Three immensely talented music directors armed with bags of inspiration gather India’s top-notch singers and musicians—that’s the story behind the badass soundtrack of award-winning indie flick M Cream.
by Meher Bajwa
Directed by Agneya Singh and Aban Raza and starring Ira Dubey and Imaad Shah, M Cream is a refreshing, coming-of-age road trip movie about friends who travel into the far reaches of the Himalaya to get their hands on a mythical form
of hash. Hailed as India’s first stoner movie, it was made two years ago and toured the international film festival circuit to massive critical success. It released in India last month and people (us included) have been raving about the soundtrack. We caught up with the film’s music directors—Nikhil Malik, Arsh Sharma and Srijan Mahajan— for a jam session.
What took your film so long to reach the Indian audience?
Nikhil: To be honest, we didn’t even know if this film was ever going to be released. Agneya [Singh] actually wanted to take the film festival route first before thinking about anything else. We did about 30 festivals and won 10 awards, received great feedback and thus we moved forward with the release.
It’s been touted as India’s first stoner movie. How did the p(l)ot influence the way you created the background score?
Arsh: We thought it would be a good idea to write the score while high on pot but unfortunately most of the music was created with us being sober and working long hours. Agneya wanted a rock ’n’ roll soundtrack along with some Himachali
influences. We tried to create something which reflected the nature of the hills as
well as created a throwback to the psychedelic ’60s era.
So who did what on the soundtrack?
Srijan: Though we play different instruments, our writing process is all over the place and everyone does everything. On record, I played the drums, Nikhil and Arsh played the guitar and we all wrote the parts for most of the other instruments you can hear.
What’s your favourite track on the album and why?
Nikhil: We have a couple of favourites. I think “Acid Winds” is our favourite track because it was a happy accident. It’s one of the pieces that still stands out and gives us chills whenever we listen to it.
What did the process of creating this masterpiece involve?
Arsh: It was a long-drawn process with lots of back and forth. It took us almost six months to make. Luckily, we had enough time, so I think we came up with something we are all really proud of.
What were your inspirations?
Srijan: We tried to take inspiration from our own experiences in the hills and coming-of-age stories over the years. We heard the music that inspired Agneya to write the film including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and the soundtrack of Into
Did you do a lot of research?
Nikhil: None. We were told to watch some films by Agneya but we slyly
avoided it. Mostly because when there’s a reference, it's only human to get influenced by it. We wanted to start with an empty canvas. Nothing.
The film has won several awards at film festivals around the world. How does it feel to be a part of a project that has done so well worldwide?
Nikhil: It is unbelievable, still. We don’t know how to reactmostly. We were at the premiere theother day and were blinded by theflashing cameras. But I guess it’sjust written in our destiny to be thebest music composers this countrywill ever have.
How do you think music in independent Indian cinema has evolved in the past decade?
Srijan: Films in India have evolved and with them, the music has too. It’s amazing to see so many independent musicians doing music for films. I would’ve never thought an idiot like me would be allowed to score a feature film.
How many artistes/bands/musicians did you guys collaborate with on this project?
Arsh: I think it was over 10 or 15 artistes, including some amazing contributions from Shubha Mudgal, IP Singh (from the band, Faridkot), Susmit Bose and Suhail Yusuf Khan (from the band, Advaita), to name a few.
What’s next for you guys?
Srijan: A private jet full of Playmates?
Nikhil: We’re just hoping to be discovered by either Christopher Nolan, Anurag Kashyap or Karan Johar! Haha! We just did a short film called Mast Qalandar and it's been selected for the Rhode Island Film Festival along with winning two awards in London and Manchester.