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BGM composer Julius Packiam: I was singing in a band where KK was on drums- Cinema express

BGM composer Julius Packiam: I was singing in a band where KK was on drums

The 83 and Cuttputli score-maker talks about his musical upbringing, the process of creating background music and friendship with director Kabir Khan

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Published: 22nd September 2022

There were always songs wafting at Julius Packiam’s house. The film score composer who gave the background music (BGM) for Ek Tha TigerTiger Zinda HaiBaaghiBaaghi 2Bajrangi BhaijaanSultanBharat83 and the recent Akshay kumar-starrer Cuttputli, comes from a family of melophiles.

“There were record players, cassette players and radios all over the house. Different kinds of music were continuously playing on all three devices. There was Jazz, Rock, Bollywood music, Ghazals etc,” he reminisces.

“Like a person born in a library might develop an appetite for reading books, similarly since I grew up around music, my ability to understand it enhanced,” he adds.

After competitions and events at school, Julius was part of various rock bands in a college in Delhi. “It is ironic that in one of them, my senior Krishnakumar Kunnath (KK) was on the drums and I was the lead singer. He shifted to Mumbai before me but we interacted a lot later.” Julius, however, later realised his talents will be best utilised in composing. “I sang in bands but mostly in English because my Hindi wasn’t so great. When the Pop music market in India started expanding, most songs were in Hindi or Punjabi. Hence, I made a shift to composing from singing.”

We ask him what goes behind composing background scores of films. “Months and months of work,” he says. “Once the film is shot, the director provides us with a rough-edited version. The scenes mostly have some temporary background score, from predominantly Hollywood blockbusters. The director then asks us ‘aisa kuch bana do’ (make something like this).”

But doesn’t that influence the originality of a score? “It’s a skill most BGM composers have, to get inspired by a melody and make your own,” he replies.

The genre of a film determines how the mood of the music will be, states Julius. “Like in Cuttputli-- a film about a serial killer-- the music is more on the ominous side. It has to make the audience feel that they are being stalked by a murderer. They should be scared and on the edge of their seat throughout the film.”

A lot of films Julius gave music to have been directed by Kabir Khan. The two shared the same classes in college. “We immediately hit it off. After graduation he went to Jamia Millia Islamia University for a course in Mass Communication. There, he had to make films for projects and I was his go-to BGM composer.”

Julius, however, feels that BGM composers are not getting enough representation. In India, when credits for music are given for a film, it is mostly for those who have composed the songs. BGM composers get named in the technical category. “In the West it is different. There a ‘Music by’ follows the name of the background music composer. The makers of the songs are credited separately along with their song names,” explains Julius.

“In the 70s-80s, composers like RD Burman, Lakshmikant Pyarelal, were composing the songs as well as the background score so a common credit was fine. Later when song composers got busy and background scorers came in, the work got separate and more defined. But we never bothered to change the nomenclature,” he adds.

“To ensure proper credit is given to BGM composers is my only grind. It is my hill to die on.”

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