How Composer Achint Crafted the Slick Score to ‘Scam 1992’
The Mumbai-based guitarist-producer infused his own voice as a fusion artist for the crime/drama biopic
A decade ago, guitarist, vocalist and producer Achint Thakkar only had one EP to his name, as founder of psychedelic rock band Rosemary. Since then, he’d been slowly picking up more commercial projects as well as concocting a thumping, cinematic sound inspired by artists around the world for his solo project. “Even then, I was used to projects not going through for about six to seven years. Either the funding would get pulled or the projects would never take off,” the composer says about his score work for screen.
That seems to have changed for Thakkar, in a dramatic year like 2020 no less. Earlier this month, his soundtrack for the series Scam 1992 – a gripping, critically lauded crime/drama show that follows the rise and fall of Mumbai tycoon Harshad Mehta – was released to wide listenership, with the glitzy, buoyant opening theme accruing over seven million streams. When Thakkar is told about the stats, he’s nearly in disbelief. “Oh shit, that feels bizarre. No one knew it would blow up. Even the show itself doing so well… we thought only a few people would love it.”
Although directed for the most part by filmmaker Hansal Mehta (who helmed powerful films such as Shahid, Aligarh and more recently, Chhalaang), Thakkar got the gig via co-director Jai Mehta in early 2020. “Jai is a friend from college and also [filmmaker and friend] Harshvir (Oberai)’s school friend. Jai asked me to pitch a theme to [production company] Applause and Hansal sir,” the composer says.
At first, Thakkar put together something he describes as “cheesy Seventies disco” vibes, drawing from veteran film composer Bappi Lahiri. “It was horrible and rightly, they said it was bad,” he recalls. He’d exchanged a lot of music with Jai Mehta and found they shared similar musical sensibilities, with a lot of ideas being shared back and forth even before they began shooting the series. Thakkar adds, “I wanted it to sound edgy and modern, but also have pop and rock elements.” Arriving at a sound that’s dark and lush, Thakkar’s sonic signature is often heard in the way he injects vocal melodies on different tracks, reminiscent of his 2015 solo album Shalimar.
Thakkar moved everything from studio sessions to his home due to the ensuing lockdown, which is when most of the work on the score took place. He says, “In the beginning, it was very daunting. The first two episodes were tough to crack, but then it became a lot easier. I didn’t how much music is in a show!” Although there was a bit of regular hovering from Hansal Mehta, Thakkar says there was no micromanagement of his output.
In a way, Thakkar is glad he was hunkered down and solely focused on creating the score for Scam 1992 during the pandemic, which he says “consumed” him throughout 2020. He adds, “I’ve been doing animal rescues when I can. We had a four-day-old kitten we managed to get adopted… but yeah, I’m also trying to release my own music.” With an influx of new listeners checking out Shalimar and 2018’s collaborative record Achint & The Khan Brothers, the composer says his next material lands in the realm of “good old fashioned pop music.” He adds, “I’ve been singing into the mic, and I haven’t done that since Rosemary.”
Additionally, there’s more music for screen in the works, with talks on for a web series and scoring a film that will go out on Netflix. “I’m trying to put out stuff more often,” he says.
Listen to ‘Scam 1992 (Original Score)’ below.