A brand new sound cocktail

At 11, Sachin Sanghvi was prepping to become the next Kumar Sanu. He’d already made his playback debut in the Aamir Khan-Juhi Chawla starrer Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (1993). Like most Indian children, he too trained in Hindustani classical vocals. “And then Roja happened and changed everything. Rahman was the reason I learnt to play the keyboard and realized that we could program music on computers,” says the 30-year-old composer when we meet at his north Mumbai studio.

Jigar Mukul Saraiya, his 26-year-old work partner, joins us later at their dimly lit workspace. Groggy-eyed, both look ready to go back to sleep.

The 36-inch Vu monitor throws the brightest light in the studio. Its desktop wallpaper is a photo of Sachin’s three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Tanishka. A tiny altar in one corner holds several idols of the Hindu god Ganesh. Besides a fear of God, Sachin-Jigar, as they are known, are also terrified of budding lyricists who haven’t stopped calling since their first big hit Char baj gaye lekin party abhi baki hai from the campus flick F.A.L.T.U., which released in April. “This is why we prefer working at night. No calls, no distractions. It’s just you and your music,” Sachin says. Ten minutes into the interview and the phone has rung several times. Sachin says sheepishly, “Lyricists.”

Out of the box: (above) Composers Sachin-Jigar; and folk rocker Raghu Dixit. Photo Zafar Sianwala/Mint

Incidentally, it was Sameer, the veteran songwriter who is an influential figure in film circles, who helped Sachin-Jigar land their debut film project Teree Sang (2009). Former Bombay Vikings singer Neeraj Shridhar pushed Sameer into listening to their tunes. Sridhar, a long-time collaborator with Pritam, saw promise in Sachin-Jigar, who then worked as music arrangers. The soundtracks for Teree Sang and the Mehul Kumar-directed Krantiveer (2010) went unnoticed. But F.A.L.T.U. and more recently, Shor in the City, have turned the spotlight on the duo.

For Shor in the City, the composers juxtaposed textured Indian classical sounds (sitar and violin) with rock and pop sounds to produce tracks such as Saibo with Tochi Raina and Shreya Ghoshal on playback. The result wasn’t different from what the likes of Amit Trivedi (Dev. D, 2009) or Sneha Khanwalkar (Love Sex aur Dhokha, 2010) are known for, but Sachin-Jigar credit Pritam, one of the most mainstream names in the industry, with having directed their sound.

At work, Sachin tweaks the melodies and Jigar works on the rhythm. “We enjoy using sounds that contradict each other, but it’s Pritam sir who taught us how to divide our skills and how to strike the right balance,” says Sachin, citing the example of Prem ki Naiya from Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani, which they had arranged for Pritam. “At the heart of it there was a UP (Uttar Pradesh) folk flavour, but we also aimed for a Western country sound.”

The biggest endorsement for folk music will be Karan Johar’s next production—the remake of the Amitabh Bachchan cult film Agneepath slated to release this year. Johar signed on composers Ajay-Atul, who won the National Award for their score in the Marathi film Jogwa (2009). Agneepath, originally set in rural Maharashtra and Mumbai, needed large-scale orchestral sound similar to what Laxmikant-Pyarelal had scored for the original. Johar zeroed in on Ajay-Atul after watching Natrang (2010), another Marathi film.

Yash Raj Films’ just-launched Y-Films, a new youth films studio, has roped in Bangalore-based folk rocker Raghu Dixit to score for Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, a romcom set against the backdrop of social networking. “We wanted a live sound, not a regular Bollywood score with one dream sequence, one love song and one sad song,” says Ashish Patil, who heads Y-Films.

“We’ve been bringing in artistes from the live circuit,” says Patil, referring to Suman Sridhar, who lent her vocals to a track called Luv ka The End. Sridhar bends soul, jazz, funk and opera. Most recently, she featured on the soundtrack of the Nameeta Nair-produced 404, composed by actor Imaad Shah. The film’s score has been composed by actor Imaad Shah who fronts a funk/rock ‘n’ roll band The Pulp Society. The songs on the album are devoid of the jangle expected from a rocker and focus instead on lyrics and vocals. Sridhar’s track includes tapori-style lyrics that take potshots at politicians. “In a few years, the entire soundscape of Bollywood will change if this trend continues,” says Dixit.

Sachin-Jigar have also had the backing of big names from the start. For instance, Jigar’s natural affinity for percussion was noticed early on by composer Rajesh Roshan. “Rajeshji was my first teacher. At 17, he told me to learn programming and keyboards. He said, ‘Ab acoustic ka zamana gaya’,” recalls Jigar, referring to the end of the live orchestra era. Jigar dropped out of his MBA midway to begin arranging for Roshan in films such as Krrish and Krazzy 4. Meanwhile, Sachin too had abandoned the idea of turning into a chartered accountant to begin arranging music for TV serials. “Once the dhokla-khakra connection was made, we realized we worked extremely well together,” jokes Sachin. The arranger partnership was indispensable to Pritam right from Jannat (2008) to Singh is Kinng (2008), until the composer “drove them out to find their own sound”.

“We’d been arranging for 10 years. Pritam sir was confident that we could make our own music,” says Sachin. Pritam adds, “Among the newcomers, they have the mass appeal sound but with an edge.” In fact, Pritam called them back into his studio when he scored for big banner films such as Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani (2009) and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010).

Crafting an accessible sound is key to Sachin-Jigar’s work. “The audience is really sharp and if you overdo either the classical or the rock bits, you’ll be caught,” says Jigar. Despite multiple offers, they are currently working on only one film—Hum Tum aur Shabana. The composers are waiting for a suitable film to unveil a new genre they’ve been working on. “It’s sitting in our computers,” says Jigar with boyish enthusiasm. “But till then, we’re in no hurry to sign up more films. We’re not a factory.”

Write to lounge@livemint.com

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