Wednesday, December 31, 2014


“Our experiments are an honest interpretation of what as youngsters we would like to hear”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the December 27, 2014 issue of Super Cinema)

Go to music composers Sachin-Jigar’s studio, and they'll always be engaged in a banter on some or the other song. The duo is currently working on Remo D’souza’s ‘ABCD 2’ while giving final touches to the ‘Badlapur’ album. While they have this constant hunger to come up with something unique each time, there’s also immense effort with mad hours of work. With the music of films like ‘Entertainment’, ‘Finding Fanny’ and ‘Happy Ending’ getting popular, 2014 has indeed been a great year for them. In a candid chat at their new studio, Sachin Sanghvi and Jigar Saraiya talk about all things music!

As composers, what’s your say on belief that music plays an important role in a film’s success? Though, there have also been times when the music has got a good response but the film failed, take for instance, ‘Happy Ending’.
Sachin: Fortunately or unfortunately, we are the first people thrown out of the curtain and expected to create buzz about a film. Now producers don’t look at music sales as a part of the revenue at all, but we take the responsibility of going out first, and whatever people will know about the film is through these songs. If you’re saying that the music of ‘Happy Ending’ was well-appreciated, and it has been able to transcend beyond the movie faring well then it feels that much better. But, I think there are also times when the success of a film carries a song. For example, ‘Krrish 3’ was a successful film, and so that song ‘Raghupati Raghav’ was a big hit among kids. These things do go hand in hand, sometimes we do better and sometimes the film does better.

Is it a conscious effort from the two of you, to make sure your music is edgy and unique each time?
Jigar: It comes naturally through the script. To give you a very simple example, when you go to a certain kind of place, you wear certain kind of clothes. Similarly, a film’s script gives you an idea of the genre of music. If you’re going to Switzerland, you’ll obviously need warm clothes, so our job is to decide what would be the colour and type of those clothes, metaphorically! But if we’ve got an offbeat film, like ‘Go Goa Gone’ or ‘Happy Ending’, we make sure we do a song which nobody has done, because only these are the kind of films where we can sort of experiment. Every year, so many romcoms are made, and the scope to do something different and stand out in a romcom is very rare. So, that’s the conscious effort to do something not done before. Having said that, it’s not a desperate attempt to do something which the audience may not accept, we do not want to challenge anyone’s taste. Eventually, what we are serving has to be dal-chawal only which everyone can eat. But just the amount of tadka is different (smiles).

A lot of times writers face a writer’s block…don’t you face something similar as composers, especially when expected to create a new tune each time?
Sachin: I think we face the situation more often. A writer may write one book a year, or one script a year, while we probably end up doing 20 songs. We work between several creative blocks. I think songs come out of thin air. They come in the bathroom or the parking lot or on a divider thinking whether to cross the road or not. There’s no formula about when a song can come. But until a song doesn’t come to our mind, Mr. Saraiya doesn’t live peacefully and doesn’t let anyone live peacefully. So, he is continuously chasing that one element in a song which makes us feel like ‘okay we’ve got the song!’Unless and until we have that, we cannot make a tune. Let’s say we have a ‘mukhda’ but we don’t have a hook-line, then we don’t consider that as having cracked a tune. Plus I think when Jigar was born, the way the stars were, he has only believed in challenging himself (laughs). Sometimes he goes to the extent that I tell him ‘ab zyada ho raha hai. Now you’ve mixed pasta with Thai curry. Alag hone ke chakkar mein we’ve made it weird.’ So we have that chemistry where I try to pull him back and bring that convention. Basically, I bring the practical check, while he’s the challenger among us. We go through blocks, we go through fights, we go through days of not speaking to each other and we go through tremendous torture on the lyric writer.
Jigar: Yes, my wife (lyric-writer Priya Saraiya) was on the urge of leaving me now (laughs).

Are you both always satisfied with the songs you’ll make?
Jigar: We think all our songs could have been better if we had more time…but you know there’s this person called as ‘the producer’. He wouldn’t worry about how far you’ve gone creatively or how far you can go. There’s a certain deadline, which needs to be met, and so, we’ll always be cribbing. But we’ve learnt certain things over a period of time. We won’t be able to do certain kind of cinema because it has nothing for films in which music is just for the sake of it. Sachin: We come from a theatre background. And no matter who says what, the script is the driving force for anything in a film. Anybody who does it in any other way is cheating basically. Jigar and I get scared when people come with a menu card – ‘Ek-do hit item song chahiye, ek love song dedo.’ That doesn’t excite us at all. Who wants to make flop songs? Everyone gives their best but eventually, the audience decides if a song is a hit or flop. Producers come to us and say things like, ‘Ek dance song chahiye like Badtameez Dil.’ But that is already done. We have not made another song like ‘chaar baj gaye lekin party abhi baaki hai’. How can we make someone else’s song. It’s not practical to take a song as brief and make a better song to that. These are the kind of films we are scared of, so we have learnt to say no to the producers.
Jigar: Yes, because if we honour those demands right now for the fear of not getting any more work, what will happen is that automatically we won’t get work after those songs have released.

So, now you’ll are only comfortable working with people who give you that space and creative liberty?
Somewhere during our initial 2-3 films, we were honouring certain obvious obligations because we were new to the industry. We thought we would come across as rude and arrogant.  
But we’ve also come across so many nice producers who’ve said that, ‘I’m going to hire you, but if you don’t want to do my film and do it just out of obligation and it doesn’t go well, then we are not going to come back to you anyway. So be sure about what you want to do.’
That’s when it dawned upon us that we cannot say yes to a project, out of obligation and do things half heartedly. Jigar and I are director’s boys, and we see the director’s requirement and the script’s demand. There are some producers like Dinesh Vijan at Illumanati who have a great taste in music by themselves. But, when there’s lack of conviction in the production, we won’t be able to do a film, and I won’t feel sorry about saying it. It’s a team effort, we have to push each other. That sort of synergy works well with the way we work.

Can you’ll pick one of your favourite songs and tell me the process behind it?
There’s a series of our best songs, but I think we’ve been able to beat ourselves. We never thought we can do anything better than ‘Char Baj Gaye’, but we did ‘Saibo’, then ‘Babaji Ki Booti’. ‘Mileya’ is our latest favourite. But when I look back, I realise that all these songs have a common factor. ‘Char Baj Gaye’ was rejected by five people except the director who liked it. ‘Saibo’ was rejected by everyone else, but the director liked it. ‘Babaji Ki Booti’ was only made between us and the directors. ‘Mileya’ was only three people’s conviction – the producer, director and us and apart from that nobody had the vibe of the song. So, what we’ve learnt is that, our first instinct is the instinct we should go with. Now I think we are going to open our songs which we shut down because the producers rejected it. We also saw that there was one song which we weren’t convinced about but the producer got made from us with a lot of conviction and it hasn’t worked.
Sachin: Sometimes we take as many as four narrations because narrations do something to us. I say this each time that ‘narrations make us pregnant’. Each time we walk out of a narration, I think we have a tune. And each time we’ve tried to cheat the script and do something just because 
someone else wants that, it hasn’t worked.

The duo with Saif Ali Khan in 'Paaji tussi such a pussy cat' from 'Happy Ending'
So, it’s the script that you’ll go by always?
Jigar: For instance, we weren’t able to crack the climax of ‘ABCD’, until the last day on the set. We had to go on the set to see what’s happening to crack the tune. But a lot of things come into play here like, Remo sir had the conviction that we’ll deliver even if late. Similarly for ‘ABCD 2’…we are working on it till the last minute. We went to him, took the narration for every song. It’s re-assessment of sort.
Sachin: Yes, it’s not like old days when you get a narration, take twenty days, come up with four songs and then you are rehearsing and recording all four songs in one go. We’ve been working on ‘ABCD 2’ for the past eight months. Sometimes, getting another narration just helps you put the jigsaw puzzle back into its place. I think it’s just going back to what was asked.

On an average, how much time does it take to complete one song from start-to-finish?
I have institutionalised this whole process and I can tell you that without exaggerating, that every five-minute song on which people skip and say they don’t like it, takes 700 man hours to complete from the time it is conceived to the final mix. These seven hundred hours are complete over a period of six months or 1-2 years. When I say 700 hours, it might seem a bit too much but imagine, sometimes we work 10-14 hours a day, so in terms of that 700 hours isn’t anything.
Jigar: But there are exceptions. There have been songs which have been done in seven hours also. Like ‘Saibo’, we had the thought in the morning, we had the song by evening, and that’s what got finalised. After that, the time went in convincing the music companies and producers. In fact, all the four songs I mentioned earlier, have been conceived in about 6-7 hours.
Sachin: What Jigar is talking about is when we have a song at hand already. But because we also arrange and program our music, record all the live dubs it takes time. We don’t have any assistants, so we get it mixed also and mastered also, everything under happens under our eye, because we were music arrangers first. We arranged music for everyone in the industry right from Rehman to Anu Malik. I think our whole learning also has come from there. Now we’re very particular about what we are looking for in terms of the sound. There’s always a process. I think songs are like babies. When we use the word pregnant, we literally feel that every song is our baby, and cannot leave the baby just after delivering it…you have to nurture it. A song takes its own sweet time.
Jigar: Yes, you cannot push certain things.

Over the years, you think your confidence level in terms of experimenting with music, has gone up? More so, because of the appreciation that has come your way…
Jigar: Yes, absolutely! But through the years, we’ve been able to learn and unlearn both. There have been times when I think we should do what we want, but then there’s this sense of achievement when you’re able to balance your music with the taste of the audience. That’s why we are here. We’re targeting India and beyond, so that’s the real challenge, and for that, we have to unlearn a lot of music, and in a subtle way also teach them music.
Sachin: I completely agree to what Jigar is saying. For example, to do a Ganpati song that was based on a dubstep beat. First you need to convince yourself that this can happen. In today’s age and time, may be you’re looking for a Ganpati song which is on a dub-step beat, why not? I have witnessed twice or thrice during Visarjan as to how people play any kind of music, because they just want to enjoy. Our experiments also, in that way come from our observations. When you also say, experiments, I don’t think we’ve been able to do anything new. May be we’ve done something we didn’t do before. Moreover, I don’t agree to the concept of somebody saying I made this tune. Your music is never your own. Your music is always an assimilation and aggregation of what you were brought up listening to. Somewhere or the other, most of us learn more by listening.
Jigar: Sachin has learnt ten years of music, but I haven’t really learnt music. Whatever I know, is by listening, and then I got trained to understand music better. So, everybody is listening to our music, has to be treated genuinely, and we have to keep doing justice to that person’s taste.

What do you think Sachin-Jigar’s music stands for?
True and honest. We’re not really attempting desperately to make something different. 
Sachin: Our experiments are an honest interpretation of what as youngsters we would like to hear. I wanted to be a music composer because of A.R. Rehman. I wanted to be Kumar Sanu, and then Roja happened to lots of youngsters like me and all we wanted to do was, get to our synthesizers and record that kind of music and play it for people. Like I said, we’ve been arrangers for many composers, including Rehman, His South-Indian industry work was so rich, that when I came down to Bollywood, I had to majorly unlearn. That kind of orchestration or richness or that kind of a mindset I don’t think we still have it in Bollywood. Because we’re talking about PAN India, we’re talking about an average listener who hasn’t heard anything other than, perhaps, local folk. So, it’ll be difficult for somebody like that, to gulp a Ganpati dub-step track. I think the credit for us being able to come up with something new, also goes to our producers who time and again come back to us with that kind of conviction.

So you’ll are happy with how 2014 shaped up for you? What lies ahead next year?
Jigar: Yes, we wanted to do one commercial hit, so we did ‘Johnny Johnny’, and we wanted to experiment a bit, so we did ‘Shake Your Bootiyaan’ and ‘Happy Ending’. Next year also looks good because we have ‘Badlapur’, ‘ABCD 2’, ‘Farzi’ and Remo sir’s next film.

‘Marjaaniya’ from ‘Badlapur’ has got a good response, what can people expect from the rest of the album?
‘Badlapur’ is totally intense Sachin-Jigar. It is the kind of music we’ve been itching to do for a while, and we won’t do it again for a very long time after this. Again, we’ve been able to create music like that, because of Dinu sir (Dinesh Vijan), he’s been great help even lyrically, he comes up with these hook-lines. It was him who came up with the hook-line, ‘Jee karda marnaaniya’.
Sachin: He’s fearless, very forward thinking, he listens to very good music, so he has the courage to say that let’s make something so edgy and intense. That’s what you can expect. 

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