His soundtrack for Gulaal has blown us away. Piyush Mishra on music and sarfaroshi,Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Bharadwaj and missing out on Maine Pyar Kiya
How did Anurag Kashyap convince you to multitask in Gulaal?
Ive known Anurag since he and Imtiaz Ali used to watch my plays in Delhi. In July 2002,I had gone to meet him when he was planning Gulaal. I was also starting from scratch in Mumbai and Anurag was stuck after Paanch. He wasnt too sure what he wanted to do with Gulaals music. I just happened to mention a song that I had composed,Yaara maula. Anurag loved it and offered me the film. He immediately called up Vishal Bharadwaj and told him that Id be composing,writing the lyrics and also singing in Gulaal. Once he restarted the shooting in 2005,he offered me the role of Prithvi Bana and I agreed.
Anurag told me that it took you seven days to compose as well as write the music of Gulaal. True?
Most of the songs used in Gulaal have been with me for over 25 years. The only difference is that they were written for theatre so very few people know of them. I just improvised them for Gulaal. I have about 250 songs and poems ready.
Youve got recognition after 25 years of quality work. Long overdue,dont you think?
I agree. Initially I went through a false ego phase where I pretended to myself and others that I dont care for popularity or recognition. But now that Ive tasted success,I can confess that I was restless in Delhi because almost all my friends had come to Mumbai and made it. Yes,it used to disturb me that Id done so much work which has not come out and I used to wonder if it ever would. Thanks to Anurag Kashyap,my work is out there now. Im glad that Gulaal happened now. All those years of introspection reflect in my work.
The lyrics of Aarambh seem to be soaked in veer ras. What was your inspiration?
The scene was the inspiration. Ab jab marne,katne ki baat ho rahi hai toh,we needed something full of fire. I compose as I write so Im not sure what was going on in my mind.
How many times did you hear the original Sahir Ludhianvi song (Pyaasa)?
Not once. I remembered the tune of Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai and used that one line. The composition is amazing but Sahirs poetry is not that impressive. That song is all about helplessness and self-pity and has a defeatist tone,whereas Gulaals Duniya is full of fire.
You also reinterpreted Bismils Sarfaroshi ki tamanna for the film.
The challenge was to make Bismils poetry accessible to the MTV-Barista generation. Thankfully,Im not a purist so there were no mental blocks. I had my reservations about whether youngsters would be able to connect with it. But I underestimated them.
And now youre being hailed as the new-age Bismil?
(Laughs) Haan kuch logon ko lagta hai ki Bismil aur Bhagat Singh ke baad main hi krantikaari hoon. Can you imagine,people have been calling me to know what I think of Freida Pinto being the next Bond girl? My response to that one is that I think every girl is a Bond girl!
Any plans of joining politics?
Arre Ram ka naam lo! I have been offered a ticket by a political party. But Im not keen.
But youve been previously aligned with the Left?
Well,you can say that Im still a Leftist provided they accept that the same God who gave me birth also gave birth to Karl Marx. Ive come to realise that there is some power above. Im not God but if you believe that there is some power above you,at least youll find someone. Karl Marx was an achiever but his followers are idiots.
Having worked with both Vishal Bharadwaj and Anurag Kashyap,can you tell us how different are their styles of working?
Diametrically opposite. Vishal wants everything on paper,he has already edited the film in his head. He doesnt allow any improvisation and is very conscious of the graph of the film. Anurag is more instinctive and sometimes decides what he will do only at the location. He tells his actors,Keep doing whatever you want to and Ill keep the camera rolling. He is not particularly bothered about the graph of the film. If you tell him that certain portions are dragging and will bore the audience,hes like,let them get bored!
What about your Maqbool colleagues,Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah?
In dono ki baat hi kuch aur hai. They were in the same batch at National School of Drama (NSD) and Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Both are pioneers who have made cinema accessible to ordinary people. For them,work is a picnic. They are so well attuned to each others space that it feels like one person is acting even though they come from diverse acting schools. Naseer is all about method while in the case of Puri saab,one wonders when he rehearses. He is equally at ease with David Dhawan as with Steven Spielberg.
Are you still bitter about The Legend of Bhagat Singh?
The fact is that Rajkumar Santoshi took scenes out of my play on Bhagat Singh,Gagan Damama Bajyo. I wasnt given any credit,except the courtesy thanks. It used to rankle me to see written by Anjum Rajabali,but now Im at peace.
Why didnt you say anything during the Aaja Nachle song controversy?
Yash Raj Films instructed me not to comment since they were sending out an official statement. I found the whole thing ridiculous. Mochi ko mochi nahin bolenge toh kya bolenge! There is this shoe firm called Mochi,go and shut that down. This is going out of proportion. Imagine telling them to remove the word barber from Billu Barber! I was prepared to apologise for Aaja Nachle but who do I say sorry to? I refuse to be a part of this debating society India is becoming.
Do you miss theatre?
I dont. I gave 20 years to it and Ive moved on to cinema. I humbly accept that unlike cinema,theatre is not an industry in our country.
So no regrets on missing out on Maine Pyar Kiya?
(Smiles) Can you imagine? In 1986,when I was in my third year at NSD,Professor (Mohan) Maharishi called me to his office and introduced me to Rajkumar Barjatya. He was launching his son Sooraj as a director and needed a new face for the heros role. He gave me his card and told me to come down to Mumbai. Its a mystery why I didnt. It took me another 11 years to get here. I presume it was for Salman Khans role. No regrets,since that was the beginning of my grand obsession with theatre.