So many period films...and now "Mangal Pandey". What challenges?
I was offered three period films at the same time, including one from Roland Joffe. I was quite wary of doing "Mangal Pandey" until I heard the script. I thought there was no scope for music.
Then when director Ketan Mehta and Aamir Khan came to me I quite liked the interpretation. So we plunged into it. Before that I was like...'Oh no, not another period film! I just did "Bhagat Singh" and "Bose"...Composing for a sutradhar, as I've done in "Mangal Pandey", was a new experience for me.
How did you pick Kailash Kher for the title song?
I wanted a very Nusrat Ali Khan kind of voice. Lyricist Mehboob suggested Kailash. He has done a fabulous job. "Vaari vaari" in "Mangal Pandey" is my first mujra.
Your music in "Bose - The Forgotten Hero" went unnoticed?
They didn't picturise a large part of my music. When the music isn't picturised, it goes unnoticed. The junta disregarded it. I told Shyam Benegal that it's imperative to cash in on whatever songs I compose. Why be apologetic about the music?
But I must say I enjoyed composing for "Bose"...For me, every score is enjoyable. It can't be helped if some of them went out of hand. Did the music for a film called "Adaa", I don't know what happened. I put my best effort in all of them. The rest is up to god.
In Mumbai there's a growing feeling that your songs have become repetitive?
Which of my songs are repetitive? Tell me, so I can correct myself. According to me, the repetitive pattern in my career was caused by the series of period films. But I got paid very well.
Is money important?
Not as a rule. But I had invested in a studio in Chennai that cost more than I had bargained for. I didn't have to take a loan. And I enjoyed doing all the period films. But now whatever films I have on hand - like Abbas Tyrewala's "Jane Tu" and Rakesh Mehra's "Rang De Basanti", Shyam Benegal and Rajiv Menon's new film - aren't period films.
Too many assignments in Hindi?
Better to be burnt out than fade way...1999 was my busiest period - "Dil Se", "Taal", "Bombay Dreams", "Kandukondain Kandukondain". I love working on musical subjects like "Taal", "Sapne" and "Kandukondain Kandukondain". Ghai and Mani Ratnam are two people who know what to do with music. I want to return to that format.
For now I've stopped doing period films though they've helped me go new areas of my creativity. Their fate wasn't in my hand. I'm doing three southern Indian films. I'm happy about them. At least they won't feel let down and they won't feel I've run away, like they sometimes believe in Mumbai.
What went wrong with the music in "Yuva"?
In "Yuva", Mani Ratnam didn't want songs in the first place. The songs were done largely for the background. I knew from the start there would be very high expectations from our combination. I knew they were in for a letdown, though not as much as they finally were.
I've been making too many sacrifices, especially with the way my songs were used. I think Hindi films need to become proud of songs and music again. That's what the history of our cinema is about. Even my "Hum hain iss pal yahan" in Ghai's "Kisna" was used in the background.
The music boom in the Mumbai film industry is over.
The boom in music happened in the mid-1990s. That's when "Roja" happened. During the last 7 to 8 years the whole equation between music and cinema has changed.
"Dhoom" had one hit song, and that song made the film a hit. I feel audiences shouldn't be tortured with unwanted songs. At the same time why deprive them of something they love?
Anything in Hindi songs that you like lately?
I like M.M. Kreem's songs. "Jadu hai nasha hai" in "Jism" and some of the Pakistani songs. Otherwise Hindi music seems to be following the herd mentality. There's no time to think...One "Kaliyon ka chaman" and everyone uses the same rhythms. Fortunately I'm not forced to do anything that I don't want to.
Are you happy with your career?
My career is not in my hands. I'm happy with what I'm doing. But I'm always thirsty for more. There's no fixed working place for me. Chennai is my home, I guess. But I want to reach out to the listener in Kanjeevaram and Kolkata. Their approval means a lot to me.