Bollywood’s most popular composers are the guys who made Hindi film music less filmy and more fun. Popularly hailed as the Amar-Akbar-Anthony of Hindi film music, Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy have given some of the most famous songs in recent years.
CNN-IBN’s Rajeev Masand gets talking to the trio.
Rajeev Masand: Guys, you had a great year, didn’t you? Salaam-e-Ishq, Heyy Babyy, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Johnny Gaddar and of course, what a finish with Taare Zameen Par. Would you say it was your most creatively satisfying years?
Shankar Mahadevan: I think all the years that we’ve worked from Dil Chahta Hai -
Ehsaan Noorani: From Dus, actually –
Shankar Mahadevan: - from Dus actually, it’s been pretty satisfactory. Every year we have one or two biggies. Not only popularity-wise but also creatively, and this year, the number of films have been more.
Ehsaan Noorani: Actually, this year the kind of films were very different. You had Hey Babyy, which was a comedy, you had Salaam-e-Ishq - a love story – and Johnny Gaddar, which is like a dark kind of film.
Rajeev Masand: As much as I loved the music of Taare Zameen Par, my personal favourite of the albums you guys did last year was Salaam-e-Ishq. With Johnny Gaddar, you guys got a chance to produce your own album, you got a chance to enjoy the rights, the profits, the royalties of an album –
Shankar Mahadevan: Finally!
Rajeev Masand: - finally! That should’ve happened a while ago and that’s really my question. Do you think that in the years ahead that’s the direction the Hindi films and Hindi film music is going in? Also, are you guys going to be able to do it with the big filmmakers, as well? Can you tell a Karan Johar or a Farhan Akhtar, ‘We’re going to produce the album, we want the royalties, we want the profits’?
Shankar Mahadevan: I think it’s going to happen.
Ehsaan Noorani, Loy Mendonsa: It will happen.
Shankar Mahadevan: It will happen. See, it’s a universal law that happens all over the world and people that create the music – the lyricist and the music composer – they own the right to it, and I think they should own it because they are the creators of the music. What we create now, they earn for a lifetime.
Rajeev Masand: Let’s talk about Taare Zameen Par - a wonderful soundtrack, very different from what we’ve heard recently – I think we all agree. Also, very different from what you’ve done in your career. What was, for you, the biggest challenge in doing this album?
Ehsaan Noorani: Actually, first you hear a brilliant script and secondly, we told him we don’t know what kind of music we need to do for the film. It needs music but we don’t know what kind of music, so we just need to sit together and come up with something.
Shankar Mahadevan: We just casually asked while strumming –
Ehsaan Noorani: Literally sitting like this.
Shankar Mahadevan: Literally like this we composed Taare Zameen Par, just one guitar, something written down on a piece of paper, a few lines, Prasoon is there scratching some words and then giving us – we just looked at them and composed. I think that’s how best music is composed.
Ehsaan Noorani: Because the thing is that what they told us first: “There is no dholaks, there’s no dhol, there’s no Punjabi, there’s no item song. Let’s just go for a direction which you guys have not done before.” And the thing is, playing this kind of music is something Loy and I have grown up doing and playing, rock and stuff like that. That’s the kind of direction we took and it happened. You know, like coming up with a little riff – that’s all rock – and that’s the direction we took.
Rajeev Masand: Guys, you guys have been in this business now for 10 years. In fact, this is your tenth year. Tell me if you were asked what’s your sound. What would you say?
Ehsaan Noorani: I would say, to use one word – it’s very eclectic. It’s a mixture of a lot of influences of where we come from and the kind of music that we listen to which is, unfortunately, not Hindi film music. But there’re really a lot of influences, whether Shankar’s classical influence, whether it’s the blues or rock where I come from, or Loy – he has a myriad of things which he listens to.
Rajeev Masand: So tell me what is it that really keeps you all together? The fact that you come from these different backgrounds or is there something that you all have in common?
Shankar Mahadevan: There’s nothing in common, actually, and that’s what keeps us together because it’s like looking at one product with three different cameras placed at three different angles.
Loy Mendonsa: When we composed Kal Ho Na Ho, I’ll just tell you how I conceived the first part *plays*. That was the tempo and he *points to Shankar* came and he changed the whole groove.
Shankar Mahadevan: I did that. The same melody became slightly groovy with the finger-snaps. So, what I see, you may not be able to see and this kind of thing I would never be able to compose on the piano.
Rajeev Masand: You guys perform so extensively live. Tell me, the thrill that comes with performing for a live audience, how does that compare with being in a closed room and recording a –
Ehsaan Noorani: There’s no comparison. Performing live is what musicians are really meant for, you know, for entertainment. The other day when we were playing at IIT, we did Kal Ho Na Ho and Taare Zameen Par back-to-back and the audience pulled out their mobile phones and literally 18,000 mobile phones lit up. All the lights were off and then the audience sang the entire song. You know what I mean? I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it. So, that’s the experience.
Rajeev Masand: Okay guys, this is the rapid-fire round. This is the round where I give you some tough questions, quick questions and we want some quick answers. You don’t get too much time to think and we just want some clever one-liners.
The one album you wish you had composed?
Ehsaan Noorani: Aradhana.
Rajeev Masand: Which of you has the shortest fuse?
Shankar Mahadevan: *Patting Ehsaan* Without a doubt.
Rajeev Masand: Which of you takes the longest to be convinced about a song?
Shankar Mahadevan: *Patting Ehsaan* Our bard.
Rajeev Masand: The one song that’s closest to all your hearts?
Ehsaan Noorani: Kal Ho Na Ho for sure.
Rajeev Masand: The one thing Himesh Reshammiya has that you all don’t?
Shankar Mahadevan: Popularity! He’s got more popularity.
Rajeev Masand: The one thing you guys have that Himesh Reshammiya doesn’t?
Rajeev Masand: Finally, I want to talk about something which you guys mentioned briefly – fun. Isn’t that really important to really enjoy what you do?
Shankar Mahadevan: I think it’s not important, it’s THE most important thing.
Ehsaan Noorani: Once, we were doing Dil Chahta Hai, we were dubbing ‘Koi Kahe’, and Javedsaab said – this is the kind of fun we have with the people we work with – Javedsaab said, “One line needs to be changed.” Tell them which one it is.
Shankar Mahadevan: ‘Bigde duniya (bigadne bhi do), Jhagde duniya (jhagadne bhi do), Ladey jo duniya (ladne bhi do), Tum apni dhan satkao’ and things like that.
Ehsaan Noorani: And this is coming from Javedsaab! So can you imagine how serious our –
Loy Mendonsa: Even Farhan! Farhan gets to translating our songs into English. That’s really funny!
Ehsaan Noorani: Like, ‘Wonder why, what to do. Wonder why, what to do. Wonder why, wonder why, wonder why.’ You know what I mean?
Rajeev Masand: Yeah. So it’s contagious that whole sense of fun. Thank you so much for being on the show today. Thank you for entertaining us and we will track your every move.