Interview Hindi Marathi

Ajay-Atul are pioneers for us, say music composer duo Rohan-Rohan


Rohan Pradhan and Rohan Gokhale discuss their recent success in Marathi cinema and their Hindi film debut with two songs in Rajkumar Hirani's Sanju.

Suparna Thombare

Rohan Pradhan and Rohan Gokhale are two promising talents from the Marathi film industry. Their current trajectory often reminds cinema-goers of Marathi cinema's star music composer duo Ajay-Atul, who made a name for themselves in Marathi cinema and broke into Hindi films with big films and hit songs.

While Ajay-Atul are now stalwarts, Rohan-Rohan are on the brink of becoming the next big musical talent to emerge from regional cinema.

After composing hit soundtracks for the Priyanka Chopra production Ventilator (2016) and Madhuri Dixit Nene's Marathi debut film Bucket List (2018), the two Rohans are in the news for their quirky retro-style composition from Rajkumar Hirani's Sanju, 'Main Badhiya Tu Bhi Badhiya'.

In fact, Ventilator's music was the reason why they bagged Hirani's film. Ventilator director Rajesh Mapuskar, who had also directed the Vidhu Vinod Chopra production Ferrari Ki Sawaari (2012), had invited Hirani for a screening of Ventilator at the MAMI festival in Mumbai. "A few days later, Rajesh sir called us and said, 'Be ready to meet Raju Hirani. There is something exciting in store for you'," recalled Gokhale.

The duo now has two more Hindi films that will be announced soon in its kitty, and two Marathi films — 15 August (Dixit Nene's production) and Bonus — in the making, with more in the works.

"It has only been a few years since we started working. [We are] just enjoying at the moment," said the duo about their exciting journey so far.

In an exclusive conversation with Cinestaan.com, the two Rohans spoke of their rapport, breaking into Hindi cinema with a big film, and the inevitable comparison with Ajay-Atul. Excerpts:

'Main Badhiya Tu Bhi Badhiya' is a situational song. You have Ranbir Kapoor lip-synching to Sunidhi Chauhan's voice while Sonam Kapoor is mouthing words sung by Sonu Nigam. What was the brief from Rajkumar Hirani?

Rohan Gokhale: The brief basically was... the situation was that Sanju tries to prove to his father that he can lip-synch to a song. There is a song already playing in a restaurant. A couple is performing. So we thought of making a song that reminds us of that era. What kind of a song would be playing in a pub in those days? And then we came up with the quirky idea that we could take this route. 

Was it planned from the beginning to have Ranbir Kapoor lip-synch to a female voice in the song?

RG: It was planned from the beginning. Raju sir was very clear about that. 

Sunidhi Chauhan has altered her voice for the song. Could you tell us about that?

Rohan Pradhan: Yes, since the song has that kind of rhythm pattern... she has gone a little nasal. So it would be quirky and perhaps remind us of that era in a better way. We thought, why not make it a little dramatic, so it adds more flavour when Ranbir tries to lip-synch to it. So that was the idea behind the slight nasal tone. But we also did not make it caricaturish. We wanted to blend it in a good way.

What was your process of creating the song?

RG: The journey has been amazing. Once we cracked the main lyrics, ‘main badhiya tu bhi badhiya’, we had this thing about how to complete the story. There is a girl who wants to force the guy to marry, and he comes up with reasons not to marry her. In the end, he says that he can marry her, but he does not have a job. Then the girl says no.

The entire process of writing the lyrics also was a lot of fun. Then we could come up with a lot of examples by which she could convince him.

This is your first Hindi film. Was the experience any different from working on a Marathi film?

RP: With Raju sir we can say no. In Marathi there is a lot of research that happens from the director before the film. In Hindi, many times the song is already made and then put into a film. In regional cinema that mostly does not happen. Songs are related to the story of the film. We were glad that Raju sir’s style of working is similar and he will sit down with you and chalk out music that is in synch with the film.

Do you consider Ventilator a major turning point in your career as it brought you both into the limelight?

RP: Completely! That is one of our best works probably and that film is closest to our heart. 

One song from Ventilator that also ended up reaching non-Marathi audiences was 'Baba', which has two versions, one sung by you and one by Priyanka Chopra. That song touched many.

RP: The journey was amazing. There was no female version on the cards initially. When we reached the release of the film and were working on the background score with the director, we just came up with the idea that relationship with the father is not gender-specific. In the film, there is also the daughter, so we thought why not give it another angle because the film version is a father-son song. So we bounced the idea off Priyanka and she said you know what, I’ll sing it!

We all know her relationship with her dad and how close she was to him. So who better than her to bring out the genuineness of the feeling of the song?

RG: And do justice to that emotion.

You have worked with singers like Sadhna Sargam, Shreya Ghoshal and Shaan for your Marathi songs. How do you work with them, with the lyrics and the meaning and emotion of the song?

RG: They are all fantastic in their own ways. Working with such talented singers is great. They understand the song and language really well. [Ghoshal] is one of the finest singers. She has done a lot of Marathi songs before, so she understands the language a lot now. And Shaan is a fantastic singer. 

There are three songs in Bucket List and all three are hits. Do you have a recipe for hit numbers? How much do you argue when arriving at that recipe?

RP: I don’t think we have many arguments. But what we do is keep the song simple. A simple melody works wonders. When it is melodious, people can relate to it and remember it after one hearing. That is always what we strive for. We think it is easier to make difficult songs by adding a lot of chords and all that, but then it may not connect with people. Simplicity works best. 

'Tu Pari' from Bucket List does stick in the mind after one hearing. Do you get a sense when composing a song whether it will work with the listeners?

RP: We have a gut feeling somewhere, but as long as we like it and we are confident about the team liking it and it is in synch with the film, [we believe] it is a satisfactory product. And when people hear it and like it, it just gives us more confidence.

As a music composer duo coming from Marathi films into Hindi cinema and doing it quite successfully, there will be comparisons with Ajay-Atul. What do you think about that?

RP: Number one is that they are legends. They have brought attention to the Marathi film industry. Considering that, they are pioneers for us. It would be overwhelming to be compared to them. 

RG: We ourselves love their work. Fantastic composers.

Where do you see yourselves as a composer duo making a name for yourselves in Marathi cinema and also breaking into Hindi?

RP: As long as we get to do what we love doing the most in life... we love to make music and we get paid to do it! You got to follow your passion and if you get paid for it what else do you want? 

RG: It’s too early right now. It has only been a few years since we started working... [we are] just enjoying at the moment. 

A lot of merging of pop and other contemporary genres with a regional Maharashtrian flavour has been happening. Do you see that as a trend in Marathi film music?

RP: There is no real trend in Marathi film music. There is rural filmmaking and urban filmmaking when it comes to the Marathi industry. What has always worked in Marathi is melody. Whether you compose it in a rural sort of way or a very urban sort of a way. If you keep the melody strong and it is hummable, people will love listening to it, irrespective of genre.