October 23, 2000

    They don't call themselves music directors.
    Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy enjoy an independent existence as musicians, thank you.
    While Loy and Ehsaan play in a jazz band -- besides composing jingles for ads -- Shankar has his solo career as a playback singer.
    And when the three friends get together to compose music, the result is simply magical.

    - Runima Borah Tandon

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    They are different -- that much-abused word, but it's so true! -- and they are willing to experiment with new tunes and music as in the recent Mission Kashmir.

    Tell us about your association with Vidhu Vinod Chopra. How did he choose you to compose for Mission Kashmir?

    See, Shankar was fresh out of Breathless for HMV. Harish Dayani of HMV suggested our names to Vinod Chopra, since he was on the lookout out for a music director for his new film.

    Eshan, Shankar and Loy He called us, saying, "Come and meet me. I want to discuss my new film with you."

    We were taken aback. We thought Vinod Chopra was the best as far as Indian films were concerned. So we went.

    He gave us a rough outline of what the film was about. At the time, he had Shah Rukh and Amitabh in mind for the roles. He said, "I've got these words written for a song called Dhuan dhuan, which is the last song of the cassette as also the title song of the film. I would like you to come up with some ideas. I'm not saying I'm signing you. I just want to hear some inputs."

    He told us that he had also spoken to Sandeep Chowtha, Vishal (Bharadwaj), Anu Mallik and Jatin Lalit.

    We came up with a tune for Dhuan dhuan and presented it to him.

    He was completely blown. He said, "This is the interpretation I was looking for -- a completely different sound."

    We were on. For us, that was a great honour and very exciting. Basically, I think we vibe well. And that is very important when you are in the creative line. If you don't like the people you are working with, there is no point working with them.

    How did you progress after that? What was the brief given to you for the other songs?

    A long, involved script reading came next, so that we got a complete idea of what the script was. It had gone in for some changes by then, though nothing drastic. Vinod's script called for songs. They (the songs) are not forced into the film.

    We often sat in his office and thrashed out ideas. Those were magical moments. Especially when we got Vinod into the studio. Once, we were just fooling around with some ideas and simply trying them out. We came up with four melodies that day.

    You see, all three of us play the keyboards. Shankar sings and I play the guitar as well.

    How did you go about choosing the singers?

    Vinod wanted the singers to fit completely into the songs. Udit (Narayan) normally sings for Hrithik (Roshan) and Alka (Yagnik) usually sings for Preity (Zinta). So that was one choice. But what we delivered in this album is very different from what they normally sing for other people.

    How did you come up with Bumbro?

    Bumbro was just supposed to be a background song originally. The script called for a wedding, and this was supposed to be a mood song in the backrgound. But the way the song turned out, Vinod said, "I have to make this into a big one because it is so beautiful."

    It was Sunidhi (Chauhan) who sang it -- Vinod wanted a very innocent voice. Sunidhi could sound very girlish. So she sang the song -- with that slightly broken voice. Vinod was completely sold on it. He said that was the voice he was looking for.

    So we decided to make it into a bigger song. And it matched Preity perfectly. So you'll see Sunidhi singing a lot for Preity Zinta in future!

    Bumbro was supposed to be a background song. But the way it turned out, Vinod said, "I have to make this into a big one because it is so beautiful."
    Hrithik Roshan is a fabulous dancer. Did you compose the songs to showcase his talent?

    Initially, Bumbro was composed for Shah Rukh and Amitabh. But before we started recording it, Hrithik and Sanjay Dutt were chosen. The market value of the film was halved instantly.

    Hrithik was unknown then; Sanjay Dutt was not doing too well. But the next thing we knew, they had all become huge stars.

    However, the situation and script were kept intact. Except for Bumbro, which was promoted from being a background song into the foreground!

    To answer your question, watch the film. You'll realise that none of the songs have been composed just to portray or to show off Hrithik's dancing. We didn't compose just so he could dance. When he does, it is because he is supposed to.

    You have introduced a different kind of music in this film, with its folksy flavour. Do you feel that the taste and receptivity of the audiences to such kind of music has matured?

    I guess composers like A R Rahman have drastically changed the tastes of audiences.

    Earlier, I would to listen only to Western music. My introduction to Hindi music was when I heard the songs of Roja. I thought it was fantastic. And then I heard 1942, A Love Story, which was fabulous.

    And then, music came into everyone's homes with cable TV.

    But to tell you a little bit about the music, two songs are based on old Kashmiri folk songs. One is Rind posh maal, which is a 200-year-old folk song. The first line of that song means girls are making garlands. It is in celebration of spring.

    It is also an original song. So is Bumbro.

    Tell us about the background score of Mission Kashmir. How much importance do you accord it compared with the songs?

    In an intense film like Mission Kashmir, the background score is very important. It is a very intense, script -driven film. There is not a moment when you can relax.

    In fact, when Vinod came into the studios on that first day, he was worried and apprehensive about whether we would be able to deliver. Since he was working with us for the first time, he wasn't sure as to how we would do the background music, not realising that, coming from a advertising background, we were well trained in that kind of stuff. In 30 seconds, music in commercials can span five years, even 100. So we were quite used to it.

    Anyway, Vinod said, "Let me hear what you guys have done. Again, he was completely blown. He said, "Wow, this is fantastic."

    After that, he would come just once a day. Usually, for the background score, a director becomes the constant companion of the composer. Vinod came in just once a day, though -- he trusted us completely. Of course, he did suggest changes.

    I believe the background score of Mission Kashmir can stand up to anything anywhere in the world. The music was mixed in London.

    In fact, Mission Kashmir is not just a collection of seven songs. It is what I would call a film soundtrack because when you see the film, you will realise that it is thematic.

    Each song has been worked into the film. There is a lead given for them.

    Our only problem was scoring for the 17-minute climax. We were worried whether we would do justice to it. It has been excellently devised; it's right out of a Hollywood film.

    But then, everything turned out right. In fact, if you take off the songs, the film is just like a one-and-a-half-hour Hollywood film.

    What were the initial reactions to the music of this film?

    When people hear it for the first time, they say it's nice. But then, it grows on you. I think that is a good sign. Because that ensures the longevity of the album.

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