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The Rediff Interview

When Tarun Mansukhani jammed with Vishal-Shekhar

November 13, 2008

Vishal and Shekhar

With Karan Johar's [Images] films, you can be sure of two things -- lots of style and good music. And Dostana [Images] directed by Tarun Mansukhani and starring John Abraham [Images], Abhishek Bachchan [Images] and Priyanka Chopra is no different. While we have dealt at length with the style, we haven't yet gone into the music part.

That's where composers Vishal and Shekhar come in. This is the first time that the duo is composing and singing for Dharma Productions. They chatted with Nithya Ramani about the experience. Excerpts:

How would you describe the music of Dostana?

Vishal: It is fresh; something that you haven't heard before and something that is not standard for a Hindi film. Coming from Dharma Productions, Tarun was very conscious that Karan has always had a certain sound to his music and he wanted to step away from it. He kept the commercial viability of music but wanted to create something of his own. And I think it is quite admirable for a first time director.

Shekar: The beautiful thing about this whole thing is that Tarun has different taste in music. He listens to a lot of music that Vishal and I also listen to. He wanted a unique sound for Dostana. He didn't want it to sound like a Dharma sound track at all. He wanted something commercial but still unique. We tried to do something like that and the result is Desi Girl, Khabar Nahi and Jaane Kyun, which are topping the charts.

How was the experience of working with Tarun as he is a first time director?

Shekar: Painful (laughs). The reason I'm saying so is that he made us do a lot runs before he was satisfied. We almost did 150 scratches of tunes per situation. So we ended up with 600 tunes. I'm glad he worked hard because he picked the best out of the tunes.

Vishal: Tarun is a very good friend of ours and he took advantage of that and made us work very hard. Tarun likes to hear his songs produced. Eighty percent of the songs are produced. So we had to sit and work out on the arrangement of the song for him just to let him know how the song is going to sound.

This is your first time with Dharma Productions too. How was it working with Karan?

Vishal: He asked us to do whatever Tarun said. He is the director.

Shekar: Karan is brilliant. The way he has been making films and his taste for music is great. After Tarun approved a tune, Karan would to listen to it and give us advice. He even used to jam with us.

Vishal: He has a great sensibility for music. When he listens to a tune he can immediately tell you why he likes it or not. It really helps your job as a music director. The best thing about Karan is that he never added to the confusion we had. We discussed all the tunes only with Tarun. Karan would come in only when we were in trouble, which was quite a bit.

What kind of music do you listen to? What are your inspirations and ideas?

Shekar: We get our ideas from the director who narrates the script to us. We figure out what he has in his mind and what he wants for his film. It is very important to know what kind of sound the director is looking for in his film. And then we start working on the music according to the situation.

Vishal: Sometimes it so happens that the director gets with him a bunch of reference music and that gives us a hint as to where to go to from there. As far as listening to different kinds of music is concerned, we go out of our way specifically to find all kinds of music, learn it and enjoy it.

Also See: Grooving to Dostana

Shekar: We listen to any kind of music. Right now I'm listening to Ibitza, a set of house music. It has got different tunes, base lines and percussions. We even listen to classical thumri. Its always good to listen to different kinds of music and gather knowledge and then use it in our songs.

Who conceives a tune and how do you go about making the final tune?

Vishal: It is not about who comes up with what. We can't say which line is mine or Shekar's. It just comes out of nowhere. If I like something that Shekar is doing, I pick it up and develop it and vice versa. In the end we don't know who did what.

Shekar: But actually God does it. He is one who sends us the tunes and we just send it to you guys.

Who is your best competitor?

Vishal: A good question for which there is no answer.

Shekar: Forget competition. We have great friends like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Pritam, Vishal Bharadwaj and A R Rehaman.

Vishal: These are people who have inspired us. Everyone learns from each other. When someone thinks that he knows everything and that everyone else is competing with him, then you are no longer a musician. I always say, if you nominate all of us for an award, all of us will win.

Shekar: Competition is in business and not in music. We just do our thing and have fun. We have Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy who sing for us and vice versa. We are not thinking who is doing well, we are just happy when they do well.

How do you find success now after your struggling days?

Vishal: We never struggled.

Shekar: Sorry to disappoint your guys but we never struggled. And it is all by the grace of God. We started off working with friends -- in fact both is us started with a common friend. 

Vishal: We never considered music direction as work, it was fun. We have always had fun and hopefully, continue to have fun. We just love what we do and don't think too much.

What tips would you give to aspiring musicians to make it big in the industry?

Vishal: We don't know about making it big. Make music you love and whatever has to happen will happen.

Shekar: We never thought of making it big when we started off. God will take you where you want to go.

What next?

Shekar: We have Sujoy Ghosh's Alladin with Mr Bachchan (Amitabh [Images]), Riteish Deshmukh [Images], Jacquline Fernandes and Sanjay Dutt [Images].

Vishal:  Then there is a film called Arjun with UTV. It is going to be the biggest animation film with regards to the musical budget. And there is also a film produced by Ravi Chopra, which we can't talk about it now, but is going to be massive.

How do you feel when your tunes get rejected?

Vishal: The process is very simple. Shekar and I after listening to the script, be it a love song or a dance song, we prepare about 15 tunes. Out of the 15, we will pick the best and then present it to the director. Almost 99 percent of the time, the director likes the song. But if by chance he doesn't, we throw away all the other 14 tunes/songs. We do not present the left overs. We start all over again from scratch. It is very rare but it does happen once or twice.

How long do you take to finish a song?

Vishal: Ranges from anything from one day to three months. There were many songs that we finished within 24 hours like Dus Bahane, Allah Ke Bande. The Bachna Ae Haseeno [Images] title track was done in five hours.

Where do you get your energy from?

Shekar: We enjoy being on stage. It is just the music. You will catch us bouncing even in the studio. We have an awesome band. They rock the stage so much that even we start bouncing.

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