Shekhar Ravjiani of the Vishal-Shekhar composing duo talks about his exciting musical journey in Bollywood, his Chennai connection and more
He, along with Vishal Dadlani, leads the new Bollywood sound brigade. Music composer Shekhar Ravjiani, who is also known for his distinct voice, was in Chennai in connection with his upcoming movie Chennai Express. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with the composer:
You are once again in Chennai after your IIT Madras concert in January. What do you like about the city, musically and otherwise?
It feels good because I get to meet new musicians every time I come here. I’ve often collaborated with composer-singer Gopi Sunder, who is popular in Malayalam cinema. He has been arranging music for us for a long time now. We worked together on movies such as Taxi 9211, Bluffmaster and Home Delivery and now Chennai Express. In fact, the ‘Ajab Si’ song from Om Shanti Om was also recorded at Gopi’s studio in Chennai. Chennai Express, an action romance directed by Rohit Shetty, requires a lot of music from South India.
Yesterday, we recorded with Keba, a phenomenal guitarist, and Tirumurthi who played the nadaswaram. What’s more, the food here is fantastic — as usual, my first stop on arrival was Saravana Bhavan.
From being a contestant on Sa Re Ga Ma on Zee TV to becoming one of the most sought-after music directors in Bollywood, how do you look back at your musical journey?
I started making ad films even before I entered Sa Re Ga Ma as a contestant. It was way back in 1994; my friend persuaded me to audition for the show. There were a number of singers from different gharanas. I hesitated initially, but he convinced me to give it a shot. I did and got selected. I used to work with Mukul Anand where I met his assistant Raj Kaushal. When Raj embarked on a film project, Pyar Mein Kabie Kabhie. he asked me to compose a couple of songs and sing one (‘Dil se mere door na jaana’) — that’s how my musical journey began.
You write and sing. How do you add value to the brand Vishal-Shekhar?
I met a group at Gopi’s studio who were making ad films and they appreciated my work in Shanghai and Student of the Year. They also told me that with this we are now officially on the power list. I told them that these things do not matter to me. As long as I am satisfied with my work and it is liked by people, I am happy. I treat every film of mine as my first. The day you feel you have achieved something, you should pack up and leave.
If you ask me what my contribution is, all I can say is my father, a great accordion player, and my gurus have helped me understand music. Sometimes, even if you understand the emotions, you would not be able to bring them out in your music. And that’s where I think I score.
Do you think the music scene has changed post Jhankar Beats?
It has changed drastically. The scripts have changed, so have the directors — newcomers have entered the field. In fact, one witnesses this change every 10 years. You’re thrilled when the audience responds positively to something radically new. I feel happy when movies such as English Vinglish and Kahaani get appreciated. As artistes, we should learn to evolve with time.
How has your experience with regional music, especially after you composed ‘Saazni,’ your first Marathi single, been?
‘Saazni’ has been magical. I remember sitting in my studio and humming this song, when Marathi film director Ravi Jadhav walked in. Having loved Marathi music from a young age, I asked him if he knew any Marathi lyricist. He asked if he could write it and promised to give it to me in two days. When I got the lyrics, my engineer who is a guitar player went on to record the basic track. It took about three hours for us to finish the entire song and all that was needed was a video to go with it. By then I had decided whatever I made out of this album would go towards charity. I worked with a director to shoot the video which was also done in a matter of hours. And once I uploaded it on YouTube, the reactions have been phenomenal.
What would you like to listen to when you want to unwind?
I listen to my songs to make sure they sound all right. When my friends talk about their favourites from movies, I get the CD and listen to them. While travelling I let my iPod on shuffle mode so it plays a range of music.
What can we expect from Vishal-Shekhar in the near future?
We are doing some interesting projects and you will get to hear about them next year. We are also composing the music for Farah Khan’s Happy New Year, and an untitled one with Punit Malhotra.