The news hit musician Avijit Kundu even as he was munching away merrily at a South Calcutta restaurant. The film that he scored the music for, Kalkokkho, has just won the National Award in the Bengali film category as the Best Feature film. Kundu, a piano teacher at the Calcutta School of Music, is steeped heavily into background scores. Says the Jamshedpur boy: “BGM or background music is something that impressed me from childhood when I used to watch films on Star Movies, HBO and so on. I realised that films would sound empty if there wasn’t a heightening of music, depending on the scenes.”
Avijit has so far scored the background music for nearly 19 films. Officially his first film as BGM composer was Macher Jhol starring Ritwick Chakraborty and Mamata Shankar. He adds that his entry to the film world is courtesy three youths — Subhajit (editor), Rajdip and Chandrasish (directors), who were anyway connected to the industry. There onwards it has been a fairly smooth journey through films like Ae Zindagi (starring Revathy), Love Aaj Kal Porshu, Kolkata Harry, Haami, Ahare Mon and Mahisasur Mardini. In between, Avijit doubled as composer of some of the films as well. He explains how difficult it is sometimes to explain his core job. “Many people mistake background score with sound designing. They are two totally different departments as is the music department. My job is to score music for the film dealing with it scene by scene, varying in mood and emotional content. It’s a very hybrid setup where I blend the use of live musicians and sampled instruments through VST technology in my favourite DAW Cubase. I have my own studio in Golf Green where I do all this work and hand it back to the director.”
What has been the recognition so far? “True it’s improved from the past where a BGM scorer would be tucked away somewhere in the credits. Currently, we are all getting separate billing and that’s heartening. I also recognise that while playback songs are reducing in tandem with current film themes, background scores will continue to play a clear and emotional role in the film’s journey. In India it’s called background music but elsewhere in the world it is simply music, not labelled something else,” says Avijit.
In the same breath, he says that teaching piano is something he will never let go of. A student of the late Sam Engineer, he recalls how he stood sceptically outside his teacher’s door waiting to be accepted as a student and then later, getting enriched through a long journey. “That’s why I love teaching and despite my film commitments, I will continue to do so,” says Avijit, who teaches Western classical music to his students.
He adds that most film-makers let him do his work on his own but some, like Pratim D. Gupta and Rajdip Paul, do have a keen interest in the background music. “Pratim da, with whom I did four films, wanted to do some sparkling music for Macher Jhol to heighten the cooking sequences. Rajdip is also very specific and precise about what he wants, and his first film, Kalkokkho, won the National Award. It’s so encouraging,” he says with a flourish.