We don’t believe in popcorn music
At the risk of being too liberal, I would call them the Kalyanji – Anandji of our generation. In a chilled out chat with the two Gujju boys, Sachin – Jigar (Sachin Sanghvi & Jigar Saraiya), I realized how they make such foot-tapping yet soulful music. Read on as they take you along their journey from Tere Sang to ABCD 2.
What did each of you aspire to be before you met each other.
Sachin Sanghvi (SS) – I wanted to be an engineer. But like a true gujju chhokra I studied Commerce thinking I would take over my dad’s business eventually. Along the way, I realized I wasn’t good enough for that. (pauses thoughtfully) But, Oh God, I wanted to be so many other things.
And music happened.
S – Yes. Music almost dragged me into it. I accidentally sang for Hum Hain Raahi Pyaar Ke after which I learnt singing. I was never serious though. The turning point for me was in 1992, when Roja released. Like many youngsters then, I wanted to be A R Rahman. His influence made me learn the keyboard. I still wasn’t serious. It was only once I dropped out of my CA final year that I thought about pursuing music.
Jigar Saraiya (JS) – I was pursuing my MBA but I didn’t even go and see my CET result. I was assisting Rajesh Roshan at that time. On the day of the exam, there was a recording, I remember. I was paid INR 300 then. I realized how bored I was in the exam and how much more I enjoyed that recording. So I decided not to go back to books.
We know Amit Trivedi introduced the two of you to each other. But what was that moment of truth when you realized you made a great team?
SS – We met to share workload. Jigar dragged me into Roshan Saab’s studio to fill in Amit’s position. We always got along and did good work. Once we started arranging for Roshan Saab, we realized that there was some possibility in this combination and we could make a lot of money too. We didn’t do anything about it until much later when Pritam Sir sat us down and said that we had everything that a composer needs, between the two of us. We thought if someone like him thought this way, there must be something. That’s when we jumped into the scene. But we knew we were a team at Roshan Sir’s. My plusses are his weak points.
That was a question on the list. Since you mentioned it, tell me more about your strengths and weaknesses.
SS – When we sit down to work, a particular song may need role-plays. It may need us to do something we’ve never done before. The reason why there’s only one computer is that the person who sits in front of it will have more perception. We can both get lost in it. For me music doesn’t happen by putting four tracks into the computer. I cannot think like that. Jigar can create magic out of zero.
JS – You know we were always sure of working together but we weren’t sure of becoming music composers. We thought we were doing it for ourselves. We never sat down to say, ‘Aaj se hum saath mein kaam karenge.’ There was no ambition and there is no ambition.
Wow!! That’s some achievement for people with no ambition.
SS – We wouldn’t want to change this about us. We don’t aim to win awards or change our income group. This is all we know, this is all we do. Now that we are together for the past decade, we have realized it is God-made and we don’t want to rock the boat.
Your first independent project was F.A.L.T.U right?
JS – No. There was a small film called Tere Sang. We don’t credit ourselves for that film but I think we made the best songs for it. Probably the music was too ahead of its time because those kind of songs became popular later. That album belonged to Anu Malik. There were some budget issues and we happened to help out Satish Kaushik ji. We were not even ready to take the credit but Satish ji is a nice man and he gave us our due.
SS – Satish ji had come to us for a promotional song but he picked up more songs and ended up changing the entire album. This was accidental so F.A.L.T.U was, in a way, consciously our first official album.
Even today, if anyone happens to utter the words, ‘chaar baj gaye’, someone completes it with a ‘lekin party abhi baaki hai.’ In this day and age where songs come and go, the track still plays at parties when the clock strikes 4!
JS – All credit goes to Remo Sir. That was the brief that he had given us. He told us to make a song that never leaves the club.
SS – In our stint at Pritam Sir’s we met the who’s who of the industry and saw how an ordinary riff can be turned into a super duper hit song. We learnt the ingredients of how far one needs to go to make a song that clicks.
So is there a formula to that? What are the ingredients to make a hit song?
JS –There is no formula. If you’re true to yourself, you’ll realise that something you composed is too rasta chhaap or simple and you need to add class to it. Sometimes you may also make a song which is too refined and you need to tell yourself, ‘You are a musician, you like it, but the lay man won’t. So strip it down. Get a dholak.’
SS – We are two of us. Between us, we can finish an entire album. But it’s important to take a call as to when to involve other people and how to take it forward. There are a lot of factors rather than a preset formula. The only thing I can say is that we are director’s boys. The brief that a director installs can bring out the best in us. Coming back to Chaar Baj Gaye, the brief made the song. Remo Sir said, “Create a party song that you will not be ashamed of.”
JS – This was in 2010 when only bhangra was super hit. Everything about dance was Punjabi. He was the man who came and said that he did not want Punjabi, he did not want disco. He said he wanted a song that could be played at parties but first be played on the ipod. That meant that he wanted to keep it classy and yet accessible. That’s when we realized that no one had done hip-hop or rap. We said, we’d do it.
SS – I think the most important ingredient of a super hit song is the challenge. It is when someone pushes you to test your limits. When someone really believes in you and puts forward the task.
JS – All the films that we did with directors who trust us, got us to reintroduce ourselves. For Raj and D.K we did ‘Saaibo’, then a whacked out Go Goa Gone and then an out and out commercial Happy Ending. Similarly, during ABCD, Remo Sir said, I don’t want a super hit album. I want the songs to fit my film.
That’s a rare brief!
SS – We have been extremely lucky in that case.
JS – Sachin and I are really blessed because we started composing and the first thing that happened to us was Remo Sir. Then we met Priya (Panchal, now Saraiya). She was the one who started motivating us. Then came Divya (Kumar). The four of us make an inseparable combination. Mayur (Puri) bhai came a little later, though Sachin has known him for 15 years. We are family now and the last thing we think about is what music we will make.
How easy or difficult is it to work as a duo?
SS – Very easy. There are lots of advantages. There is one thought but two brains. The energy will never drop. He can take it from where I leave it. There are different perspectives and that clash can give birth to a new idea.
JS – We’ve been going mad for the past five days. One of us sleeps and the other works.
SS – The only important thing is to keep the third person view on so one knows where the song is going. Being a duo only helps. I feel if we weren’t together we would have both burnt out.
JS – I am sure we wouldn’t even have made it.
Love the positivity and enthusiasm. So how does this duo divide the work? What are your individual roles?
JS – This is an inside story. If there’s a presentation in the morning and we don’t have a song, Sachin can have a tune ready while he drives down from Juhu to Andheri, even the lyrics, maybe. If there is a background presentation, I can put four kicks together and make sure we have something to present. We have our own advantages where we make sure that at least the basics of the meeting are sorted. We never land up in a meeting without an idea.
SS – We have surprised each other and the songs have gone on to be super hits too. But we’ve stopped thinking now. We just identify what is required and the seed of the song.
And you guys know who has to do what? Is it all mutual understanding?
SS – Not really! We are procrastination kings.
JS – Even if we are working on a song for six months, it is actually made in the last four days.
Wow! That’s close.
JS– If you’re sure of your partner, the marriage can never break.
Nice. How do you normally approach a film?
SS – We come from a theater background so script will always be the nucleus of any media.
So do you make sure you read the script well?
SS – At least five or six narrations… Jigar is great at reading scripts but I am handicapped when it comes to that. I take a narration from him or bug the life out of the producer. You always need the right sur to crack an album.
JS – I always come back to Go Goa Gone because that is an album that makes me think how did this happen. The film got postponed for a very long time after it was announced. Everywhere we went after that, we were asked questions about the project. We had songs but we didn’t know where it was going. It was too weird and whacked. But Raj and D.K kept pushing us to whack it out more. They said Babaji ki booti didn’t need singers. It was all about laymen so we all sang it out. There are these directors who will believe in you. Bezubaan was a ballet song. Remo Sir told us to put a hip-hop beat on it. Khooni Monday was a situation in the film even before the song. All this comes from the script. So, yes, the script does it for us.
And what about projects where you are approached for just one song?
JS – We usually say no.
But you have done single numbers too.
SS – That is only for relationships. But we are putting it out there and making sure we express ourselves. People do feel bad but we don’t believe in popcorn music.
Coming to ABCD 2. You had already worked on the first one. You had already set the bar. It is a film based on dance yet again. How challenging was that?
SS – Between Mayur bhai and Jigar, we wanted to make this album accessible. We wanted the album to do well first and then help the film.
Now that’s the exact opposite of the brief for the first movie.
JS – For that (ABCD), we were all on the same page that this is the first dance film and if anything about it looked pseudo, it would not work.
SS – ABCD 2 has around ten songs. We knew that Remo Sir wanted a certain kind of music. But we decided that at least six out of these should be popular tunes, whether classy or massy or composed technical brilliantly, the layman should get it. ABCD was different for us because we had to meet the challenge of giving Remo Sir what he wanted. For ABCD 2, the fact that Varun (Dhawan) and Shraddha (Kapoor) are in it makes it different. Varun has superb energy. He inspires people and has knowledge about music too. His inclusion gave us the liberty to have a close lip sync. We didn’t have that option in ABCD. The dancers did such a brilliant job that there was no scope for such songs. This time that we had Varun, we could do a tune like ‘If you hold my hand.’ Remo Sir told us right at the start of ABCD 1 that this would be India’s first 3D dance film. There was really no one to beat then. For ABCD 2, there was immense pressure. Be it from production, from cast or the audiences.
JS – When we thought of it, we knew we didn’t want to do a ‘Saadi ke faul sa’, although it was a Mayur Puri – Pritam and Prabhudeva song, who are all our favourites. Remo Sir said, let’s make Prabhudeva do a hip hop. He is a director who believes in his script and knows which song should promote his film and fits in well. We are all on the same page that we do not want to fool ourselves or the audiences.
SS – There were many challenges and we did feel the pressure until we cracked it. We realized after the first few songs that we were taking it too seriously. We decided to just let it happen on its own.
JS – There were a lot of things Remo Sir made us undo in ABCD. He clearly said, ‘Let’s not do this now. Let’s keep it for ABCD 2.’
SS – ‘Sun Saathiya’ was a part of the background score initially but we decided not to release it first. When Remo Sir narrates something, he leaves you with the idea for a long time.
Do you feel, at times, that you have composed a great song but there’s no situation or album where it fits in?
SS – Yes. It happens. But you’re not composing for yourself. If there were a song like that, we would put it in our Coke Studio episode, which we did. The script is the nucleus. It will churn out and absorb what it wants to. Like ‘Chunar’ in ABCD 2. If we hadn’t given the movie this song, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything else. We’re making songs for a script, not for ourselves.
JS– But it doesn’t feel like that. Remo sir gets you involved so much in the film that you’ll feel like this is not what the film wants. So you end up composing for yourself. If he doesn’t like the song, he just says, ‘Let’s try and if you can’t come up with anything better, we’ll use this.’ You need to understand that he hasn’t liked it then.
You also sing, right?
SS – Jigar has got the voice. We have both sung in this album.
Jigar, you’re also married to a singer and lyricist. How do you decide what you want to outsource or what you want to get done in-house.
Jigar – I don’t decide. I am never convinced. It is a singer’s job and I am not trained. Priya is. But I try to avoid singing.
But what about the songs you have sung? You have a long discography to your credit as a singer.
SS – Those were scratches that could not be beaten. I will always maintain that anyone can sing well but all of them may not be good playback singers. When you close your eyes and listen, it may not be the best. Jigar has that gift of God and that’s why we put his voice out there. These are our babies and we are the best guys to emote.
So does it ever happen that the producer or director instantly like a scratch and say that’s the final?
SS – Most times.
JS – We sing all our scratches. For ABCD 2, we sang all the songs but none of them stayed. If it is convincing, we would know.
You’ve done party numbers and also good soulful songs too. How do you manage that balance?
SS – We would get bored doing the same thing again. It will always depend on what the script demands. When we did ‘Jeene Laga Hoon’, we wanted to do a love song which would stay minus the film. We just go with the director’s vision. If the director thinks there should be a song like this, then there should.
Talking of ‘Johnny Johnny’. How do you manage lyrics like that without going crass?
SS – Jigar is on the lyricist’s tail. He can really think out of the box. He would never spare anyone till we get the right amount of quirk. I appreciate that about him. He knows the fine line between quirky and cheap. He himself has the knack of writing these weird lines. He can break it down and put it into words. For instance take the ‘Monday’ song. There was a thought there but to compare a dove to Monday is something. He is quite random that way.
JJ – Johnny Johnny actually came up from a challenge. This certain person had told us that if we didn’t have a song in two days, he would pick another song which he had liked. So it was more of a survival instinct.
SS – In the first presentation, Jigar came up with the line – Maine pee naiiii hai, which, is what the idea of the song was. In the next jam session with Mayur, we said, let’s make a nursery rhyme for drunkards.
Which has been your most challenging album till date?
JS – Every album brings a new challenge because we have to outdo ourselves. For a very long time we felt that Go Goa Gone was the one, then came ABCD 2.
SS – For me it will always be Badlapur.
That movie didn’t need songs.
SS – Exactly that was the brief. Sriram Sir told us that his film didn’t need songs and they better be good enough for him to put them in the film. Something so gritty, so true to his genre and very honest had to be done for a song like ‘Jeena Jeena’. The process was quite smooth since we all got along very well. But now when I look back, I don’t think we will be able to do something like that again. I wish we are thrown against scripts like this more often.
JS – Off late, ABCD 2 has been the biggest challenge. We were not making Indian music. It needed something that a dance film could host. We had to use Hip Hop and other genres and adapt it without sounding wannabe.
SS – Let me put it this way. Rahman Sir did Roja and then he did Thiruda Thiruda, Bombay, Dil Se and many others, but there will never be another Roja. It is like that. Today when you think about it, Badlapur songs just happened.
JS – For ABCD 2, we had to sit down and make songs.
SS – We took around three months to crack ‘Jeena Jeena’ and that’s when you need a producer’s belief.
JS – Remo Sir, Raj and DK always tell us that they will always wait for the song. We took six months to crack ‘Chaar Baj Gaye’, ‘Saaibo’ took four mon.
SS – Even before Bezubaan, we didn’t have anything for three months. On the day of the shoot we got the tune and came back and composed it.
What makes you do Coke Studio? It is not exactly a commercial platform. There is a niche audience for that kind of music.
SS – Pure satisfaction. I wish we could lay out art forms without worrying about commercials. We did Coke Studio because we are indebted to our Gujarati roots. That was our payback. If Laadki has inspired even one individual in Gujarat, we have done our job.
Who is your favorite lyricist?
JS – I would have loved to work with Anand Bakshi. He was the one person who knew where to draw the line between crass and quirky. That said, we’ve found our own Anand Bakshi in Mayur Bhai and Priya.
SS – I am a big fan of Mayur Puri. He is someone who can write ten drafts and still accept a negative response from us. The best thing about him and Priya is that they themselves tell us that we should work with Javed Saab or Nilesh Misra. If there is a certain song they can’t crack, they graciously accept it.
SS – I love Anushka Manchanda. She is Asha Bhosle for me. She is a sister and family to us. Great character, great sense of music. Among the boys, I loved KK and now it’s Arijit (Singh).
JS – For me, there’s this guy called Siddharth Basrood whom I have started following. He is an independent guy and does good music.