Alokananda Dasgupta was born in Kolkata, India, daughter of the poet and filmmaker, Buddhadeb Dasgupta. She holds a Bachelors of Arts degree with Honors in English Literature from St. Xavier's College. She was working on her Masters in English Literature at Calcutta University when she decided to pursue her life-long passion for music in Toronto, where she received a Bachelors of Music with Honors in Theory and Composition at York University. As a classically trained pianist and piano teacher, Alokananda gravitated naturally towards music composition for films. She has scored music and assisted in the writing on a few of her father's films, most recently composing the soundtrack for the forthcoming release of “Woh”, a feature film based on Rabindranath Tagore's novel, “Shey”. She has also composed music for several short films and documentaries, and was music assistant for Amit Trivedi on the film soundtrack for “Udaan”.
|Image by Craig Boehman|
Craig Boehman: So you're about to catch a train back to Mumbai. How did the scoring of your first soundtrack go?
Alokananda Dasgupta: Well I haven't finished scoring it yet, just completed the songs and some dance music that they needed to shoot with, so you can say I am standing on the threshold on post production in terms of music after the editing is done, I start the scoring, and I have to come back later for it, yeah.
CB: And the name of the movie is Woh. It's based off the Tagore novel, Shey. Can you tell us a bit about that?
AD: India is celebrating Tagore's 150th birth anniversary and Bengal is especially involved in the celebration as it is the city of Tagore. Tagore runs in all Bengali's bloods. There many theaters being put up, music being made, television series, music videos, documentaries, etc. And the Children's Film Society of the national channel in India commissioned my dad, director Buddhadeb Dasgupta, to make a children's film for Tagore's 150th. So my father chose Shey from Tagore's plethora of novels as he felt it had elements of childlike fantasy as well an underlying poetic essence -- a balance with which he thought he could work well. The story is about the relationship between a very puritan and rigid old man and his little granddaughter, and how he breaks the barriers of their relationship by telling her stories about this imaginary character called Shey, or Woh in Hindi, which means "that man". And as we weaves such imaginary tales That Man comes to life and becomes a catalyst to their slowly blossoming bond. The grandfather was a writer but only wrote grim tales. For her he compromised on his rigidity. Obviously, my father added his own touch in this story, including elements of nature imagery, tales of mysterious masked dancers, a traveling circus group, a magic tree, etc., thereby making it more mystical. You can say that it is an adaptation.
CB: Now, the protagonist, the grandfather, has a task of making up these stories on the spot. Some of them are very colorful. The one that made me laugh was the Jackal Society. If these tales were enacted, how was scoring for such scenes of fantasy?
|Image by Craig Boehman|
AD: He has included elements of that. Well, I haven't scored for that yet!
CB: Now, I have to get the book and see the exact English translation of the story as just the title cracked me up. The Society for the Improvement of Jackal Behavior. Very humorous, almost Monty Python flavored.
AD: I was really nervous to compose songs for him at first as I wasn't essentially a song composer. But now that the songs have been done I feel that scoring for such fantasy scene might be equally or more daunting, ironically, as I would have to maintain a general feel of innocence and magic while scoring for those scenes. And I have no idea how to do that yet. But I will find out soon.
CB: The title track, Woh Chand, is very pop-sounding to my Western ear. Have you heard yet what its role will be in the film?
AD: Yes. I recently just watched the very rough edited rush. The song was originally supposed to be the theme song for Shey but while shooting my father realized that it work best in the end during the perfect cadence of the film. When all gets resolved, the little girl, Poupe, goes back to her house, leaving the grandfather, and starts missing him. And Shey coaxes the grandfather to come out of his loner-writer "I don't need anyone" shell and urges him to go see her. He starts missing her too, and goes to see her. And Shey looks on -- that's when the song starts -- going into the end credits. And I feel that it just gelled beautifully with this scene, sort of justifying the end.
CB: You've worked on some Bollywood music projects recently. How different are the two worlds of Mumbai and Kolkata in regards to the music in films?
AD: They are almost poles apart. Mumbai has less soul and more professionalism; it's cutthroat, merciless, works only on the survival of the fittest theory. Calcutta is more laid back, easy, unprofessional, and much less competitive. These features bring out the very essence of the two cities both musically and otherwise. And I think it's good to have a bit of both.
CB: Let's talk a little about the process of scoring for you. Do you rely mostly on your studies of composition, or is there some mix between that and what you're able to pull off technically on an instrument or computer?
AD: To be quite honest with you, there is very little influence of my actual education in the way I compose now. There's not a set formula, either. I owe it much to the actual hands on experience that I received in programming and in music direction while I was assisting the Bollywood composer, Amit Trivedi. The rest I owe to my general exposure to music and films in general. I do not like to use my own piano playing or technology, i.e. programming, unless it's imperative. Ultimately, it's live instrumentation that I score in my mind.
|Image by Craig Boehman|
CB: Is there going to be a soundtrack released of Woh?
AD: I really hope so!
CB: Talk about some of the musicians you worked with on the songs and scenes.
AD: I have come across two very good singers from Bombay while recording the song, Woh Chand. One is quite a popular folk singer called Raghu Dixit, and the other is an Assamese singer called Angaraag Mahanto. I decided to go with the latter as his voice was perfect for the song. They turned out to be genuine musicians as they helped me a lot with recording. Apart from them I also met a Grammy-winning banjo player named Subhasish, an A-class guitarist named Bapi, and a very talented Bengali all-girls folk band called Teetas, to name a few. All of them participated in the recording of Woh Chand as well as the other two songs of the film.