Composer Mithoon Sharma talks about the his musical heritage, and the role it played in shaping his career
For Mithoon Sharma, a visit to the Tampa Bay Area to attend the International Indian Film Academy Awards was “a very personal experience”. “I heard so many versions of my song “Tum Hi Ho”. Some of them weren't even in Hindi. In some, the words were different, but the chorus had been retained. It was an example of how music can transcend boundaries, and it showed me how I had reached people through my work.” While Aashiqui 2 is his most recent success, breaking records and winning him numerous awards, Sharma has a number of other successful songs in his repertoire. Already becoming a known and respected name in the music industry, Sharma's trademark use of clean, simple and uncluttered compositions has earned favour across generations.
With a lineage that's dotted with musical talent and genius, Sharma’s own foray into the industry is hardly surprising. “When I was young, our house was always filled with film industry’s best and most talented musicians, lyricists, composers. I can’t deny the influence my family had on me. It made me want to follow this route from a very early age,” he says, adding that his own father, composer and arranger Naresh Sharma was both an inspiration and a teacher. “I started learning under him when I was 11, and he taught me that just making music didn’t make you a composer. You had to speak the truth through your words. And most importantly, you had to have a story, your own story, to tell.” While Sharma’s uncle Pyarelal formed one half of the legendary composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal, his grandfather was the renowned music teacher Pandit Ram Prasad Sharma. “I grew up watching these maestros at work, and a little of it rubbed off on me.” Sharma agrees though that his own work has to tell his own story. “I can't try and ape my father and uncle. If I do, my work will never stand out. I have to make my own way.”
Sharma got his first chance to tell his story at the age of 19. “I had decided that I wanted to be a music composer for movies at the age of 16, and started working towards that goal. With a family that was seeped in music and movies, I didn’t have to struggle much. But my work had to be good. In the end, it was that which got me the break.” His first break came in the form of Woh Lamhe from the movie Zeher. The song, becoming one of the biggest hits that year, also brought him other offers, including the movie that perhaps really launched Sharma's career. “I met Onir through Shailesh Singh. Onir’s movie was about the loneliness and alienation urban life can cause, and he thought that I would be able to do justice to the movie's soundtrack.” Sure enough, Sharma's work in Bas Ek Pal was in perfect harmony with the movie, and added countless names to his growing fan-base.
Today, Sharma says that while his work is always changing, from one song to the other, the foundation stays the same. “Of course, everyday, I have something new to say through my music, but each song always carries truth, and it's this truth that is the basis of my work.”
For Sharma, the process of composing music is purely organic, one that is tough to put into words. “I think that the music I compose for every movie should work towards furthering the movie’s plot. It should not be out of place and jarring.” Intent on composing the work he feels is the best representation of him and the film he is working on, Sharma steers clear of current trends and norms. “If I started doing what everyone is doing, my work wouldn't be my own, and I wouldn't be staying true to my beliefs.”