From being an engineering student to composing music for Bollywood hits, Atif Afzal’s journey was not very smooth. He got his break with the movie Prague and then there was no looking back for him. He is all geared up for his two back-to-back releases this month — Monsoon Shootout starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, directed by Amit Kumar and Charandas Chor directed by Shyam Maheshwari. Excerpts from an interview:
Composing music for films that are varied in their forms must have been challenging. Could you elaborate on your experiences?
When I decided to become a music composer, I knew I will have to compose music for various kinds of genres and styles. It definitely is challenging, as I have to get into the mood of the film and compose what it demands. Apart from the composition, I have to decide what kind of instrumentation and technicalities will justify my efforts. Being a composer in today’s competitive environment you have to be at it.
To up my game, I started learning various instruments while also experimenting with recording styles to get the tone I am looking for. I learnt the Basuri (Indian flute), Mridangam, drums, violin, ukulele, guitalele, banjo, etc, to record and compose better in varied forms. Monsoon Shootout and Charandas Chor are poles apart in genre, storyline and characters. The most difficult part is always to crack the first few scenes. Once that is done, the musical tone of the film is set and the rest becomes a cake walk.
Your journey into the world of music was not a steady one. You seem to have changed your career path from engineering. What was the reason behind such transition?
From engineering college to KPMG to B-town, it was actually very tough. I used to be the lead guitarist of my college band – Nemesis. Then I entered KPMG, worked there for three years and quit that job to follow my passion. The first two years were definitely bumpy as I knew no one in the industry. I met many filmmakers, producers, directors but hit no luck. I even worked on a film for Salman Khan for six months and that got shelved. My studio was wrecked, it was very disheartening. But the silver lining in the cloud was the movie Prague. Soon, it was followed by Pune 52 and then Baji in the Marathi film industry. My work was appreciated unanimously and it made the effort worthwhile. This was the turning point in my career.
You have had an international music composing exposure through the movie Gift. What has been the best experience for you so far?
Composing music for Gift was a categorically different experience. I consider myself lucky to get such international projects and work with brilliant directors like Daniel Harrich. The movie released in Germany, Switzerland and Austria early this year. I received many calls from filmmakers in Berlin appreciating and adoring my work. This feels really special and encourages me to go the extra mile. This has been one of the best experiences in my career. After Gift, I bagged another international film Then a Hero Comes Along. This is a documentary film directed by renowned documentary film maker Marlon Rouse Traves. We are just wrapping the last few recordings on this one.
Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s character in the film Monsoon Shootout is a complex one. Does the role of a character have any impact in the making of music?
Yes, the role of the character has a huge impact in the making of the music. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays a complex and twisted character and hence his theme had to be a twisted one too. It took me the most amount of time to compose his theme as it was quite challenging. Nonetheless the way it has shaped up, it is my favourite piece in the film. It is edgy, new age music that has a recall value which immediately connects to his character Shiva in the film.
You have mostly composed music for documentary movies and short films. How different was your experience while working for feature films?
It has been a great journey with feature films. In the last four years, I have worked on eight feature films — Bollywood, Marathi and German. Working on features is definitely more challenging as you have characters in them. You have to compose themes for characters, situational themes while also jumping between non-linear narratives at times. I have worked on couple of amazing international documentaries which was also a superb experience. I enjoy all the formats and they come with their own challenges.
Are you looking forward to making more music for the film industry?
Most certainly! I have two more releases next year — DNA of Love starring Adhyayan Suman and Black Bud starring Atul Kulkarni. My music has been experimental and new age and I would love to do more of such work in Hindi films. I know the kind of music I really want to do and I hope the correct scripts and films come my way.