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Gaurav Raina and Tarana Marwah on Making the Music of ‘Bombay Begums’

The seasoned New Delhi producer and founder of electronic music group Midival Punditz, plus producer-singer Komorebi speak about scoring for screen and future projects

Anurag Tagat Mar 16, 2021

Gaurav Gaurav Raina (right) and Tarana Marwah - Image by Yeashu YuvrajRaina (right) and Tarana Marwah. Photo: Yeashu Yuvraj

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In between all the tumult, succor, heartbreaks and victories seen in Netflix’s latest woman-centric drama Bombay Begums, there are jazz songs composed by Tarana Marwah aka Komorebi that are used as a narrative device. Marwah says, “I spent a lot of my time listening to jazz music and drinking wine and wrote songs that were very heartfelt from my end.”

With a jukebox comprising 12 songs out now, Bombay Begums has a soundtrack that certainly delves on jazz, an entirely new sonic terrain to explore for an electronic music producer and singer like Marwah. But then with co-composer Gaurav Raina (producer and one half of veteran electronic group Midival Punditz) and singer-composer Anand Bhaskar added in the mix, the music of the series becomes sublime yet diverse. Raina supplies cinematic electronic music and Bhaskar comes in to match the electronic-pop aesthetic with Hindi club-friendly tunes, aided by singers such as Madhubanti Bagchi (“Harjaayi”), Isheeta Chakrvarty (“Ishq Khumaari”), Shilpa Surroch (“Jawaani”) and Keka Ghoshal (“Khel”).

In the works even before the pandemic, Raina and Marwah say they were approached for the score and to work with series director Alankrita Shrivastava about a year and a half ago. Shrivastava – known for directing 2017 film Lipstick Under My Burkha – also worked with the music duo for the score to her drama series Made In Heaven (2019). Raina says his own pre-requisites when it comes to saying yes to a project for screen depends on who’s writing and directing it, in order to develop a good rapport and also to have a “challenging story.” He adds, “And then of course the camerawork and the way it’s shot. I look into all of this. The more fun it is to watch the more fun it is to score.”

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Before everything else, the first piece of music that Raina and Marwah composed was “Begum’s Title Theme,” which plays over the opening credits as well as the end credits. Raina says, “The first thing we do is have a chat with the director, the initial meeting is about speaking about what’s the essence of the story, the emotions that are predominant, in order for us to make a theme that captures the aesthetic and message of the show in its entirety.”

Since there are multiple protagonists in Bombay Begums – essayed by Pooja Bhatt, Shahana Goswami, Amruta Subhash, Plabita Borthakur and Aadhya Anand – the composing duo created character-specific themes. Raina says, “The themes need to have the ability to transform into various emotions they go through and the milestones they achieve in their story arc. Once that’s done, you’ve got a chunk of the creative aesthetic of the show.” Marwah cites composers such as Jeff Russo, Ramin Djawadi and Ludwig Goransson as influences for scoring Bombay Begums.

In addition to the jukebox for the series, the background score for Bombay Begums is also in the works to hit streaming platforms. In the meantime, Marwah and Raina are already working on the music for a series called Fallen, directed by Reema Kagti and have the second half of the year to concentrate on the music to the second season of Made In Heaven.

Raina says he’s working to release music on his label Gravity Sounds, including partnering with a “major label abroad.” He adds, “We’re going to look at releasing artists like Komorebi, Curtain Blue, GRAIN, Punditz. I’m super excited about that.” Marwah adds that one of the first releases with the Gravity Sounds partnership will be the Komorebi full-length album. She says, “I’ve been waiting one and a half years to do this. I’m releasing the album with a digital comic, to aid the storytelling and all six songs are chapters of the comic and they’re going to have respective animated music videos. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do — combine my love for gaming and comics and just the nerd in me with the music.”

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