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'Why can't we be original?'

June 02, 2003 14:40 IST

The year 2003 sees music composer Anu Malik complete 25 years in the Hindi film industry.

Anu MalikThe man who started with the B-grade Hunterwali 77 (1978) went on to create great music in films like Ek Jaan Hai Hum, Sohni Mahiwal, Mard, Sir, Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Ayee, Baazigar, Imtihaan, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Vijaypath, Akele Hum Akele Tum, Border, Virasat, Tamanna, Biwi No 1, Fiza, Aks, Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai, Asoka, Filhaal, Khushi, Ishq Vishk, and many more.

That he has been accused of stealing tunes from the West has not affected Malik's work list. This year sees him score the music for films like Sooraj Barjatya's Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, Apoorva Lakhia's Mumbai Se Aaya Mere Dost, Madhur Bhandarkar's Aan and J P Dutta's LoC, among others. In fact, the music of the first two films has already topped the charts.

The music director promises Rajiv Vijayakar that this is only the drizzle before the sizzle. Excerpts from an interview:

The Rajshris have only worked with (music director) Raamlaxman in all their films. How did you manage to take his place?

I have always wanted to work with the Rajshris. When his first film, Maine Pyar Kiya [in 1989, starring Salman Khan and Bhagyashree] released, I was floored by the film. I approached Rajbabu -- Sooraj's father -- for work, even though I had made it by then. But I was told that Raamlaxman gave them good music consistently.

After Hum Saath Saath Hain [starring Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Monish Behl, Karisma Kapoor, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam]¸ I requested Sooraj to give me a hearing at least. He told me that he was busy with a script and that I should call him after six months.

We met after six months. I sang a tune that seemed to make his eyes sparkle, but he did not comment. After 10 days I lost hope as that was the time when my sittings with Karan Johar for Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Sanjay Leela Bhansali for Devdas failed.

Then one day Sooraj phoned me and said, 'Welcome to the Rajshri family!' My first reaction was 'Yessss!'

How was he to work with?

His narration of Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon floored me. Sooraj would kneel for four or five hours in a yoga posture and get carried away. It was like watching the entire film through his eyes. At the very first narration, I interrupted him with a tune, Aaj main hoon, aur tum ho, aur mohabbat hai. This was filmed on Abhishek Bachchan. Rajbabu, who was also present, said that in 25 years, he had never seen a composer who created a tune right there in front of him. A lot of tunes were created during the narration itself.

Sooraj never made me feel that he was doing me a favour by giving me the film, nor did he ever mention his past laurels.

How did you choose your playback singers?Kareena Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan in MPKDH

I was told in 2000 that the music, which would be released after three years, must sound fresh. I opted for Ranjit Barot for sound design, as we had worked fabulously on Khalid Mohamed's Fiza, Rakesh Mehra's Aks, and Santosh Sivan's Asoka. The singers were my suggestions for the same reason. I think Chitra is at par with Lataji [Mangeshkar] and Ashaji [Bhosle]. When I called Chitramaa -- that's what I call her -- she became emotional, as she had never sung for a complete Hindi film before.

I chose KK because he had been typecast in high-pitched songs, even by me. I wanted to make him sing romantic numbers. As for Shaan, whenever I hear him I feel that Abhishek Bachchan is singing. Sunidhi Chauhan came in for the passion, as she understands me in such songs.

Your Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost has a riveting score too.

Yes. Can you believe that the film was planned as a songless one?

Your first spelling change proved lucky for you. But the second change last year brought you bad luck. Is that why you have reverted to Anu Malik?

Look, a man who is down experiments. But I have realised that only your work matters, not the spelling of your name.

After Aks, Asoka and Meghna Gulzar's Filhaal, you went through a dull phase...

The general scene was bad. But I think my albums, Anil Kumar's Kucch To Hai and S J Suryah's Khushi, made profits for the music companies concerned.

During this phase, even Subhash Ghai moved away from you.

It was Subhash Ghai's choice to come to me or move away. I learnt a lot from him. But if I am grateful to him for the work we did, I am also cool when my filmmakers move away. If they return, like Umesh Mehra and Vinod Chopra did, it's a high. During these years, I have seen it all. I am the only composer who refuses films. I am talented enough to compose internationally.

Does the success or failure of a music score make any difference to you?

I do not worry about the past. I move on. I am confident that God will help me create a new tune everyday. You may not believe me, but I do not listen to my songs more than twice or thrice after they have been recorded. If I brood on them, I will not be able to make a new tune.

Tell us about your forthcoming films.

Farah Khan's Main Hoon Na has amazing and variegated music, including a qawwali. I am also doing Pooja Bhatt's next film. J P Dutta is my all-time favourite. The music in LoC beats that of his previous films, Border and Refugee, hands down. In Vinod Chopra's Munnabhai MBBS, I will create magic with Shreya Ghosal [one of the female playback singers of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas]. Madhur Bhandarkar's Aan and Rajkumar Santoshi's Khakee are not musical subjects, but the challenge lies in composing passable music.

Gurinder Chaddha's Bride And Prejudice is my first international project and I am very excited about it. This film is a musical that moves from India to London to Los Angeles. The songs are in Punjabi, Hindi and English.

You spoke about going global. What are your plans?

Lara Dutta, Abhishek Bachchan in Mumbai Se Aaya Mera DostI want to write for big names like Whitney Houston and The Backstreet Boys. My song Chhamma chhamma was used in Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, though I was not credited. I will use this and Gurinder's film as a stepping stone to go West.

The music industry is facing its worst-ever recession now...

Let me tell you why! It is not downloading, nor technology like MP3, nor piracy. It's just bad music! Why are we still seduced by The Backstreet Boys and Whitney Houston? Why can't we be original? Why should people pay money to listen to poor music? The pop element and the obsession with sound and technology is a passing phase.

Would you like to score music for period films?

Given a chance, I would do a great job for a Bajirao Mastani, Mughal-e-Azam, or a Lagaan. But my image comes in the way. People forget my music in Asoka. They will only remember my Judwaa. Some composers have to prove themselves all the time. I am one of them. Besides, I wear jeans and a T-shirt and appear flamboyant. Maybe if I wear a kurta and pyjama and sport a teeka, or turn elusive and work at nights, they will come to me!

Rajiv Vijayakar