Annapurna Interactive recently released Telling Lies, an investigative thriller video game that delves into private conversations of four individuals. At the beginning of the game, the lives of the four are a complete mystery, yet by the end, players will have uncovered a bed of lies and will know the intimate details of the characters’ lives.
Sam Barlow, designer and developer of the interactive game, approached Nainita Desai with the opportunity to score the game. Film and TV composer Nainita Desai has worked on numerous projects such as SXSW and Cannes Film Festival winning film For Sama, one of the most talked about feature documentaires of 2019 that was released in US cinemas this summer. It follows the journey of a young woman’s experience during the Syrian Revolution over 5 years. Desai believes that film “at heart is about humanity ascending all barriers”.
Telling Lies is the first video game that the BAFTA Breakthrough Brit has been tasked with scoring, however Desai started off creating sound effects for video games and feature films 20 years ago. From there, she shifted into writing music for film and television, and has worked in that realm ever since.
Telling Lies is an unusual hybrid between a film and a video game. “There tends to be a lot of music with normal video games. When the gamer is playing a game, the music is helping to tell a story and drives things forward.” However with Telling Lies Desai took a minimal approach. “The music is quite subtle. When you do hear the music, it has an impact within the game”.
Throughout the whole process, Desai had not seen the game or any visuals corresponding to the game. In fact, Desai had to write the music before the game was filmed. Instead, she got a film script with “several hundred pages”. Together Barlow and Desai created a theme for each character that captured the essence and depth of the individuals. Each character has “very complex personalities” and Desai was tasked with summing up “each person’s life in one piece of music”.
After Desai finished composing the music, it was performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. “Normally with my [Desai’s] scores I tend to use electronic elements and acoustic, organic sounds. But here I just wanted to use the pure orchestra….because I felt that the warmth and the intimacy of the music would help bring over the mood and atmosphere with the relationships between the characters.” With this approach, the audience is able to hear the “raw visceral music”.
Born and raised in London by her Indian parents, Desai was brought up with western and world music cultures present in her work. She not only learned violin and piano, but was also knowledgeable about Indian classical music at a young age. As a child Desai went “a Church of England School in London” where she was introduced to music “[She] used to sing in the school choirs and played violin in the school orchestra”. Music became a form of “escapism” and Desai’s love for all types of music blossomed.
The film score composer is currently working on a variety of television projects for Netflix, BBC, and National Geographic. She is also working on Fierce Queens, a 15 part series for Quibi which is an upcoming streaming platform that will feature short-form scripted and unscripted content.
Be sure to check out Telling Lies and you can find the rest of Nainta Desai’s projects here.
Featured Image: Richard Ecclestone