Music Composer A-Zal on His Work in ‘Ms Marvel’

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

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

Mrs. Wonder has turned quite a few heads since its inception, especially for the way it uses Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan/Ms Marvel, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first South Asian superhero. Like the show’s portrayal of culture, its diverse music has also been a major talking point. Indian-born music composer A-Zal found two of his compositions – Aye Khuda and Dheemi Dheemi – find their way to the credits of the show.

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

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

My association with Marvel began even before Loki, and for a project that has not yet been released. We talked for over six months at the time. Major Hollywood production houses like Marvel use code words to describe projects to maintain privacy. So I still don’t know what this project was about and when it happens. Then all of a sudden I got a call from Marvel to Lokiand from there he picked up and drove to Mrs. Wonder ultimately.

“Aye Khuda” is a classic, soulful track that talks about Kamala’s romance with Kamran. What was expected of you?

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

A picture of Ms. Marvel

A still of Mrs. Wonder
| Photo Credit: Marvel Entertainment

You have already worked on a handful of Bollywood projects. What is the difference between Hollywood and Bollywood when it comes to music production?

There are no rough edges in Hollywood production. For example, in many Indian movies, composers use VST instruments to score the music. However, in Hollywood, the technology is only used to overlay the track. Instruments and voices must be real. This is another reason for Hollywood’s superior musical quality.

“Ms Marvel” is getting a lot of attention due to its South Asian connection. What is the importance of this cultural representation?

Cultural representation is no longer new. With all the push for diversity and movements like Black Lives Matter, we now have representation even in ads and that’s cool. In Mrs. Wonder, they did a great job with the cultural representation. I’ve seen projects in the past that are completely wrong.

Hollywood is known for being competitive. How difficult was it to scale?

Talent is not enough here. Your leads need to be on top. So my production quality can’t afford to be 99 and it has to be 100. On the other hand, contacts don’t matter that much. In Bollywood, for example, once you are in Anurag Kashyap’s gang, you will continue to make his films. Here you will have opportunities if you are good.

AR Rahman’s songs also found their way into “Ms Marvel”, and I heard you were quite a fan yourself…

Who is not ? It’s a sin not to be his fan. He is a composer that I admire. When I was honing my skills as a composer, I had a journal to write movie notes and learned a lot from Rahman’s film compositions.

A-Zal

A-Zal | Photo credit: special arrangement

How has life changed after two major Marvel series?

I keep it simple, so life hasn’t changed much. In terms of work, the reactions I get after Mrs. Wonder is something else. A bit of magic is happening right now and I’m still absorbing it all. After the long hard journey I’ve had, after all the sacrifices I’ve made, when something like this happens, I feel rewarded. I just feel positive and I’m in the moment.

What is the next step ?

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

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