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Interview Hindi

The learning never stops, says Vishal Bhardwaj ahead of Bollywood Music Project performance

The music composer and filmmaker will be headlining the first day of the upcoming music festival, Bollywood Music Project 5.0, on 20 and 21 December.

Sonal Pandya

After composing the soundtrack of Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya (2019) earlier this year, Vishal Bhardwaj has had a relatively quiet 2019. His last directorial venture Pataakha (2018), starring Radhika Madan and Sanya Malhotra, was critically acclaimed, but he hasn’t announced any film as director yet.

Instead, the music composer-turned-filmmaker will be performing as headliner on the first day of the fifth edition of the Bollywood Music Project after artists like Ash King, Lisa Mishra, Neha Mishra, B Praak, and DIVINE. In an e-mail interview, Bhardwaj spoke about performing live, his musical inspirations and how he feels like a learner even after 35 years in the industry.

You will be headlining the first day of the festival. How does it feel performing live in front of an audience?

It’s always exciting to perform in front of a live audience especially because in films one doesn't get to see the immediate impact and reaction of the music.

At a music festival like this one, with so many different artists, how do you interact with all different artists? Do you like watching other artists' sets as well?

I love to see other people’s performances, but when you are performing yourself you like to remain in your head space and concentrate on your own performance.

As you have composed the music for all your directorial ventures, does it give you an added vantage point when creating your films?

It’s actually the other way round. When I create my films it gives me the advantage to create the songs and music of my taste. I become my own master.

What is your process like during composition of the score and songs of your films? Do you pen down thoughts and ideas whenever they strike you?

As I write a script, many situations for music emerge and many a time I compose tunes while writing itself. Instead of penning them down I record them on my phone as voice notes and keep brushing them.

How do you stay inspired when it comes to music? What do you listen to?

Mainly I listen to Western classical and Indian classical. With regards to popular or good music, it reaches me through friends.

Whom do you go to for new music recommendations?

My young assistant directors.

Which film album did you labour on the most? Which was the easiest?

Talvar (2015) was the most laborious since the subject inherently didn’t have scope for music but the producers wanted to release an album. Hence, to make the songs a part of a tragic crime thriller was the most challenging part. All others have been very easy since the script had the situations already worked out.

Next year will mark 25 years for you in the industry. How far do you think you have come since you began with Abhay (1995)? How have you changed since then?

My first film was actually Wahem (1987) in 1984 so it’s more than 35 years I have been in the industry. I think I have come a long way and I have been changing every year, every month, every moment. The learning never stops. The moment you think you know, you encounter failure. It’s like a mirage, you never reach the horizon. It always keeps shifting for you.

Is there any long-standing unfinished project that you would still like to attempt?

There are many, but I believe you don’t make the project. The project comes on its own and gets itself made through you. This couplet from Ghalib captures my feelings the best: Hazaaron khwahishen aisi ke har khwahish pe dam nikle, Bahut niklay mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikle [Thousands of desires do I harbour, each to die for; Though many did come to pass, not enough did].

What projects are in the pipeline for you in the new decade?

If I reveal that to you now, what impact will it have later? There are many which I must keep close to my heart and announce at the appropriate time.