Globespinning with ‘When Harry Tries to Marry’ director Nayan Padrai

Nayan Padrai

Texas and India are about as far away from each other as two places can be, but they come together in the soundtrack for the indie film When Harry Tries to Marry, which opened in New York City two weeks ago. The movie, novice director Nayan Padrai’s take on the romantic comedy from a man’s point of view, follows the travails of an Indian-American guy struggling to decide between the certainty of an arranged Mumbai marriage and the messy unpredictability of finding romance on his own in New York. To illuminate the differences, Padrai used songs from a group of Austin musicians (hip-hop of Ter’ell Shahid, indie artists the June Junes, electronica from Small*Star) for the American scenes and well-known Indian musicians (including Udit Narayan and Shreya Ghoshal) for those shot in Mumbai. The result is a soundtrack (available on disc and at rather unique in its scope. We spoke with Padrai, 36, recently by phone.

1 How did all of this start for you?

I initially wrote the story in 1998 when I was pursuing an acting career. I wrote it as a piece for myself. But Hollywood said, ‘Go to Bollywood,’ Bollywood said, ‘Go to Hollywood.’ We were an orphan. And then life got in the way…. But it’s been quite a journey pulling together an independent film that has an Indian lead that’s a romantic comedy. The reason I wrote the script was I was tired of seeing romantic comedies from the female point of view.

2 How did you end up using so many Austin musicians on the soundtrack?

All the American musicians are from Texas. I met [music supervisor] Sarah Sharp at the Austin Film Festival several years ago. I love Sarah’s voice and I knew when I made a movie that she would make the soundtrack. In 2009, when I initiated the project again, the first person I called was Sarah.

3 For the Indian music, you got some notable names [producer Siddharth Kasyap was in charge of this part of the soundtrack]. Wasn’t that expensive?

This entire movie has been like a passion thing for everyone. It wasn’t super expensive, even though they’re [generally] well-paid people.

4 Are people finding this juxtaposition of Indian and American indie-rock odd?

People really love the music…. I did a radio interview on an Indian radio station [on Long Island] and two Jewish women called the show and said how much they like Indian music and they came to see our movie. Music brings a lot of people together, and we wanted to really use that. The movie is set in two places. It wouldn’t make sense with only one [style of] music.

5 So when is When Harry Tries to Marry going to play in North Texas?

We’re working on the national expansion right now. We decided to open it in New York and to let the movie breathe a little. With these small films, you open them in more than two markets and you can’t support it at the grass roots. Our goal is to be like indie rock and tour the movie.

— Cary Darling

Globespinning is a monthly world music column. Cary Darling can be reached at; 817-390-7571.

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