WHILE the Indian music industry boasts of many women playback singers, there aren’t too many in the category of music composers. In 2009, an 18-year old girl with a keyboard, mouth organ, guitar and tambourine created magic on television screens, reaching the semi-finals of a reality show, India’s Got Talent. Nine years later, Ludhiana’s Jasleen Royal is known for back-to-back hits like Nachde ne saare (Baar Baar Dekho), Love you zindagi (Dear Zindagi) and Din shagna da (Phillauri). It is not just Royal’s voice that makes her stand out, but that she has composed many of these hits as well. The latest additions to her growing list of Bollywood numbers are Teri dastaan from Yash Raj Films’ Hichki and Laaj sharam from Veere Di Wedding. Excerpts from an interview:
You started with indie music and your debut track, Panchi ho jaavaan, was a hit and won an MTV award. Now, with all the Bollywood assignments, do you miss the indie music scene?
The song was based on a poem by the great Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi. My independent compositions are very valuable for me. That is how I started and reached a point that I got big Bollywood assignments. Even today, whenever I get the time, I sit down, scribble lyrics and compose. One should never stop being creative. It would have been very easy for me to sit and just sing what is given by other music directors and composers. But that is not what my passion is. I have been playing multiple instruments since the beginning, so in no way can I stop creating independent compositions. I have no label and still do what I like.
Why do you think there aren’t many women music composers in India?
From what I have understood over the years, women in India do not have many role models in this field. There are not many names they can admire, follow and dream to be. Maybe that’s why music composition as a career is hardly an option for women. To opt for the field and start on a journey that is replete with struggle, one needs inspiration and encouragement.
Who has been your role model?
For girls to succeed and fly, a family has to give her wings. There was no discrimination between me and my brother. My family could see me playing keyboard and they never asked me to stop.
What does commercial success mean?
A song never becomes a super hit in one day. It takes weeks, months and sometimes more than a year. Sometimes, it is a hit even before the movie releases and maybe after months of release. Gradual success is better than an instant one because it helps you stay grounded and focussed on future projects. By the time a song becomes a hit, we are so immersed in the next project that we almost forget about it.
How different is it to work on independent compositions and those for a film?
It is way more challenging to work on a composition for a film because you have to cater to a storyline and a director’s vision for a situation. Cinema is a medium to communicate and reach out to a larger audience.
Lyricist and singer Swanand Kirkire was also seen with you in your composition, Maye ni. Do you see him as a role model?
Not a role model but a great friend, supporter and someone who has encouraged me since the beginning.
How were you in academics?
I was a bad student. I completed B.Com (Hons) from Delhi University. That decision was basically just to move out of Ludhiana and pursue music in the Capital.
After Hichki and Veere Di Wedding, what are you working on?
My next projects are Gully Boy (directed by Zoya Akhtar and starring Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh) and Gulab Jamun (Anurag Kashyap’s film that may have Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan in the lead).