Ram Sampath – The Unsung Euphonies

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I was in school when “Tanha Dil”, a song which catapulted singer Shaan to stardom, came out. The song and the lovely music video accompanying it came out in 1999, at a time when Indipop music was its peak in India. “Tanha Dil” was one of the most popular songs from the bunch of pop songs that came out that year. The song had a youthful flavour to it which was further accentuated by the music video which showed a young man reminiscing about his days as a student. Those days, the singers would themselves compose songs for their own albums. Shaan had done the same for his debut non-film album ‘Love-o-logy’. So, a lot of people, like this writer, assumed it for the longest time that it the song was composed by Shaan himself. That was not the case. I, for one, realized this when I read an interview of Ram Sampath post the massive success of the music of ‘Delhi Belly’. Ram fondly talked about the song and his career in advertising, amongst other things.

For almost two decades now, Ram Sampath has composed some of the most popular jingles for different commercials and brands. Despite being a prolific name in the field of advertising and television commercials, one does not see the composer making music for films as frequently as one would have liked to. He made a very successful entry into the film industry, what with several songs from his debut film ‘Khakhee’ turning out to be huge hits. Songs like “Aisa Jaado Daala Re”, “Waada Raha”, “Dil Dooba” are popular till today. One fails to fathom as to why, despite the commercial success of the album and the film, Ram stayed away from Bollywood for a long time. Yes, there was an occasional film (‘Family’, ‘Jumbo’ etc.) every now and then but he remained largely inactive in the mainstream Hindi film space. More than half a decade later, it finally looked like one would get to hear more of the composer as the music of the two films (both backed by big names) he composed for was well received. ‘Luv Ka The End’, the first film to be produced by Y-Films, Yash Raj Films’ umbrella banner formed to make films for the urban youth, had a couple of peppy songs befitting the mood of the film. The songs got good airtime and became reasonably popular. However, it was the music of ‘Delhi Belly’, which arrived shortly thereafter, which put Ram Sampath’s name on the Bollywood map. It is interesting to note that, initially, ‘Delhi Belly’ was supposed to have just one song. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy were brought in to do the needful but on director Abhinay Deo’s insistence, Ram was signed for the film. It was Ram who suggested the film has enough space in it to accommodate more than one song. The rest, as they say, is history.

‘Raees’, the latest film which the composer has lent his expertise to, has a couple of songs composed by other composers (Pritam’s A&R company JAM8) but they sound pale in comparison to the superlative tracks put together by Ram. Ram’s compositions in the film are a beautiful blend of the composer’s sensibilities and the hard-core commercial sound that the Shah Rukh Khan starrer would have asked for. While “Enu Naam Che Raees” and “Ghammar Ghammar” (based on a popular Gujarati folk song) blend seamlessly into the narrative, Ram’s version of Kalyanji-Anandji’s original “Laila O Laila” from ‘Qurbani’ and his original composition “Udi Udi Jaye” lend the requisite punch to the soundtrack. And, when you hear “Halka Halka” (a track which was edited out of the film and has now been released on YouTube) you wonder as to why Sampath was not entrusted with the responsibility to compose music for the entire soundtrack. Those who have seen the film would vouch for the fact that the film has, arguably, the best background score one has heard in a long time. Though the makers had declared that the background score of the film will be released separately as a standalone soundtrack, one is still waiting for it to arrive. The research that Ram did on Gujarati folk music and the era which the film was set in was evident in the background score. With the kind of finesse the composer brought to the soundtrack, one would have definitely liked to hear some more original tracks composed by him.

Along with Amit Trivedi and to a certain extent, Sneha Khanwalkar, Ram Sampath can be credited with bringing a new sound to the Bollywood soundscape while adhering to the taste of the masses. In fact, these composers helped the regular Bollywood listener cultivate a taste for a different kind of sound that was derived from several world music influences. While Amit Trivedi is one of the leading film composers today, one strongly feels that Ram has not received the kind of recognition he rightfully deserves. While songs like “Muskaanein Jhooti Hain” (‘Talaash’), “Dil Aaj Kal” (‘Purani Jeans’) and “Ambersariya” (‘Fukrey’) have ensured that he stays in circulation, his talent has remained largely unexplored. Aamir Khan showed an affinity towards Ram Sampath’s music when the composer delivered a whopper of a soundtrack for his production “Delhi Belly” and asked him to put together the soundtrack for ‘Talaash’ and his TV show ‘Satyamev Jayate’. Aamir has not worked with Ram in a while. One was hoping that the two of them would collaborate on ‘Dangal’ as Nitesh Tiwari, the director of the film, too, had worked with Ram in the past (‘Bhoothnath Returns’) but that did not happen. Ram lived up to the faith the superstar had placed in him and delivered some really good tracks for both the projects. For Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment, he conjured up some foot-tapping numbers in ‘Fukrey’, a bunch of which became very popular. Later, he also produced the highly underrated soundtrack of ‘Bangistaan’ for them. That makes one wonder why did they did not give a free hand to Ram on ‘Raees’, his biggest film project till date. While “Udi Udi Jaye” is perhaps the best Hindi film song one has heard this year, two other tracks (“Laila Main Laila” and “Halka Halka”), along with the background score, befitted the stature and scale of the film.

While one would have wished for Ram to compose more often for films, he continues to remain a prolific musician by doing concerts, advertising jingles and working on shows/projects like Coke Studio India. His “Paas Aao Na” jingle for Close-up was recently adapted by Amaal Mallik and T-Series into a full-fledged song and music video starring Sushant Singh Rajput and Kriti Sanon. While it is not known which would be the next film one would get to hear his music in (the sequel to ‘Fukrey’, the music of which was composed by him is up for release this year but one does not whether he has been roped in to do the music for the sequel as well), one hopes he comes up with a single or some project which would make his fans happy.

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