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Thursday, August 02, 2001

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Raring to go

WHILE HOLIDAYING in Goa, Ehsaan Noorani met a Nazi German from Argentina. That meeting triggered the young man's curiosity about the Holocaust and World War II. "It's my current passion. I've seen 'Schindler's List' 19 times," he says.

Sure, Ehsaan Noorani wants to know all about Hitler and World War II, but what he is passionate about is music. He is part of the three-member composer team, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, that is doing Kamal Hasan's "Abhay" (Alavandhan) and Farhan Akhtar's "Dil Chhata Hai". The trio made it big with the score for the recent "Mission Kashmir".

"Ehsaan is a brilliant guitarist," is how one of his friends describes him. But what many do not know is that Ehsaan is the man behind such popular ad jingles as 'Give Me Red,' Cadbury's Five Star, Cadbury's Perk and Close-up.

In Chennai to wrap up work on "Dil Chhata Hai," Ehsaan is ready to share his thoughts on music, Kamal Hasan, Farhan and the forthcoming projects.

"I am a Mumbai boy, born and bred here," is how he starts the conversation. "I used to play the guitar in school, and later took formal lessons. I also worked with a couple of local bands."

A one-year course in professional guitar from the Musicians' Institute in Los Angeles, and Ehsaan headed straight to the Mumbai studios to freelance for jingle composers like Louis Banks and film musicians Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Kalyanji-Anandji.

In 1989, Ehsaan met Loy "who was working with Ranjit Barot." That was the beginning of a fruitful relationship, with "both of us composing jingles".

The Pepsi jingle was yet another turning point. "Ranjit composed the jingle with Mukul Anand and Shankar Mahadevan was the singer. "That was how Loy and I met Shankar." While Shankar and Ehsaan compose the basic melodies, Loy takes care of the arrangements.

Mukul Anand's ambitious project "Dus" saw the trio stepping into Bollywood. Remembers Ehsaan, "Mukul called me up and told me about "Dus". My instinctive reaction was fright. I felt this is not our scene. But Mukul was confident."

Ehsaan wanted to work with Shankar and Mukul gave the go-ahead. "I wanted Loy, who was all the while in the background, to be part of the team." And the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy team was born.

"I remember the producers' reaction. At the muhurat, they wanted to know who the composers were. Mukul pointed out to us and said, "Those three guys." Then who are the musicians?" Again Mukul said "those three guys", and when asked who the arrangers were, the reply was "the three guys again". The producers were sceptical."

Of course, Mukul was sure about it. Though the film never took off following Mukul's untimely death, the title song of the album caught on.

By then, the team felt things may not turn out well for them. "Shool", "Dillagi" and one song for Nagesh Kukunoor's "Rockford" did nothing much to boost their career. Till that call from Vidhu Vinod Chopra. "Mission Kashmir" happened and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy were noticed. "That was a great experience."

Talking about Farhan Akhtar and "Dil Chhata Hai", the Mumbaikar says, "Farhan told us that he was making his debut, and that he might or might not sign us. Then we did the title track. Farhan loved it and we were on."

"Aalavandhan/Abhay" is yet another prestigious and "exciting project." The music is quite bizarre. And Kamal Hasan? "Oh he is a very interesting person. We vibed well, both on a personal and professional level. In fact, we discussed topics other than music and cinema," gushes the young composer.

Besides music and World War II, Ehsaan loves animals, especially dogs. He also enjoys watching movies, "though the only Tamil film I've seen is Nayakan."

Blues and electronic music are his personal favourites as is A. R. Rahman. "We worship Rahman's music."

Future plans include a non-film album in Hindi and Tamil, and Rohan Sippy's "Kuch Na Kaho".


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