Article Hindi

MAMI 2017: Composers Vishal-Shekhar reveal hilarious stories behind their top songs


The popular composer duo selected six of their favourite hits and revealed how they actually came together.

Sonal Pandya

Music composers Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani (popularly known as Vishal-Shekhar) attended a fun-filled, lively panel moderated by film critics Anupama Chopra and Rajeev Masand at the Movie Mela on 7 October, as part of the upcoming 19th Mumbai Film Festival.

The now annual movie mela in the run-up to the 19th Mumbai Film Festival organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI, is a tradition which began in 2015 and is seen as a day which brings the fans and the movies together. In the second session at this year's movie mela, Vishal-Shekhar selected their top six songs and discussed with moderators Chopra and Masand how they were conceived .

The panel opened on a sombre note. Co-host Chopra remembered filmmaker Kundan Shah who had passed away late on 6 October 2017. She and Masand were made aware of his passing at the end of the previous panel with the cast and director of Golmaal Again (2017).

Chopra knew Shah closely as he had worked with her husband, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, on the seminal film, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983). She thanked him for the movies, saying “You made great films, forever and forever, we will enjoy them. I hope you stay in our prayers and our condolences to Kundan’s family.”

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The composers, who have been working for 18 years, had pre-selected six songs and talked about their journey from Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi (1999) to Befikre (2016). They knew each other as friends before working together as a duo and found out they were composing music for the same film. As Vishal said, “There is story with every song,” here are the tales behind their biggest hits.

1. ‘Tu Aashiqui Hai’ – Jhankaar Beats (2003)

Shekhar Ravjiani shared Rajeev Masand was to blame for them doing the music of Jhankaar Beats. Masand introduced director Sujoy Ghosh to them. It took four years for the film to get made and the music of Jhankaar Beats was composed as a tribute to RD Burman, fondly known as Panchamda.

Vishal and Shekhar referred to Ghosh’s working style as mental. For one song ‘Suno Na’, only the intro was used. They composed the music in a studio (Marble Arts Studio) in Worli, Mumbai next to a graveyard and it spooked the musicians who used to come to record the songs.

For ‘Tu Aashiqui Hai’, Ghosh had given them a brief — he wanted a hymn which was also a love song. They composed the song together, alternating one line between each other and demonstrated their process to the gathered audience.

Vishal also talked about how there were problems during the filming of the song — the audience in the church is clapping out of tune, because when the music track was sent over the sound engineer forgot to unmute the clap track.

They were glad the track has endured all this while, saying most of the audiences were probably around three when the song released. To which Shekhar said, “Budhe ho gaye (We’ve become old)” and Vishal lamented, “At least on me it shows. It’s even worse having a partner on whom age doesn’t show. Aap toh apke uncle ke saath kaam karte ho (referring to Shekhar).”

2. ‘Allah Ke Bande’ – Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II (2003)

Vishal said they still receive letters about this song from people all over the world who have gone through many adversities, as they found hope in it. He also revealed that the singer Rabbi originally sang it before his album came out. Director Shashanka Ghosh asked them to sing it instead and appear in the film as well. But fellow composer Salim Merchant recommended Kailash Kher to them instead.

They also added extra tracks to the music, but on Shashanka’s advice left it to only the guitar and the voice, which is what the song is now. Shekhar also said many people have forgotten that it’s actually them who have composed ‘Allah Ke Bande’, many think it is Kailash Kher. They then led the audience in an impromptu acapella rendition of the song, although Vishal was a harsh critic of their singing.

3. ‘Ajab Si’ – Om Shanti Om (2007)

This song was written and composed by Vishal-Shekhar after the album was done and finished. Once director Farah Khan heard it, she said it was perfect and she knew exactly when to use it — when Shah Rukh Khan’s character first meets Deepika Padukone’s Shantipriya. Originally, it was only to have background music.

Vishal said, “It looked like it was written for this scene.” Shekhar also joked that if Farah Khan doesn’t like anything, she makes it quite clear, and suggested giving the song to Sujoy Ghosh instead.

The opening antara, done in five minutes, is inspired by RD Burman, upon Farah Khan’s request. Shekhar also sang the original lyrics of ‘Ajab Si’ written by Vishal Dadlani and later fixed by Javed Akhtar. They were:

(in the tune of ‘Ajab Si')
Tu chand pe toh
Zameen pe mein rehta hoon
Kaise main karoon yakeen se tumse mila hoon
Mujhe lagta hain asmaan mein utna ooncha udta hoon

4. ‘Chammak Challo’ – Ra.One (2011)

Vishal said he offhandedly suggested Akon’s name when director Anubhav Sinha asked him who he would like to sing the song ‘Criminal’. But he recalled, “One week later, Shah Rukh comes in and says, ‘I spoke to Akon, it’s done.’”

The international singer came down to Mumbai for two days to record ‘Criminal’ and Vishal said he completely underestimated Akon as a singer and as well as his humanitarian side. Anyway, since ‘Criminal’ was mostly in English, he recorded it much faster in one day but even the Hindi lyrics didn't pose much of challenge for him.

With an extra day in hand, an assorted group in the studio came with the beat that is ‘Chammak Challo’, while Vishal and Shekhar added the lyrics of RD Burman's 'Dil Lena Khel Hai Dildar Ka' from Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981). Everyone loved it and then Sinha suggest the words ‘Chammak Challo’ as a hook for the song. The whole song was completed in less than in a day.

5. ‘Nashe Si Chadh Gayi’ – Befikre (2016)

Shekhar called Befikre “one of their best experiences to work with a filmmaker”. They had been working with Aditya Chopra as a producer for about 12 years and Shekhar said they had never seen the fourth floor of the building. To which Masand retorted, “Some of us haven’t even seen him. We’ll have to take your word for it that he exists.”

The composers went to his office for the first time where Aditya asked them to compose for his upcoming film. “Karoge kya [Will you do it]?” Aditya had said, to which Shekhar deadpanned, you really have to ask?. After they came on board, he narrated the script to them and they spent the next 15 days in a studio making new tunes.

After the 15 days were up, they took another two weeks off. Chopra's script didn’t have the song situations marked out and Vishal-Shekhar came up with around 20-25 songs. They shortlisted and whittled down the list to 6.

For ‘Nashe Si Chadh Gayi’, it was Chopra who came up with the tune. Jaideep Sahni wrote the lyrics and Vishal admitted to being taken aback to have the word ‘torrent’ in the song.

6. ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’ – Tees Maar Khan (2010)

The last song of the panel was a crowdpleaser. The composer duo joked about Vishal’s cameo in the film as the sleazy director (credited as tharki director) of in-picture film, Sheila Ki Jawani. They shared that beggars come up to them at signals and recognise them as the composers of the song to the delighted laughs of the audience.

For the song, they used 40 Nashik dhols for the rhythm. They had no electronic programming and Vishal said most of the time in their songs, the chorus section is actually their voices, including at times, the female section.

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