Rock & Roll
Rajiv Vijayakar Posted online: Friday , May 02, 2008 at 1307 hrs
Almost a decade in the business, and Vishal-Shekhar are still having fun at work, come Om Shanti Om, Tashan or Bhoothnath. A visit to their new studio turns into an illuminating chat-fest with the duo so much in tandem that they complete each other's sentences!
It's nine years since your debut film Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi hit the screen and Musu musu haasi became a hit. How do you look back at these nine years?
There is a big change - we have both grown old and fat! Seriously, we were into jingles and we met the right people at the right time and landed up in films. In that sense we never designed a film career and never went and met producers, directors or music companies. Our advertising work associates gave us our earliest films and one thing led to another.
This generation has revived the competitive but mutually-wholesome atmosphere that was missing since the era of the greats.
You could definitely say that! We have heard that S.D.Burman, Kalyanji-Aanndji, R.D.Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal would creatively contribute to each others' songs, as did older composers. That is something mindblowing and our generation has brought back that era. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Pritam and us are friends. Salim-Sulaiman have worked with us and Himesh Reshammiya, Ismail Darbar and all of us share very cordial relations. They are wonderful people and great talents.
How and why has this positive outlook returned?
Vishal: I think that none of us are here to work in that sense, so we are not into grabbing the best, biggest or the maximum films. The bottomline is good music and the day we start counting the number of films I think our music will be finished. We are having fun while we work. A song is a gift from God. Ooparwala gaana deta hai, so we cannot make a dhanda out of this. Times have changed and films are full of new people - we are all young, have not really struggled and have done well. There is no insecurity, so there cannot be negativity.
Speaking for us, Ehsaan has played the guitar for us in a song because we requested him. Shekhar has just sung a song for Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy in Zoya Akhtar's film. And I have sung for them in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and elsewhere and for Pritam in Dhoom:2. For Pritam, I have also written a song in Hattrick.And when we were too tied up to do the sequel of Golmaal - Fun Unlimited we suggested that the producers go to him, and Pritam actually called us and said, "But Golmaal is your film. How can I do it?" And he was convinced only after we explained why we could not take on so much work.
You also sang for Rajesh Roshan in Krazzy 4. When you sing for others do you also give creative inputs into the song?
Shekhar:We usually do not, because it is their song. But I enjoyed learning the Rock On song from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.
Vishal:And the Roshans treated me with so much affection and respect - the only connection I have had with them was when I sang for Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom:2, yet Rakesh (Roshan)ji himself called up to ask me if I would sing the song. When I went to their music room, Shekhar reluctantly accompanied me, but Rakeshji and Rajeshji treated us both wonderfully.
Tashan kicks off a rather busy year for you, right?
We like to work on one film at a time and take anything from six weeks to three months for a score. We like to have a good time and lots of fun at work, and we cannot work with deadlines! We like to give importance to our lives outside work too. If you see our record, we never do more than 3 or 4 films a year. This year it is six only because two more films, Bhoothnath and De Taali, have been delayed for over a year. After Tashanwe have Bachna Ae Haseenon, Aladdin and Dostana in this year.
Our approach to music is cool - we may junk ten songs if we find them bad or not up to the mark. We cannot work within rigid constraints.
You would do a lot of piecemeal composing earlier, including in your debut film as well as Champion, Kaante and so on. But the few solo films you did were not really mass popularity material and had a lot of rock and other Western influences.
A song becomes mass material and cannot be designed as such. Dus bahaane from Dus was not a song that one would have expected to click with the Indian masses. Basically we make music that we ourselves like and enjoy.
Yet, I would say that Jhankaar Beats apart, a definite upswing began with Taxi No.9-2-1-1. Was it because you got a very musical filmmaker like Milan Luthria for the first time?
Not just Milan, we were extremely lucky from the beginning to get very musical people. If you notice, each one of our films have had a completely different kind of sound and melody, like Jhankaar Beats and Supari, both of whom came in the same year, or the four films we did last year - Ta Ra Rum Pum, Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd, Cash and Om Shanti Om.
Right from the beginning we worked differently, We set up our own studios in Worli in downtown Mumbai because we never wanted to be at the mercy of hired bookings for a specific time.It was at Worli that Sujoy Ghosh, who is very musical and with whom we had done ad films, offered us Jhankaar Beats, which was his first feature film. Siddharth Anand, Sanjay Gupta, Rohan Sippy, Farah Khan and Milan Luthria are all very musical people. Like in Cash, Anubhav Sinha, yet another musical filmmaker, just told us to go wild and do our own thing with club music. Normally only one song or two from a movie is played in clubs, but Cash holds the record because every song became a hot favourite. Even Na pooncho,which was based on a very uncommon form of Latino hip-hop called Reggaeton, proved very popular.
But you cannot deny that you guys are more in sync with the film music idiom in your last 7-8 films.
Vishal: Maybe you are right, because like we said we never came in planning to do film music. Neither Shekhar nor I came from that kind of background and I am a part of the rock band Pentagram.So it was a learning process for both of us.
Tashan is again a complete departure.
Our director, Vijay Krishna Acharya, is an amazing guy. He had just a two-word brief that said, "Surprise me!" His stress was that we give songs wherein you did not know what twist in the musical phrase would come in next. He even wanted the very next line to come as a surprise, like in the song Dil haara. We worked at music that was very desi in keeping with the story, characters and locations and yet was edgy.
Falak tak chal saath mere has a very '60s-'70s feel.
Well, it suited the character. But it was not as retro as, for example, some songs we did earlier in Golmaal or Om Shanti Om. The song even has a R&B base line and the guitar is used in the blues style.
Since your music is so film-specific, what are the points that you stress on?
Songs are always a part of the screenplay. We make sure that we read and re-read the whole script or have a narration and spend 2-3 days on it before we even start composing. The script is our learning process, with all the visualisation and the different ways we approach a song, like composing a tune or composing the written song. There are situations that call for depth, and notes that infuse depth in a song.
Like OSO was always meant to be a tribute to Karz and be emotionally-striking. We ourselves are huge fans of the film and its music. The orchestration had to have the flavour of that time and be in the nature of an epic. We therefore got Jackie, who had actually worked with Laxmikant-Pyarelal and their contemporaries like R.D.Burman as programmer, went to Prague to record with 200 musicians for the "live" and symphonic yet modern feel. Nick Raine, who has conducted music scores for James Bond movies came down from London to conduct the orchestra. We even made Shaan sing the climax song in the Kishore Kumar mode.
The prevalent view is that this generation of music makers, though making original music, put too much emphasis on sound and production rather than on the melody.
We don't agree. If you hear the Hindi film music of the '50s and '60s there was a perfect balance of voice and orchestration. But in the '80s and '90s we went into cheesy over-production with an over-emphasis on the voice. Today's sound is on par with global sound, we feel. But in music, there is nothing that is right or wrong. Everything is right if it is appealing.
Another complaint is that your generation is not very receptive to proven singers of the past generations, like the '70s and '80s or now even '90s.
It's not as there is a mindset or anything like that. Of course we are in awe of some of the singers, but then the system today is different. The singers we work with are in a comfort zone and we are all friends.But we would definitely take a singer if a song needs them. We have used Hariharanji, for example, in Bhoothnath.
Vishal, your lyrics reflect a lot of depth.
Vishal:That's nice to hear. But my lyrics are all about spontaneity. Like even if what I have written is good I will be helpless if I am told to write an alternative for whatever reason! I am not a professional lyricist.