KARACHI: Growing up in the midst of cousins and friends who heavily consumed the larger than life perspectives pooled out by major Hollywood superhero films, I quickly developed a liking for “cinematic” music. Born in the late 90s, belonging to an upper-middle-class family, with a captain father who was mostly out on the sea, I longed to visit the cinema living on a ship with my parents. Cinema culture had pretty much faded in Pakistan, with only the cinemas in Saddar remaining with some part of films thriving through Capri and Prince, having films like Yeh Dil Aapka Hua desperately trying to resurrect cinema.
While Yeh Dil Aapka Hua was the first film I watched in a cinema, I kept telling mamma this seems like a PTV drama and I cannot really understand why we had to go through the hassle of getting ready and coming to a cinema where I had to keep my feet and hands vary of chewing gums plastered everywhere on the seats. The experience could have been less saddening had there been a little less amount of chewing gums I brought back as a souvenir from Capri.
The next film I watched was King Kong. It was Prince. I was nine. For some reason, we decided to watch it in Urdu, which was an experience on its own. With men hooting, whistling and cheering when the lady was carried off by the huge gorilla, I noted a few remarks I remember to this day, “Abey larki ko rakshey mein betha key ley ja, jaldi pohanch jayega” during the scene where Kong is struggling to get out of a chaotic street full of Black London cabs, while also trying to save the girl.
However, amidst all the commentary, I was introduced to cinematic sounds. They felt familiar somehow. I couldn’t recall but somewhere in my subconscious, they had had a home already. The added grandeur they brought felt like an experience more than just sounds. They surrounded me. The intricate relationship between the film and sound and what made it worthwhile. From then on, I would really try to find films with grand scores. The journey of exploration began in 2005 and while I frequently stumbled upon that grandiose in A R Rehman’s music from Bollywood, I really craved the grandeur I could seek in Hans Zimmer’s music shortly afterward in my teenage.
Hans Zimmer is undoubtedly one of the most notable saviours of cinematic music, along with Ramin Djawadi. An academy on his own and the maker of a number of beautiful soundtracks of some of the most major film projects Hans Zimmer has given us the following, out of many:
The Lion King (1994)
More than any princess films that flimsily portrayed a damsel in distress, Lion King was my go-to on the ship as a 3-year-old who only had her cartoon films to share her childhood with. I found out much later in my life, by much later I mean now, that it was Hans Zimmer who had had a profound effect on my music choice from that early on.
Zimmer even won the best original score for this film.
The Prince of Egypt (1998)
The Prince of Egypt was another part of any kid’s childhood whose parents decided to teach them about Moses and Rameses. The music score was a perfect blend of sounds one can think of when they imagine the middle east. The music is as grand as the story is held by all Abrahamic religions, making it purposeful and focused while also making it regal because the story does revolve around two distinct kinds of leaders. The essence of this leadership is something I always felt listening to this track.
Both heartbreaking and striking as something that indents on your mind and soul, this music perfectly encapsulates the drama of a war epic, while humanizing the protagonist and evoking sympathy for someone who seems too brave on the frontier.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
The score of this film did something so unique that later even BBC Sherlock followed suit for its series. It used a hammered dulcimer as its primary instrument. It gave the period drama its nostalgic essence and took back its viewers to the Industrial Revolutionary era of Britain. The soundtracks are full of enigma, loyally portraying the genre of the film while also adding a feel of a chase sequence.
The eerie passage of time, which slows down when times feel rough, and speeds up when we are living the dream, the sense of loss and guilt all encompassed in one track that breaks hearts whenever it is replayed. The grand dream sequences that the film showcases, are aptly backed by this music adding further to the surrealism of sinking buildings and flooding houses on screen. It almost eases you into the dream sequence.
Time is one of the most well-known soundtracks, recognized by the millions of people who watched the film, Inception.
Man of Steel (2013)
The ascending music, upbeat with motivation fueled by harmony, this music is imposing but nothing too complex. It sounds like the announcement before the battle, before a flight into something higher and bigger. In the film, this track is backed with a voice-over of Clark Kent’s biological father Jor-El is introducing to him to his untapped potential, making him acknowledge the hero he hides within himself. The music fits perfectly with the visuals as Kent sheds off his previous shell, learns to fly, and evolves fully into Superman.
Hans Zimmer was directed by Christopher Nolan to keep in mind a father’s relationship with his son as he composes his music. “I was writing about my son”, Zimmer said. Upon seeing how the score perfectly captures the emotions of the film, it was then that Nolan revealed to Zimmer that it was actually a large scale science-fiction film, and the son was not a son but a daughter.
Music says what the tongue cannot. The emotions of floating in empty space, the longing between a father and a child, death, life, and the joy of realizing time can sometimes be really kind, while also being a villain. All this happening at the same time is what one’s mind brings to analysis when this music is exposed to them. It is beyond me how a single track from the guy can have so many emotions clustered together so beautifully and effortlessly. It is almost like a mother’s lullaby, cradling you, making you feel safe and sheltered, while also overwhelming you with the emotion associated with the relationship.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Moving on, climbing up a precarious track, this film is all about Bruce Wayne recovering from the heavy losses he incurred as Batman. He is moving on from the loss of his beloved, facing an enemy who, unknown to Wayne, has had enmity with him from the past. Coupled with steep climbs and an escape from who he was, into who he can be, this track positions itself in the most applicable setting of the film.
It is 2020, and the world is already looking forward to the new Batman in form of Robert Pattinson, but having “lived” a soundtrack that has set the earlier Batman trilogy’s bar so high, I am genuinely hoping Zimmer does the original score for 2021’s The Batman as well.
While the world is shrouded in its own rhythm, there are few who make music out of it, even fewer who make that music timeless. Yet only a handful who can stop time with their music. Hans Zimmer has done all three.