and it is only this truth that later resonates with audiences. 

Which piece would you describe as your best, and why?
I think the one closest to my heart is Bano because it’s a perfect blend of who I am. It has cause, pure intent, both ideologies, and I made it only because I wanted to make it. It's a statement. Apart from that, I also loved doing the title track of Dancing on the Grave since the show is in a very dark space, and I have worked a lot on the tone as well, rather than only the composition, to achieve the desired outcome.

With Naatu Naatu's Oscar win, there's been more focus on Indian music. How do you think this benefits musicians like yourself?
Any time India is put on the global stage, it's a win for all of us. It pains me to see how underrepresented and underappreciated the raw talent in India is globally, and I think there should be a fusion wave with Hindustani classical that can take over.

What is your take on the popularity of Indian music abroad?
Whenever we've played classical music abroad, the appreciation has been through the roof. I just finished a tour in Germany with my act (The Indian Jam Project), and we played some hardcore Indian classical music in the small towns of Germany. We also sold out a show, and people were extremely supportive. Since we were performing in small towns, there weren’t really any Indians, yet we managed to get an amazing response from the audiences.

Do you have other Bollywood projects in the pipeline after Brahmastra?
Yes, definitely. I just finished a film that is on Jio's next called "Jo Tera Hai Wo Mera Hai", starring Paresh Rawal and Amit Sial. I'm a little nervous because, for the first time, apart from the BGM, I've also done songs for a movie. Hopefully, it turns out well!

Is there any other work that you're doing or looking forward to doing in the OTT space?
I have an upcoming project and a film, but sadly, I can't talk about either as of yet. But I'm super excited that I've started my journey as a music composer. It's been my dream for the longest time.