Music composer Achint Thakkar’s opening track for Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story is so gripping, its changing one major TV-watching habit – no one is skipping the introduction sequence anymore.
Since its release in early October, the opening track (which stars Pratik Gandhi, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Hemant Kher and Nikhil Dwivedi), has been marching towards 12 million views. Thakkar, who is based in Mumbai, says he’s “absolutely clueless” about why its so popular. (In fact, if anyone can tell him why, he would make ten more, he says.)
But everything in the song – the fusion, the absence of lyrics, the Gujarati twang – is designed to reflect the environment of the show musically, he tells Silverscreen India in an exclusive interview.
Despite the fusion of Western and Indian music, Thakkar insists on calling the track “earthy and Indian”.
He says, “Most of us in India are neither truly Indian nor truly Western. We are both. We have grown up with so much of Western influence. But, at the same time, we have these Indian sensibilities. It’s just a part of us. So, it is only natural that when an artist makes stuff, both sides will come out.”
Achint Thakkar’s previous work, including his collaboration with vocalists Bhutta Khan and Multan Khan, is evidence of his fusion skills. Their album, Achint and The Khan Brothers, has Rajasthani folk songs fused with Western instruments. One of the tracks, Saavan Mod Muhara was used in the 2020 film Taish, which released on Zee5.
Scam 1992‘s opening track tries to recreate this same fusion magic.
“That’s the music I have grown up listening to,” says Thakkar, who is originally a Gujarati.
Thakkar was brought on-board Scam 1992 by Jai Mehta, Hansal Mehta’s son. (The two Mehtas are directing the show.) Thakkar says, “Scam 1992 is about who Harshad Mehta is. His Gujarati-ness is very strong. I have used a lot of Indian instruments and stuff [to reflect this].”
The song has a “Gujarati twang” and Thakkar says this is because he could relate to the characters. He says, “Characters like Pranav bhai and a lot of other guys, I grew up around uncles like that talking about the stock market. A lot of my father’s friends, they knew Harshad Mehta.”
Thakkar traces his tryst with music to the days when he was in the school orchestra. At that time, it was just an excuse to skip class.
“I did not really play anything. I would just go and play around with the instruments so that I could miss classes. Music was one thing that I sort of pretended to play on my way along. And as I pretended, I actually learnt and I started playing in the school band,” he says.
From then on, his slight interest snowballed into a passion. In college, he was in a boy-band, Rosemary, which performed across India for a while. After playing through many collaborations and covers, Thakkar finally got a break with the Amazon Prime Video’s original web series, Four More Shots Please!
He went on to work closely with music composers Parth Parekh and Natania Lalwani to help composer and songwriter Mikey McCleary compose the music for Four More Shots Please!
Making Scam 1992‘s Theme Song
Thakkar’s two web series (Four More Shots Please! and Scam 1992) are very different, in terms of not only the genre and the storyline, but also their texture.
He says, “Four More Shots is also a fun show. They [the makers] wanted to show that side of Bombay. The characters are part of the elite [section]. Whereas, Harshad Mehta came from nothing, came from a chawl in Ghatkopar and is making his way up. The two shows are in stark contrast. The music in Four More Shots is light-hearted. The texture of it is very different from Scam 1992.”
The track of Scam 1992 went through several revisions and trials until the right cord struck. The monosyllable, “hey,” echoing throughout, was a Gujarati sample that the composer made a tune out of before incorporating it.
He says, “It’s not analysed or anything. I was throwing things in and seeing what would stick. So, it felt right and it sounds Gujarati enough for it to be in there. There’s no reason for why it is just one word.”
The theme song has no lyrics. He says, “When you add lyrics, you sort of pin-point. You lose that open-to-interpretation thing. You are zeroing-in on a particular thing. Most of the time, the music speaks much louder than the words.”
Thakkar explains that his peg for creating the music for both shows came from the environment or the vibe of the show.
“The idea is to reflect the environment of the show,” he says.
“In both cases, it was Bombay, but which part of Bombay is it being shot in? What are the motivations of the characters? We were surrounded by all these Gujarati theatre actors. So, the environment has a certain flavour to it. With Four More Shots Please! it is these really urban girls in South Bombay. So, the music had to reflect that,” he explains.
For him, it’s not only the vision of the director that goes into the song. Everything that goes into the making of the film or a web series, matters.
He says, “The characters and the way they are talking. Not just the main characters but all the characters. The situations that they are in. The locations that are used, the way the production design has been done. All of that matters. The environment that is created on-screen, we basically have to react musically to that environment.”
Asked what of these many factors made the song so popular, Thakkar says, “I have absolutely no clue, honestly. I am as clueless as you are. If I knew that, I would make ten more of these.”
The Harshad Mehta Story revolves around the Indian stock broker Harshad Mehta who was accused of market manipulation during the 1992 securities scam. The web series is based on the book The Scam: From Harshad Mehta to Ketan Parekh, by Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu. The show is currently streaming on Sony Liv.