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Music composer A-Zal on working in ‘Ms Marvel’

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Two of the Indian-origin music composer’s tracks were featured in the latest Marvel series

Two of the Indian-origin music composer’s tracks were featured in the latest Marvel series

Ms Marvel has been turning quite a few heads since its premiere, especially for how it uses Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan/Ms Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe’s firstSouth Asian superhero. Like the series’ depiction of culture, its diverse music has been a major talking point as well. Indian-origin music composer A-Zal found two of his compositions — Aye Khuda and Dheemi Dheemi — finding their way to the credits of the show.

A-Zal, who notably also worked in Marvel’s Loki, speaks about his association with the studio, working in a heavily competitive industry, and more. Excerpts:

‘Ms Marvel’ is your second collaboration with Marvel after ‘Loki’.

My association with Marvel started even before Loki, and for a project that is yet to be released. We spoke for over six months back then. Big Hollywood production houses like Marvel use code words to describe projects to maintain confidentiality. So I still don’t know what that project was about and when it is happening. Then all of a sudden I got a call from Marvel for Loki, and from there it picked up and lead to Ms Marvel eventually.

‘Aye Khuda’ is a soulful, classical track that speaks of Kamala’s romance with Kamran. What was expected of you?

I was detailed about the character, backdrop and where the song will come in, etc. So, they were looking for a track that has innocence. They wanted it to reflect one’s first love, which is the most innocent of all. At the same time, it shouldn’t feel like a 16-year-old playing a guitar solo. They wanted more soul, something more mature, and hence we gave it a Sufi touch as well.

A still from Ms Marvel
| Photo Credit: Marvel Entertainment

You have worked on a handful of Bollywood projects before. How different is Hollywood from Bollywood when it comes to music production?

There are no rough edges in Hollywood production. For instance, in many Indian films, composers use VST instruments to score the music. However, in Hollywood, technology is used only for layering the track. The instruments and voices have to be real. That is another reason for Hollywood’s superior music quality.

‘Ms Marvel’ is getting a lot of attention because of its South Asian connection. How important is this cultural representation?

Cultural representation is not new anymore. With all the diversity push and movements like Black Lives Matter, we have representation even in advertisements now and that’s cool. In Ms Marvel, they’ve done a great job with cultural representation. I have seen projects in the past that get it completely wrong.

Hollywood is known for being competitive. How difficult has it been to scale up?

Talent isn’t enough here. Your tracks need to be on top. So my production quality cannot afford to be at 99 and it needs to be 100. On the flip side, contacts don’t matter much. In Bollywood, for example, once you are in Anurag Kashyap’s gang, you will continue to do his movies. Over here, you will get opportunities if you are good.

AR Rahman’s songs found their way to ‘Ms Marvel’ as well, and I hear that you are quite a fan yourself…

Who isn’t? It is a sin not to be his fan. He is one composer I look up to. When I was honing my skills as a composer, I had a diary to write notes from movies and I learnt a lot from Rahman’s film compositions.

A-Zal

A-Zal
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

How has life changed after two big Marvel series?

I keep it simple, so life hasn’t changed much. In terms of work, the reactions I am getting after Ms Marvel is something else. Some magic is happening right now and I am still absorbing it all. After the long, tough journey that I had, after all the sacrifices I have made, when something like this happens, I feel rewarded. I just feel positive and I am in the moment.

What’s coming up next?

I am involved in another Marvel project. However, I don’t even know if it’s a movie or a series. It’s in an early stage now. Also, I have my album ‘17 and 11 Nights’ coming up later this year and I am very excited. I identify more as a singer-songwriter and this album is all about me and my journey. It will be out in the form of singles during the last quarter of this year.



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