Nitin Sawhey Interview - Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

Nitin Sawhey is a versatile producer, songwriter, and composer who has worked with artists such as Paul McCartney, Nora Jones, and Sting.  He has an international reputation from performing around the world. His most recent project is composing the music for Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, a fantasy adventure based on the stories by Rudyard Kipling.

Screen Rant: Nice to meet you. A lot of regional flavors you can pull from for a soundtrack like this.

Nitin Sawhey: Yeah. It was important, I think, to Andy. And also, to me, to really get across the authenticity of the original book. Rudyard Kipling's version of Jungle Book. And so, it was really about setting it in India. And so, I've brought in a lot of Indian classical instruments, as well as keeping that strong orchestral flavor too.

Screen Rant: Now, was there a shift in instrumentation or regional influence per from when you go from character to character? You had some very dominant themes going, when Kaa was on screen for example.

Nitin Sawhey: Absolutely, and that's exactly right. With Kaa, for example, I use an Indian classical instrument called a sahnai, which is a cross between a traditional instrument called a sarangi and a violin, a western classical violin.

But it was also, using an instrument called the bean, which is like a snake charming instrument from India. But then, with Mowgli, because I wanted to capture a sense of optimism and excitement, I used the bansuri which is a bamboo flute. And so, for each of the characters, I wanted to capture something of them. For example, with a Baloo I was using a mridangam and pakhavaj because they have a real weight and gravitas to them. And so, there were changes between the different kind of Indian classical instruments that we use.

Screen Rant: And then, a big shift again, when you go to the village. Those village scenes, especially the big-- there's like a big celebration.

Nitin Sawhey: Yeah, that's right.

Mowgli - Shere Khan

Screen Rant: Were those all original pieces as well? Or were there some traditional?

Nitin Sawhey: No, I've created a totally original score for all of it. And for the scene in India, that's the holy seen, the Festival of Colors, I went to a-- actually shot in South Africa, so I was musically supervising it there. But it needed to feel like diegetic music.  It needed to feel like it was coming from the scene itself. And so, I prerecorded a lot of the music in India. And I'd written it for some great musicians I knew from over in Mumbai. And then, we made sure that it fitted in with exactly what was going on with the action in South Africa as well.

Screen Rant: So, it sounds like a lot of sounds that you picked, you work with Andy, to match instruments to characters. Was that part of the process?

Nitin Sawhey: Yeah, it was part of the process. It was also about finding music that really got across the flavor, not only of the characters themselves, but also their journeys, respectively. Particularly Mowgli.  When I wrote the theme for him, which is the main theme of the film, it was about watching, I had four Quicktime movies up simultaneously of him in different settings. So, there was a consistency of this theme that would work against all the different moves and experiences he had during the course of the film. So, it was important to me that the music felt like a glue between all of Mowgli’s quite diverse stages, in terms of how he develops as a character.

Screen Rant: Interesting. So, my last question for you then. This is your second film with Andy. It seems like your projects are getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Nitin Sawhey: Absolutely. Although I did two video games with him, Heavenly Sword and Enslaved. And actually, Enslaved was also with Alex Garland, who wrote it. But, yeah. Absolutely. It's been amazing. What a privilege. And Andy's great to work with. I worked with, as you rightly pointed out, I worked on Breathe before, with Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy. And that was a very different kind of film. But it was an equally enjoyable process. Because Andy himself is a great musician. He's a great saxophone player. Which a lot of people aren't aware of. He's multitalented, but—

Screen Rant: Did he make it under the soundtrack anywhere?

Nitin Sawhey: Not in this one. He did on Breathe, on the last one. And he played beautifully, but he's-- Because of his musicality and his musical intuition, it's very helpful to be able to have an almost shorthand in terms of how we communicate. And he's very articulate, not only in terms of normal language, but also musically, and in terms of his emotional intelligence.

More: Rohan Chand Interview For Mowgli

Key Release Dates
  • Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) release date: Dec 07, 2018
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