The man is back with a vengeance. His Jaanemann is rocking the charts and so are his other albums including Jai Santoshi Maa and Zindaggi Rocks. We spoke to the busy music director Anu Malik whose next music release will be Umrao Jaan. The man seemed high on the success of his albums and is eagerly awaiting his forthcoming compositions.
The music of Jaan-e-mann has opened to great reviews and is already topping on the charts. How does it feel?
It feels great. One feels elated that something for which you worked really hard is recognized by people who love good music. I have got news that the music is on top of the charts. I feel good for myself and good for my producer Sajid who has always had faith in me right from the days of Judwaa and Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega and this film as well. Also for the fact that I did not let my director Shirish Kunder down because this is his first film. Another reason is that Salman Khan and I have always been good for each other. It's an emotional feeling because I have been working really hard on my music for the past 2 years and when the results come out and give you not just an 'A' but an 'A+' it really feels good.
Tell us something about the music of Jaanemann.
The music of Jaanemann is not something that you would put in any genre like alternative music or hip-hop or jazz. According to me it is just plain great music. What is important for the listeners to understand is that the music director should understand the script of the film and give the music. The script of Jaaneman is very good. It is an emotional film and has a lot of new things to offer. After hearing the script I told Shirish that there should be great melodies that haven't been heard from me so far. The song 'Ajnabee Shaher Hai' has caught the fancy of the audience. There is another emotional number 'Sau Dard Hai' and there is a very dancy number for Salman 'Ud Jana'. There is also a marriage song as well. When you say marriage song you expect it to be a very typical marriage song but it is not. It is a very out of the box song. I was ably assisted by Gulzar saab. When you have someone like him things really take a turn for the better. So it's melodic, not only in terms of mukhdas but also in terms of sound production, in terms of the way I have composed the antara, the way my singers have sung. It is one music that stays in your heart and you don't want to let go of it. There are many ways to describe Jaanemann but I wouldn't say that I have stuck to one genre. I believed that I must stick to the script. You have to move with the script and deviate from it. The results are mind-boggling and I think I have lived upto my director's expectations.
How involved was director Shirish Kunder in the music of the film
I have come to know in all these years of my work that when you have a director who understands music it makes your task all the more easier. Shirish Kunder is one director who knew from day one what he wanted. He knew the situations by heart mainly for the reason that he wrote, directed and edited the film. He is very focused and doesn't let go of his emotions. You don't even know what he is thinking. There was a time when I used to record 15 tunes for him. He never reacted but just put it in his laptop and came back telling me what he liked and what he didn't. He wasn't the guy who goes like 'wah wah kya gaana banaya'. I felt that he relates to a great melody and I grew to understand him once as time passed. He always said that he wanted a new sound. He said that he wants something that will be Anu Malik's music but will be different at the same time. Therein lies the beauty of the director when he knows what he wants. He knows what melodies to take and what not to touch. I am very happy to work with Shirish and especially for his first film.
How is it that you always come up with a chartbuster album for Sajid Nadiadwala?
I think it is a Karmic connection. Sajid and I have a beautiful understanding. He has a keen sense of music and we understand each other. We are there for each other and look out for each other.
Another filmmaker with whom you have never gone wrong is JP Dutta. Are you expecting another National award with Umrao Jaan?
For me J.P. Dutta is not just a producer or a director. For me he is more than family. If I look back in the situation I was in, the only person who stood by me was him. He backed me and believed in my music whether it was Border, Refugee or LOC. Umrao Jaan takes the cake as far as believing me is concerned. He said that he is planning Umrao Jaan and that I was the music composer. That really hit me. The earlier Umrao Jaan had some great melodies in the film and the time when he chose me was the time when people were rethinking about Anu Malik. Moreover Dutta never mentioned the earlier Umrao Jaan. He wanted it to be Anu Malik's Umrao Jaan and the way I would want to compose it. I hope I come 5% closer to the earlier Umrao Jaan then I will be blessed.
From a contemporary, youthful composition in Jaanemann to a classical composition in Umrao Jaan, you have two extremely different genres of music releasing back to back. Do you think u can deliver the best in both worlds of music?
This proves that I can give all kinds of music. For example, people thought that Anu Malik was a man who could only compose a Judwa but they forgot that I also composed a Josh. There was a time when I was working on Virasat, Josh, Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega and Border at the same time. This time also I was composing for Jaaneman and doing Umrao Jaan as well as judging for Indian Idol 2. It did take the beating out of me but I also felt this was a test for a composer to prove that you are not just making a song which is to be played in clubs. The music has to become popular and take the film forward.
The music of Zindaggi Rocks has also released and is doing well for itself.
I would stress on the fact that Tanuja Chandra has a keen sense of music. I especially like the number Humko Choone Paas Aayiye and Lets Rock the Charts Baliye. There is another song which has not been mentioned but is a big hit called Ek Din Fursat Mein. Zindaggi Rocks music is absolutely justifying the word Rocks. Its meant to rock. But I didn't want any music which was loud. I wanted a combo of rock sound and melody. So there is a perfect balance of rock and melody. The music is selling very well and the song Meri Dhoop Hai Tu is a hit. When you hear the music of Zindaggi Rocks you realize that the music grows on you. Also the movie is amazing and has been made very well. So the music gels with the film.
Jai Santoshi Maa is also on the charts. Don't you think Anu Malik and a devotional album don't go together?
I feel deeply honoured and lucky that I have been chosen to compose for Jai Santoshi Maa. There are numerous composers around so why me? As a kid I grew up listening the music of Jai Santoshi Maa and let me tell you something - I have seen the film and it is beautifully made. It was a challenge making the Aarti as the earlier Aarti was a huge hit. People who have heard my Aarti loved it. So I am very excited about the music of Jai Santoshi Maa and I see the blessings of Maa because this will be my first film to release followed by Jaanemann, Umrao Jaan and Woodstock Villa. So I have a lot of films coming up.
You are composing the background score for a film after a long time with Umrao Jaan? What convinced you to do that? Why had you stopped composing
I was always busy with composing music. I'm a guy who composes music but J.P Dutta insisted that I not only compose the music or arrange it or just record the songs. He wanted me to be totally committed to the project. When I was doing the third song I too felt that I should do the background song and so I also hinted a bit and J.P saab said that I must do the background music of Umrao Jaan. He said that he needs 100% commitment the way I gave him commitment when I was composing. I finished the background and I worked equally hard on it. There was a different tune for Abhishek and Aishwarya and the whole gamut of great actors in the film. So I am open to doing the background score for movies but you need the motivation and the time from some one like J.P saab.
Your daughter Anmol has sung for the film. Was it your idea? Does she plan to take singing or music as a full time profession in the future?
Anmol is not only a natural born talent but has also been learning music from a very young age. She loves learning and creating. She writes her own songs in English and leans more towards western music. Actually she is capable of speaking about herself more than me. J.P. Dutta heard her when we were in London. He kept that in mind and told me that he wanted her to sing for the young Aishwarya. I asked her if she would like to sing it and she was all game. She finished the song in 16-17 minutes. It is a very tough song for a young girl.
There are great singers around and you cannot compare and I am not saying this as a father, I'm speaking purely as a composer when I say this - she has a very pure tone - a tone that touches you. She has a lot of expressions and warmth in her voice and that is what I love. She sings with a lot of heart and feel. When Javed Akthar heard the song he burst into tears. He loved her voice as well as the composition. I think that is a great composition for my daughter and I hope with the blessings of the people watching and reading this interview that Anmol becomes a great singer one day and makes a bigger name than her father.
You have also composed music for some English films like Bride and Prejudice. How different is it as compared to composing for a Hindi film? Any more English projects on hands?
Well, it depends on director to director. Gurinder Chadha has her own style of digging out music. It was a wonderful experience working with Gurinder. It was something which was a learning and a humbling experience. Bride and Prejudice music had a different flavour. If you remember songs like No Life without Wife or the marriage song or the song Show me the way, take me to Love. Every song had a beautiful flavour to it. Apart from that film, my song Chamma Chamma was included in the Hollywood film Moulin Rouge starring Nicole Kidman. So these are great highs in my life and I really thank God for it.
Today you are undoubtedly one of the most prominent and prolific music composers of Bollywood. But not many might know that you had debuted in around 1980. Do you remember the first film that you composed for?
My first songs lyrics went as 'Zulmo Sitam Par Itranewale' from the film Tu Bhi Toh Ek Din Mit Jayega. This was sung by Ashaji (Bhonsle). She was a great help and she was the one who motivated me in my early days. She agreed to sing and I was lucky because today she is huge and those days were her hey days. I'm blessed that she sang my song. Later on I went onto do the film Ek Jaan Hai Hum. Ashaji was in the film again. Then there was Dil Chahe Aasman Pe Likhdoon Naam Tera which was followed by Yatri which was a big hit and then came Soni Mahiwal.
Now it was a big thing then because I was just 18 or 19. There was Manmohan Desai's film Mard starring Amitabh Bachchan. These are my landmark films. I then sang a song Julie Julie which became a huge hit as well. Others include Ganga Jamuna Saraswati and Toofan. And then things didn't work out and I didn't have any work. I would say my comeback vehicle was in the form of Mahesh Bhatt's Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi. This album too turned out to be a huge hit. Then again something went wrong and again I didn't have much work. Then came Baazigar. The film became a huge hit and so did the music. I got my first Filmfare award and from then on again I had my highs and lows. Again the last two years things started going wrong for me again. New people came on the block and producers who I had given the best for ran away to something that was new. And it was a huge fight back for me this time that I had to give something unusual. Like they say good is not enough anymore especially when you have many players in the market. I worked my heart out and the result is there - Jaaneman became a huge hit. I would say that this is a huge innings start for Anu Malik. Jaaneman's music has taken the world by storm. I have been getting calls from overseas and lots of messages as well. So this is a new beginning for Anu Malik starting with Jaanemann.
Your father Sardar Malik was a renowned music composer of his time. Did the music bug come into you through him?
Not only the fact that he was a composer but also had the fact that I was brought up in an atmosphere where music was always there. I inculcated the sense of melody from my father and that has stayed with me till today. My father always told me 'Be Sureela' and come out with a song that you can hum. The fact that he never made it was a hurting thing for me but also a motivating thing. I told him that when I grow up I will become big and the industry's top producers will work with me. Apart from God and very few people like J.P. Dutta, I am a self made man with a little bit of success. Whatever bit of success I have gotten is through my own efforts.
My father just passed away last year after being sick for about a year before that. I was all alone in the last two years and there was a father-son sense in there. No one could understand the pain I was going through. I saw my father slowly die and instead of breaking me I took a vow that dad I won't let go. Two things can happen to you - one you can break down and completely get lost. Two you can submerge out of it and become a stronger person. Like the saying goes - when the going gets tough the tough gets going. I really pulled up my socks and I knew this was it. This is what my father would want me to do. This is what he would expect me. When he was extremely sick he could sense the pain I was going through when things started going wrong professionally for me. He could sense it and always gave me the thumbs up sign. He would catch my hand and say don't worry. I think that stays back with me and I have learnt my music from him. I have learnt how to be a stronger person and today when I have Jaanemann which is doing very well I'm sure he is around listening somewhere. He is not gone but he is hearing my music.
You had been composing very good and popular tunes throughout the 80's. Still you got your first film award very late in 1993 with Baazigar. Do you think the industry took a long time to give you your due recognition as a good music director?
I don't blame the industry. I think 'bhagya' (fate) is a very big thing. The industry has been kind to me. It has always been with me someway or the other. Look at it this way. Awards or no awards, the fact that producers signed me up right from the earlier days was a big thing. We go back to F.C. Mehra to Harmesh Malhotra to Mahesh Bhatt to the Venus family who gave me Baazigar to audio companies like Tips or T-Series. They were always there for me.
I think my producers and directors want me to give in my best. When they saw me not on my best they started running away and now they have started coming back. Awards came a bit late but they did come to me. I look at the positive side of life and don't grumble. There are people who did great work and have been ignored. I got 3 Filmfare awards, 2 Screen awards and 1 National award for Border. I just thank God and say that I want to work and work harder.
Which musicians from the past have really inspired you? Who are your all-time favorite musicians?
The best thing about me is that I don't live in the past. When I was a kid I was a fan of The Beatles and Elvis Presley. When I grew up I got inspired by Shankar-Jaikishen and then I fell in love with R.D. Burman's music. As time passed I started hearing other people. I was really inspired by the movie 'The Sound of Music' and I really liked the music The Bee Gees created for John Travolta's 'Saturday Night Fever'. That was huge and in terms of melody and harmony you cannot define it. And now there are many groups from the west as well as over here. Music is something which you take and learn. I'm a great fan of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. I listen to him in times of stress and I think he is fabulous.
Who from the current lot of music composers in Bollywood do you think is good at his work?
Let's put it this way. When I entered the industry there were 5 composers. You can count the greats on your fingertips. Laxmikant-Pyarelal, R.D Burman, Kalyanji-Anandji to name a few! Today there are 50 thousand composers and I think each and every composer is doing a marvelous job. I can't pinpoint and say this particular music director is my favourite.
Who are your favorite singers male and female?
On certain occasions it's K.K, on certain occasions it's Shaan and on certain occasions it Sonu Nigam. When they sing for my song at that time they become my favourites. I don't play the favourites game. I do believe that when I record a song I want the song to be sung very well because it is my baby. I want it to be nurtured well.