'We have to keep doing our work, people who value it will always find us,' says Kavita Seth on working with Mira Nair
A Suitable Boy might have evoked mixed reactions from the Indian audience, but the music has been received well. The ghazals add to the authenticity of the narrative that’s set in post-independence India, an age when courtesans were invited to the gatherings of the rich.
Ghazals such as Ameer Minai’s Mehfil Barkhast Hui, Ghalib’s Dil-e-Naadan and Dagh Dehlvi’s Mujhe Bura Kahiye are part of the soundtrack. Kavita Seth, the renowned Sufi and ghazal singer who has previously given unforgettable film songs such as Ik Taara (Wake Up Sid), Mora Piya (Rajneeti) and Jeete Hain Chal (Neerja), is the composer of the resonating tracks from A Suitable Boy. “My belief that we have to keep doing our work and that people who value it will always find you, is vindicated,” says Kavita, adding, “When Mira (Nair, director) called me for the series, I thought she wanted me to sing. But then her team said she had been following my music for two years and listens to it. So she wanted me to compose and sing for her series.” After the call, there was no looking back for Kavita.
Work began in full-swing and she completed composing within 15 days, including the collaboration with Anoushka Shankar and Alex Heffes. “The brief given by Mira was very clear. She said my voice is perfect for Saeeda Bai (Tabu’s character). She knew exactly who would work on what element of the music. She had sent all the ghazals with the script, explaining the situation, and this made it very easy for me to compose,” recalls Kavita.
Urdu poetry connoisseurs and ghazal lovers will know the lyrics that feature in the series, but for the West and those who haven’t been exposed to this kind of poetry, Kavita’s work offers something new. “The beauty of these ghazals is that Mira recorded everything with live instruments and nothing was programmed. She even retained the natural elements of the human voice, for example, when I cleared my throat or even when I paused while recording, it was retained in the track. I feel this album will revive the love for Hindustani music,” says the composer.
However, this isn’t Kavita’s first international work. The singer had collaborated with Kshmr and Lost Stories for the album Bombay Dreams for an EDM track. “I had worked with Lost Stories on a song previously titled Mahi, and when Kshmr heard it, he had liked my voice a lot. That’s how the collaboration worked out. I didn’t think it would be such a hit. I remember, before the lockdown, I stepped out for groceries and a stranger at that shop just walked up to me and said, ‘I loved your song Bombay Dreams’. I know my film songs get popular but I never expected this independent song to be such a hit,” confesses the singer. Currently, Kavita is working on her web series Main Kavita Hoon, in which she dedicates certain episodes to renowned poets.