OTTs’ role in democratizing the film industry is huge, says music composer Sangeeta Pant

Interviews

Lyricist-music composer Sangeeta Pant dwells at length on her passion for music, her journey to become a composer, her take on the lack of confidence on the part of women composers of today, etc. Composing is her “ultimate passion.” She says that it is really heartening to see how OTT platforms have broadened the horizons of budding artists. They have helped bridge the gap between a ‘star’ actor and a regular actor, she says.
Excerpts from an interview she gave to OTT Watcher.

Was it your childhood dream to work in the creative field, especially music? Please narrate your journey that culminated in you becoming a composer-singer?

I was always very passionate about music but as a child I didn’t really think about taking it up as a profession. It was only after I started winning a lot of competitions at inter-college competitions, that I actually realised that I was competent and felt encouraged to get into music professionally.

Regarding my journey, both my parents were great music enthusiasts though not professionally into it. My household was always resonating with classical/semi classical/film/Western music. Later I learned various forms of music under some great Gurus, most prominently Ustad Naseer Ahmed Khan, Shanti Sharma, Mohinder Sarin, etc. I also learned western voice culture under opera singer Celia Lobo. Having exposure to such a wide variety of genres early on, my creativity got an impetus as a singer and composer.

You have shown versatility in composing, singing and writing lyrics. Out of these, which is your ultimate passion which gives you the most creative satisfaction?

Composing is my ultimate passion, for sure, as it is like creating a painting, a piece of art and hence gives me the greatest creative satisfaction. 

Please narrate your experience giving music to X Zone. How did you do it differently from Kaagaz Ke Fools?

It is always very exciting to compose songs for a unique thriller like X Zone! I was given a complete free hand creatively. Often, there’s a lot of pressure put on composers to copy a certain song or refer to a certain song. This restricts the creativity of the composer. I was not put under any such restraints by Faisal Kapadi ji (the producer-director of X Zone).

Also, I was encouraged to come up with original compositions. In this day and age, where everyone is just rehashing old popular songs, I am very lucky that I got to compose original songs. 

Kaagaz Ke Fools had a very different storyline than X Zone, a completely different backdrop and situations, too, so the treatment of songs, the sounds used in programming and the lyrics were vastly different. 

As a composer, it has been greatly satisfying and exciting at the same time, as I got the opportunity to explore and compose in such different genres of music from Punjabi & Retro space in KKF to thriller, Sensual and Item no. in X Zone. I am really happy that people got to witness this when X-Zone was released on ShemarooMe Box Office.

Who is your inspiration in the field of music? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman music composer in today’s world?  

Well, it’s very difficult to name one! However, if I have to pick one, then I think the late RD Burman is one composer I admire greatly as he was way ahead of his times. His versatility, his command over all genres, his ability to produce great sounds from mundane stuff, is what inspires and motivates me. 

OTTs have helped bridge the gap between a ‘star’ actor and a regular actor. OTT platforms are not star-driven but content-driven, and the audience has welcomed the budding artists with open arms! This wasn’t the case when only theatrical releases ruled the day. So yes, their role in the democratization of the film industry is huge. 

Sangeeta pant

I also admire Usha Khanna ji who was the first woman composer in an era when the Indian film industry was completely male-dominated. Today, we have the advantage of women entering every sphere of making films so I guess it’s gaining acceptability. 

However, the disadvantage stems from the fact that people in the industry are still not used to women composers, so there is a lack of confidence in women composers as opposed to men composers. 

Are there any kinds of biases or discrimination as far as women music composers are concerned?

I wouldn’t say biases or discrimination, but as I mentioned earlier, there’s this lack of confidence in the abilities of a woman composer. Also, people often wonder whether a woman composer can give the time and commitment that a project demands.

What is your one message to budding/upcoming composers, especially women?

I would definitely like to encourage more and more women to take up music direction. I am a panellist in the Women’s Cell of Music Composers’ Association of India (MCAI), and we are committed to providing all kinds of support to women composers, be it moral, professional, technical, etc. We are there to address the issues that are holding them back. So, I would urge them to become members of MCAI too, to smoothen out their journey. 

What are the ongoing/upcoming projects you have signed?

There are a few albums, web series etc in the pipeline. Have composed a Hindi song for a Nepali film. One of my songs recently got nominated for the London Music Video Festival alongside international entries. A devotional song composed by me was released by Art Of Living Organization this August. I was invited to be a part of the Vande Mataram song released on 15th of August this year, which had the 100 leading music composers of India. 

What according to you is the importance of OTT platforms in the democratization of the film industry as it gives new opportunities/avenues to budding artists, which was unthinkable till recently?

It’s really heartening to see how the OTT platforms have broadened the horizons of budding artists. They have helped bridge the gap between a ‘star’ actor and a regular actor. OTT platforms are not star-driven, but content-driven, and the audience has welcomed the budding artists with open arms! This wasn’t the case when only theatrical releases ruled the day. So yes, their role in the democratization of the film industry is huge. 

The pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for OTT platforms the world over. With theatres shut, OTT release is the only way to go. Do you think this trend will stay even after the pandemic?

Absolutely! I think it was only a matter of time and the pandemic merely hastened the process. Now, people have a wide range of shows/movies to watch on OTT platforms  in the comfort of their homes, and at a very reasonable cost. The trend is surely here to stay. 

What is your view on the menace of plagiarism in the music industry? How do you think the menace can be stemmed from an artist level and industry level?

Unfortunately, Bollywood has been completely insensitive to the issue of plagiarism. As long as the plagiarised work gives them a hit song for their movie, the production houses are indifferent whether it’s an original work or a copy. This is a sad state of affairs. 

I think any artist confident of his ability to create, will be self-respecting enough to create original music. The industry as a whole, needs to take a stance against plagiarised work. Stricter rules need to be implemented too. 

It seems a bit far-fetched though, in the current scenario,  where music composers are expected to just rehash the old tunes. So where is the emphasis on originality?