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Two years since Sohail Sen started out in Ashutosh Gowariker’s What’s Your Raashee?,the young composer has taken great strides ahead with the success of Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and signing Ek Tha Tiger with Salman Khan.

Written by Rajiv Vijayakar |
September 23, 2011 12:31:44 pm

Two years since Sohail Sen started out in Ashutosh Gowariker’s What’s Your Raashee?,the young composer has taken great strides ahead with the success of Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and signing Ek Tha Tiger with Salman Khan.

How did your entry into Yash Raj Films happen?

I was recording for Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey at Yash Raj Studios when I met Adiji (Aditya Chopra). I straightaway told him that I would love to work with him as my great-uncle and father,Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen,had composed Aaina and Yeh Dillagi for Yash (Chopra)ji and the banner. Adi wanted to listen to my compositions. We had a meeting as soon as I was free from that film. One week after that,he signed me for Mere Brother Ki Dulhan,which is doubly special because it is the banner’s 50th project. The banner has also completed 40 years.

After two films with Javed Akhtar,you are working with Irshad Kamil here. How would you compare the veteran with the new frontliner?

Javedsaab is such a legendary veteran that he is a fountain of knowledge. He would explain how the lyrics and the tunes would blend and taught me many technicalities,which was a great advantage as I was starting out. Irshadbhai was a chilled-out person and because he is around my age,I could be free with him. Working with both was very pleasant.

How would you compare working with Ashutosh Gowariker vis-a-vis Aditya Chopra and Ali Abbas Zafar?

Adi was always there as a guide at every stage though my musical sittings were with my director. YRF believes in very commercial music and there was a largeness in the song,with a lot of dhol-dhamaka as is there with most big banners. With Ashutoshji,it was more of a soft and minimalist sound.

Which was more difficult,challenging or enjoyable for you?

The challenges are there in both,and I enjoy both approaches. When I began work on my first film I gave it my 110 per cent. I still do that with every movie because my grandfather always taught me that koi bhi kaam chhota nahin hota. Yes,there is a danger in the Mere Brother …kind of score that one can over-produce in the sound design. But one great aspect of working with Yash Raj Films for a composer is the way they facilitate results and quality: we have the best equipment,technicians and recording engineers and we are free to work as and when we want because the recording studios also belong to them. This boosts a composer’s confidence levels.

As it happens,every film you have scored has had a different setting.

Yes,and I believe in being faithful to the subject and timeframe. Like when I signed Khelein …,many of my well-wishers thought,“This is not a typical commercial project. How can such a young composer deal with a period film set in Bengal?” But I used 90 percent live instruments and people liked my work. In Mere Brother…,the demands were different.

We liked the way you used a rock sound of the guitar in completely ethnic songs like Dhunki and Kaisa yeh isq hai.

I always love using instruments atypically. But yes,they should sound good and it should not be done just for the sake of experimenting.

The playback singers of Mere Brother … are a curious blend of old and new. Like Neha Bhasin has sung a song seemingly tailor-made for Sunidhi Chauhan and KK is sounding very unlike KK.

Neha Bhasin and KK,at different times,were both unanimous choices that came up between my director,Irshadbhai and me. If Sunidhi had Dhunki,it would have sounded like just another song in this genre. As for KK in the title-track,I told him to follow my singing as I had envisioned the song in a certain way. KK did that completely,and he understood when I told him that he had to sound different and yet be unmistakably KK!

Why have you not sung a single track this time after dominating What’s Your Raa-shee? and singing in your second film too?

(Laughs) There was no song for me here!

Composers have their own favourites in a score. Which is yours?

I would say that Kaisa yeh isq hai is special because working with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan-saab was a fabulous experience. I really got to learn a lot of things from him. I had sent him the track and asked him to sing in a certain way. He records the way the legendary singers did—the full song at one go. And he completed the recording here in Mumbai in 15 minutes flat!

Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen were known for their catchy vocal choruses in at least one song in each film,like Goriya re in Aaina. Has anything like that rubbed off on you?

Yes,I have tried that in Madhubala.

Your father and great-uncle worked as musicians with Laxmikant-Pyarelal and always spoke of their influences of L-P as well as of Shankar-Jaikishan and R.D. Burman. Which seniors,if any,have been influences for you?

My grandfather,the late Shambhu Sen,initiated and trained me in classical music. I learnt so much from Dilipji,who is my grand-uncle,my father Sameer Sen and a lot from my uncle Lalit (Sen)ji as well. My great-grandfather Jamal Sen has also been a major influence on me.

As for the legends you mention and others like them,I have grown up listening to them all and my koshish will always be to give that same Hindi film colour to my music. I believe that Hindi cinema’s music has a sound,and filmmakers who pay attention to their music always want that. There was a time when ek Indipop jaisa daur aaya tha. But things changed for the better last year. Look at the newest names on the block—Ajay-Atul in Singham or Mithoon in Murder 2—there is a movement back to the sound of Hindi cinema.

You also prefer to compose the background score,like the old-school composers.

I think there is a sense of belonging if one does the complete music. Also,agar maine gaane banaaye hain,then I can compose the background score accordingly as I will know exactly where to place some of the song themes in the score to boost the right impact.

And how do you feel that you are working with a mega-star like Salman Khan in what is only your fourth film,Ek Tha Tiger?

It’s great to realise that I am working with Salman Khan and I owe it to Adiji that he thought me worthy of doing the film.

How much does Salman contribute to the music?

I have met him once after signing the film and was taken aback by how down-to-earth and friendly he is. Salmanbhai has a great sense of music,which is obvious from the songs of his films. Right now,I am working on the score with director Kabir Khan,lyricist Neelesh Misra and Adiji.

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