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Julius Packiam: On background music scores

Every background score/album is a director’s musical taste on a screen,” says  Bollywood’s Master Background music composer Julius Packiam.

Having gone the nine yards as a composer, arranger, producer for various ads, jingles, blockbuster Bollywood movies, feature films, and audio-visual presentations, Julius’ experience of over 25 years in the industry is envious! His experience of working on big films in the industry has molded him into a fine composer. Owing to how easily a person is typecast in Bollywood, Julius recalls saying, “I wanted to be a composer too and when I did the background music for Kabul Express, somehow from there on, I was only given background music projects and eventually typecast as a background music composer. Of course like anybody else, I want to be a composer making songs for movies. I have a lot of material yet to be released and I hope to get them out one day,” giggles Packiam.

His careful attention for detail be it a thirty second ad jingle or a full length feature has brought him big chartbusters like Ek Tha Tiger, Dhoom 3, Gunday, Kick, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Sultan, and the most recent, Tubelight. Packiam’s earlier work include movies like Kabul Express, New York and Badmash Company.. He is the brain behind some of the most popular jingles heard on commercial media like Pepsi, Coke, Nokia, Samsung, Panasonic, Nestle, Hero Honda, Maruti, Mac Donald’s, Maggie, Mother Dairy, Stick Pens, Horlicks, Parker Pens, Tupperware, Hyundai, Haldiram’s and Whirlpool.

Talking about his creative process as a composer he says, “Scoring music for every medium is very different. The experience of it, what we are asked to do, the limitations, the creative space we have, and obviously the budget which defines the sound we give to every project. So every project we work on is a reflection of the director’s musical taste. I believe I have the best job in the world to be given the freedom to do what I absolutely love doing. I’m in a space where I only want to work at my comfort and leisure because that is when you are at your creative best! I don’t believe in night schedules like other nocturnal musicians, I need my dose of sleep and rest to function normally! (laughs) I work best when I’m at leisure and this is what helps me analyze and score for the scenes aptly. Besides this, of course I’m always looking for sounds around me that can inspire me be it a bansuriwala selling flutes on the road or the biggest orchestras. I also frequently listen to the songs on my daughter’s iPod to see whats the sound of the current generation so as to constantly reinvent myself and keep my sound fresh! Over the years, I have realized how important and necessary it is to keep yourself relevant and minimalistic so you can have an impact rather than sounding sloppy in front of your directors and audiences.”

Currently, he is working on the theme of Tiger Zinda Hai which is going to be a version 2.0 of the previous hit ‘Tiger Theme’ which was Salman’s sonic identity for the popular movie franchise. In an industry where only album composers and star singers seem to be celebrated, music composers are always eaten up behind the glamour of the rest of the cast. Although there are awards and accolades appreciating background music and its composers, it is extremely underrated as compared to the limelight the rest of the musical star cast receive.

We definitely can’t deny the section of audience that are gradually growing to listen and appreciate background. Despite being niche, the brackets are widening. For the ones who resort to YouTube rip-offs to listen to their favorite background scores, one can only hope that the industry will eventually release the background scores of their movies and urge audiences to develop a taste for such scores.

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