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When did you learn to play your first instrument?
Ajay: We never learnt anything. When we were in school, we started singing our national anthem. There were instruments like the harmonium in school so Atul would play Jana Gana Mana on that.
Nobody taught him, he started playing by trial and error. If you understand sur, you can play any instrument. I would take a friend's flute or mouth organ and play Jana Gana Mana.
As kids we would follow wedding bands on the road; they are called brass bands in Pune. They travel with the baraatis. We would run after them and wait till the wedding was over and when they were done, because we were kids, they would allow us to touch their instruments.
In this way we attended many weddings to which we were not invited and sometimes after the wedding was over, we realised that we had travelled very far and had to travel back!
Atul: If there is music in your mind and soul, you can play any instrument. It is necessary to learn music from a teacher, take classes, but where we lived, there were no music classes. But we had the thirst to learn so we started on our own.
Even today, when we program our music on the computer, nobody has taught us, we learned that on our own. Even when we started working professionally, we did not have our own harmonium. There was a studio in Pune that had different instruments. We would go there, learn, and compose music.
We were very crazy. We would follow bhajan mandalis too. Wherever we heard any kind of music, we followed it.
Your parents didn't object to your doing all this instead of concentrating on your studies?
Atul: I guess our parents saw that spark in us, but they always insisted that we graduate and get our degrees. Even though they like our passion, they never thought we would make a career in music so they wanted us to study well.
But I think they knew we would do something big in life. We never graduated. While in college we got our first break composing jingles and we stopped our studies.
Ajay: Other than parents everyone else opposed us, but we studied till twelfth and then stopped.
How did you get your first offer?
Ajay: There is a theatre in Pune called Bal Gandharva Natya Mandir where all the strugglers in the field of art come together every evening and make plans for their next movie, serial or play. Most never materialise.
We were part of most of the films and serials that were never going to happen (laughs). We would sometimes be part of some chorus singing or play harmonium for some group for which we were never paid. Once we got Rs 40 for a show and realised that there is payment in this line too.
But by all this singing and composing for small groups we got our first jingle. The first one was a jingle for a local shop. We would get up early in the morning to hear our jingle play on the radio.
You said that you composed music for many jingles that never saw the light of day. Were you afraid that your first one would go the same way?
Atul: Even today there is this fear that may be this song will not see the light of day. Until it is released we are not sure because there were so many Marathi films that we were looking forward to, but that never released.
Even our album Vishwa Vinayaka took a long time to release. We studied and researched so much about Ganpati for the album because the Times Group was releasing it. We expected that we'd gain instant recognition, just like Madhuri Dixit did after Tezaab.
But for the next two years we did not get any call from any director or producer, not even from a friend saying what an excellent job we had done on Vishwa Vinayaka.
We did a Marathi film called Aga Bai Arrecha at the start of our career, the songs of which are popular even today but we were not nominated for even a single Marathi film award.
The song Chikni Chameli, which is so popular, is the remake of Kombadi Palali from the film Jatra. That film got no nominations either. So for us, it is important that a song gets released and is appreciated by people.
When did you plan to come to Mumbai?
Ajay: We never planned on coming to Mumbai, we were brought here. We are also music arrangers, we arrange for other people so we were asked to come here to arrange music for an album that never released (laughs).
But our recording became the demo for the studio to show how good their studio was. So many saw that demo and got to know about our work and they started calling us for more music arrangement work.
We were eager to meet and work with all the biggest music composers of Mumbai and see the recording studios.
Atul: We started arranging music for lots of singers and music directors, we arranged for Mahendra Kapoor's son Ruhan Kapoor, even for lyricist Shyam Anuragi, and we started earning enough money so that we could settle in Mumbai.
When did you get your first assignment in Mumbai as music composers?
Atul: Our music of album Vishwa Vinayaka got us our first film. The music of Vishwa Vinayaka became popular through word-of-mouth publicity. We had many fans because of this album.
A friend suggested our name to Ram Gopal Varma for Gayab. He called us and we played Vishwa Vinayaka to him.
Ramuji was thrilled after listening to the album. He said to us 'I never believed in god, but after listening to your music Ajay-Atul, I think god is somewhere'. He immediately offered us the very first film of our career.
Did you even once get influenced by the music of the old Agneepath?
Atul: No, we knew the sound and grandeur of the old Agneepath and we knew we had to maintain the grandeur, but, then, we always think of everything larger than life when it comes to our music. We can't think small.
Ajay: We want our music to be universal; we don't want someone to tell us this is a Marathi song it sounds typically Maharashtrian. We feel music is a beautiful sound and if we remove language from it, it should sound universal.
What made you remake Kombadi Palali as Chikni Chameli?
Ajay: Adapting Komadi Palali to Chikni Chameli was not our idea. It came from Karan Malhotra, who had heard it somewhere and insisted we use the same song.
For us, the biggest challenge was making it lyrically rhyme because in the song kombadi palali, tangadi dharun, langadi ghalaya lagali worked more because of the way it rhymed, so we wanted something similar because we thought without the rhyme the song would not work. But Amitabh Bhattacharya came up with these mindblowing lyrics -- Aaayi ! chikni chameli, chhup ke akeli, pawwa chadha ke aayi...-- pawwa chadha ke aayi was Atul's line.