Composer, singer and musician Sohail Sen opens up in this lengthy interview about making music in Bollywood and his philosophy about good work.
How does it feel to be trusted with the sequel and being the solo composer when the trend nowadays is to include multiple composers?
Well for starters, it feels extremely good, there is really no doubt about that. It is really a wonderful moment, a cherished one to know that you are required to make music for the sequel. It’s always a happy moment, (pun unintended) to know that hey, the first part was successful, your music was appreciated and now we need to continue with the great work. One is inspired, motivated and all pumped up. And it’s even more special as it really aligns with my philosophy, my modus operandi per se, of being the solo composer for a movie.
What made you choose Udit Narayan for “Kudiye Ni Tere” for the soundtrack of ‘Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi’?
Personally, I and my director Mudassar Aziz, do have a penchant for experimenting with various combinations and vocals/voices, and really at certain times, there are no boundaries. We wanted to bring in that grace, rhythm, nostalgia and uniqueness to the song, and Udit Narayan ji, who is such a prominent singer and superstar from the 80s and 90s, added that beautiful flow and zing to the song. He has done full justice to it. Die hard fans of Udit Ji are thrilled with the unbridled nostalgia and sweetness that he has brought to the song.
There is a distinct Punjabi sound in the programming of “Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi”? How hard was it to compose all the songs with this sound in mind?
‘Happy Phirr Bhaag Jayegi’ is an entertaining score. The Punjabi sound is integral and necessary as it is “the underlying identity” of the movie. It wasn’t very hard, given the fact that my team and I, are very well versed in that area. All our jam sessions revolved around this theme. The album is eventually evident of this fact, and at the end all the Punjabi elements have tied up together very well.
Recently, I observed that you have also joined the trend of contributing one song in projects (‘Housefull 3’ and ‘Housefull 4’). Do you think this practice gives you the chance to showcase your versatility and your best songs as it is a one-shot chance to create a superhit track?
Well it is only for Sajid Nadiadwala Sir that I did one song in ‘Housefull 3’ as he’s like a mentor to me and moreover like a family. For ‘Housefull 4’, I am doing the entire album. The one song concept makes you think in a different way when you have to compose the song. You just add your touch to a movie with that one song and see where that takes you.
Since you started in 2009, which was also the year of our first interview, the industry has changed by leaps and bounds. Can you name a few positive and negative changes you observed?
Bollywood movies have always been committed to progress. Citing a few examples, movies on various social issues help in raising awareness, from ‘Padman’ to issues on electricity and spreading knowledge on rare diseases. Other than that, of course the entertainment factor is only getting better by the day; there is a wider range of movies for people to choose from. It is no longer movies just for the masses but also for people from the cities, the classes and marginalised groups. Technical expertise in terms of audio-visual improvements and 3D movies are norm of the day. The stories are more content driven and production houses want to provide a wide gamut of genres to an audience who laps up the variety with equal panache. On the flip side, the Censor Board is getting more stringent and there are various controversies with nepotism and ones that have stirred up some civil unrest due to their controversial subjects.
Bollywood music of the past 3-4 years has been labelled as ‘trash’, ‘poor’, and ‘noisy’ by well-known critics and also by a segment of the audience. You are from a different breed of composers due to your ancestry. When you listen to mainstream Bollywood songs, what comes to your mind?
Yes, sadly the music industry has had to face this backlash at times and do listen to angry tweets and toxic comments. However, when I listen to Bollywood songs, I marvel at the way the talent pool of the industry has managed to grow and churn out good songs, one after another. Bollywood music is surely to be admired and it has not lost touch with its classical or folk roots, be it this generation or another. It continually evolves.
If there are indeed trashy songs, then there’s a demand for it too, that goes hand in hand. However, Bollywood music is enjoyed not only in India but overseas and is high on entertainment value, I have been very happy to see many of our songs being used as tracks for sporting events like figure skating and international dance competitions. It has certainly not lost its charm in any way. There is so much scope for experimentation and equal support within the industry to promote the same. It has always been an avenue to reckon with.
How do you market yourself in this competitive industry, considering the number of newcomers each year? Do you think you are aggressive enough?
I don’t believe in the concept of marketing yourself, because at the end, it all comes down to your work. If it is good, then the rest everything is taken care of automatically.