A Throw of Dice


He has written more than 40 soundtracks for TV, movies, and video games—including Mira Nair’s 2007 film The Namesake and PlayStation 3’s Heavenly Sword—but back in 2006, when the composer, producer, DJ, and multi-instrumental wiz kid Nitin Sawhney was commissioned to score the 1929 Indian melodrama A Throw of Dice, things got a little melodramatic.

"To try to create a psychological narrative for a silent movie is a real job," says Sawhney, who had yet to write a note when advance tickets to the London Symphony Orchestra premiere of A Throw of Dice sold out. "I had one month to write the entire score, and then I had to perform it with the LSO, only the best orchestra in the world. So, no pressure."

All hand-wringing aside, the score came together, as Chicagoans can hear for themselves when the film screens in July, accompanied by the Grant Park Orchestra with Sawhney on piano and celesta. "The instruments had to work with the psychology of the characters, and it had to be very tight," says Sawhney. "Even the tiniest nuances of expression are reflected in the score."

As for the film, about two gambling-addicted kings, Sawhney calls it a crowd pleaser: "A story of romance and of good versus evil, of loss and redemption." Not unlike the drama, perhaps, of composing. 

 Grant Park Music Festival. July 30 at 8. Free. Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph. 312-742-7638.