Mikey McCleary

Listen to Mikey McCleary on The Kamla Show

Meet Mikey McCleary, musician, composer and music producer.He has been kept busy creating music for Bollywood films and Indian advertisements, and lately he has branched out to score music for Indian-American filmmaker Shonali Bose’s “Margarita With A Straw”

If his name is unfamiliar, his music must certainly be familiar to most of us. You might have heard his track from “Bombay Velvet” that releases later this year; or, his Tu Hi Tu from “Nautanki Sala.” Perhaps this track from “Shanghai.” or Khoya Khoya Chand from “Shaitan” is a favorite. Then again, you probably would recognize the catchy jingles he put together for Vodafone or Levi’s?

We spoke with McCleary last month on a wide range of topics ranging from his early years in India to his teenage years growing up in New Zealand, the music and bands he listened to, and how he came to compose music for Bollywood films and for Bose’s “”Margarita With A Straw,” his first international film.

McCleary’s musical  taste is eclectic, and this is clearly reflected in the music he is creating in Bollywood. As a teenager he listened to a wide variety of music, his favourites being David Bowie, Dire Straits, Queen, Bob Dylan and Cure.  He enjoyed classical music as well. He studied music and composition in New Zealand before moving to London to work in a recording studio. It was during his stint in London that he helped his former brother-in-law (an Indian)  produce his first album. They ended up working on 3 albums.

About 7 years ago McCleary relocated to Mumbai, the entertainment capital of India and home to Bollywood, the biggest film industry in the world. McCleary first worked in the advertisement industry and produced some memorable jingles. He then got a break making music for Bollywood films.

“India has a way of becoming addictive,” he says. It is not just India that is addictive, but also those vintage classic Hindi film music. His wife Diksha Basu introduced him to Hindi classic songs and he seems to have a special fondness for Geeta Dutt songs.

McCleary is reimagining some of the old Hindi songs in new ways. Often, he introduces a swing element to the the music, and the re-invented songs have found a new audience in India. In fact it is just such a re-worked version of Dutt’s song that is featured in “Bombay Velvet.”

He has produced 3 albums under The Bartender series that pay homage to old Hindi songs; one of the albums is devoted entirely to songs from Amitabh Bachchan’s films. A hallmark of his music is the manner in which he encourages his singers to be inventive with different styles without being tied down to the customery renditions traditional to Bollywood. “I like to encourage my singers to push their voices, to explore different sounds”. For instance he encouraged one his singers to cultivate an ‘Amy Winehouse’s vibe‘ in her voice. Anushka Manchanda, Shalmali Kholgade, Mauli Dave and Rachel Varghese are some of the singers he has worked with to nurture their innovative atistry.




Besides the 3 albums devoted to Hindi classic songs, McCleary produced his first album “TV Dinners” in English. The album features songs from his popular jingles, except he extended them into full fledged numbers. There are 5 music videos that he has made featuring some of the tracks from his new album.

What is next in store for Mikey? He is working on two new projects. He is writing a story for a musical film and working on producing a new album.


And, here is a short playlist of McCleary’s music.

Songs featured courtesy of  Saregama

Photo credit: Mikey McCleary

Podcast: Academy Award Winner Resul Pokutty on Designing Sound For “Margarita With A Straw”

Academy Award Winner Resul Pookutty

Resul Pookutty

How is sound designed for a film? Ever wondered about it? We did and spoke with Academy Award winner Resul Pookutty to find out how he and his team worked on Shonali Bose’sMargarita With A Straw.” Pookutty won an Oscar for his work in Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“Margarita With A Straw,” is about a differently abled person’s journey of discovering her sexuality. Bose is a “natural filmmaker” and works on sound far more than the picture Pookutty says.

“Margarita With A Straw,” is set in New Delhi, India and Manhattan, New York.  “A Million Dollar Baby,” is the film Pookutty mentioned as a reference film to Bose, since the film grows quieter as it progresses. The whole idea of designing sound for a film is to create one sound says Pokutty. For “Margarita With A Sound,” Pookutty worked on the texture of the sounds that compliments the visual and storyline of the film.

The moment you say that “Sound is beautiful,” then “I have failed,” points out Pookutty. Why does he say that? Tune in to find out as Poukutty takes you behind the scenes and shares how they create sound for a feature film.

LISTEN: Resul Pookutty on Creating Sound for “Margarita With a Straw”

This is Part-2 of our conversation. You can listen to Part-1 of our conversation with Pokutty.

Related Posts: Video Interview with Shonali Bose on making “Margarita With A Straw”

Photo credit: Resul Pookutty

Video: Shonali Bose on “Margarita With A Straw”

ShonaliBose -KamlaShowShonali Bose’s “Margarita With A Straw,” is the centerpiece of this year’s Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)  Festival at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre on March 15, 2015.

We spoke to Bose about “Margarita With A Straw,” a coming-of-age film, which she describes as a deeply personal film. The story is about a differently abled person’s journey of love and accepting herself is how Bose describes the film.

The film premiered at The Toronto Film Festival in 2014, which is where Masashi Niwano, the program director of CAAM Fest saw it and was instantly drawn to it. Niwano spent quite a bit of time in trying to get this film to this year’s CAAM festival.

“Margarita With A Straw” opens in India in April 2015 and in US and Canada by the end of the year.

“Margarita With A Straw,” stars Kalki Koechlin, Revathi, Sayani Gupta, Kuljeet Singh, Hussain Dalal, Tenzin Dalha and Jacob Berger. Music is by Mikey McCleary. Sound is by Resul Pokutty.


CAAMFest Celebrating Films, Food and Music in San Francisco Bay Area

Lucky Chow

Lucky Chow

Starting next week San Francisco bay area residents are in for an unusual treat of films, food and music from different parts of the world with an Asian American theme. It is time for the annual CAAMFest the oldest Asian American film festival in the US. This year the festival runs from March 12-22, 2015 in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley.

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Video: Mikey McCleary Remixing & Reimagining Music in Bollywood

Mikey McCleary

Mikey McCleary

Meet Mikey McCleary – a Kiwi music composer who is busy creating all sorts of musical waves from Mumbai, the headquarters for Bollywood film industry. If you ever watch Indian TV shows then you have heard his music for sure. He is the guy behind all those advert jingles for Vodafone, Levis, Titan, Coke and many, many more. He has also created soundtracks and composed music for Bollywood films like “Nautanki Sala,” “Shanghai” and many more. He recently composed music for Shonali Bose’s film “Margarita With A Straw.”

McCleary is prolific and has released a couple of albums, including a new one called TV Dinners, where he has turned those advert jingles into full-fledged songs. He clearly knows where he is going in this musical journey of his in India. And he is partial to jazz, specifically the ones that have swing and big band influence as he shared in a recent conversation I had with McCleary. Continue reading

Video: Shonali Bose on Margarita With A Straw & Kalki Koechlin

Shonali Bose’s  award-winning film “Margarita With A Straw,” has received praise ever since it was first shown at The Toronto Film Festival in 2014. The film is loosely based on her cousin Malini’s story. This coming-of-age film stars Kalki Koechlin, Revathy, Sayani Gupta, and Hussain Dalal.

We caught up with Shonali in San Francisco and in this video interview she talks about how Koechlin came to star in the film and how she wrote the first draft of her screenplay. This is the second feature film of Bose. Her first film “Amu” is available on YouTube. Continue reading