Manto’s soundtrack: Weird, dark and expressionist

Published: September 5, 2013
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Singer Ali Sethi feels Manto will be an important film as it will coincide with the resurgence of the film industry. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

Singer Ali Sethi feels Manto will be an important film as it will coincide with the resurgence of the film industry. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

Singer Ali Sethi feels Manto will be an important film as it will coincide with the resurgence of the film industry. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY Film’s musical score and soundtrack will be helmed by Jamal Rahman’s  True Brew Records.
LAHORE: 

An appealing script, a star-studded cast and impeccable execution are prerequisites to a movie’s success at the box office. But in our part of the world, there’s another criterion on the list — a soundtrack that leaves the listeners spellbound. Be it the tune, composition, lyrics or vocals, a movie’s music album somehow ends up determining how well the project would fare with the movie buffs. Khuda Kay Liye and Bol’s music hit the chord with the audience and director Sarmad Sultan Khoosat has taken that into account for his upcoming movie Manto’s soundtrack.

Initially tabbed to be a television series, the project’s soundtrack and musical score will be under Jamal Rahman’s True Brew Records, which has numerous major productions under its belt including the music of Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. After listening to Ali Sethi’s debut single Dil Jalanay Ki Baat in Nair’s film, Khoosat was sold and quickly decided to bring Rahman on board.

“Sarmad has given me free reign in a lot of ways and lots of margin to experiment,” says Rahman whose team consists of Danish Khawaja from Poor Rich Boys and Babar Khanna from Coke Studio, who will be responsible for desi percussions. “He [Khoosat] said, ‘I want to make it yours and run with it.’ That’s the best thing you can have when working on a project.”

The team will be responsible for the entire sound of the film — sound effects, background score and original songs — excluding the dialogues which will be done in Karachi. Manto, which stars Khoosat himself along with Imran Abbas and Mahira Khan, is a period drama set in Lahore during the last years of the famous writer’s life. Thus, the music needs to bring the elusiveness of that era to life.

“We’re talking about Manto living on Hall Road in an absolute state of poverty — this is a very unique time [period],” continues Rahman. “So we are basing the soundtrack on the compositions that existed in the ‘50s. We will take that and develop the music in a modern way.” The music will be traditional yet contemporary and fresh and similar to Dil Jalanay Ki Baat. “Sarmad also tried to push that the music has to be desi but with a modern twist,” he adds.

Sarmad Sultan Khoosat. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

The film’s title track will be sung by Ustad Salamat Ali Nazar while Sethi and Meesha Shafi will lend their voices to a song each along with a duet featuring their vocals. The soundtrack should be complete by the end of September so work on the musical score may commence.

“Nazar is not really well-known but has a very particular sound to his voice which we quite liked,” Rahman explains, adding that they had listened to numerous singers but none fit the part. “We really liked the tone and heaviness of his voice and thus, we will use him for the title track.”

“We also have Ali Sethi who I think has a phenomenal voice. His musicianship is quite mature for someone who has been doing this for just a short period of time.”

Sethi, on the other hand, feels Manto will be an important film as it will coincide with the resurgence of the film industry. “I’ve seen only rushes of the film. It had an atmospheric and impassioned story,” says the young singer. “It touches a nerve especially right now, when all our bombastic narratives about Islam and the nation have fallen apart — in that sense, it’s a timely and important film.”

Manto’s music is weirder, darker and more expressionist than anything I have ever done before,” he adds.

Meanwhile, Rahman reveals that he is working on assembling a band which will be known as True Brew All-Stars. “The idea of the band is not limited to any one genre and it is not a commercial project — it’s entirely my own experimental thing,” he explains. “The band will have a fluid line-up — anybody that I want to work with will basically be in the band.” He further reveals that a music video is scheduled to release by the end of the year.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2013.

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