Monday, March 27, 2006
The start of the new millennium saw a fresh lease of sound wave entering the world of Hindi film music. Youthful, peppy, innovative trendy! The country's first musician trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (with an unintentional Hindi-Muslim-Christian communal connotation to them) were surely responsible for the new harmonics. Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Bunty Aur Babli - there was a certain distinction in their music. The S-E-L stamp was soon established in the industry.
IndiaFM caught up with two maestros of the composer trio for an exclusive tÊte-À-tÊte. While Shankar Mahadevan was busy on his world tour, we did manage to get Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonca to speak out their hearts in an extended and exclusive conversation. Check on...
Bollywood has seen many musician duos. But Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy turn out to be the first and only musician trio. How did this association begin?
Ehsaan: There is a common thought that a threesome is much better (laughs). On a serious note, it just happened. We first came together in Mukul Anand's film Dus. Actually Mukul came to me first and I told him I cannot do this on my own and I'll need someone who is familiar with Indian music. So I contacted Shankar (Mahadevan) who immediately said yes. Then we contacted Loy. Actually we were all working together so it just became a threesome. Loy: I think a three legged bangs better than a two legged one.
Before the association, Shankar was a singer. So how did this thing come together?
Ehsaan: It's funny. Shankar was actually a computer engineer by professional and he was in two minds whether to get into music or not. He had sung for a few ads but was confused. He could have joined Oracle in the U.S. and could have been in Silicon Valley now. But all of us tried to convince him to take this step because he was good enough. In fact, the first single that he sang was for me. Then he made up his mind and here we are.
What were you guys doing before this?
Loy: Ehsaan was doing jingles and I was in Delhi before I came here. I was writing for television then. There was a show called quiz time and Siddharth Basu gave me my first break. Then I did Pranoy Roy's 'The World This Week'. Then a few more shows came along and I also did theatre. There was Shahrukh's Fauji as well. Then I came to Bombay and started doing jingles. I hooked up with Ehsaan and we started playing with music. Then Shankar came and did a few parts on the Indian bit. So we all worked in different permutations.
Ehsaan: I know Loy is going to be cross when I say this. Before he used to be remembered as Loy of 'The world this week fame' and it pissed him off. Of course it was quite a ground breaking thing at that time.
(To Ehsaan) You are from Bombay totally. So tell us how your introduction to music took place?
Ehsaan: I used to play the guitar in school and so I met a lot of senior musicians. It was a good way to learn. I used to get detention for almost twice or thrice a week. Most of the seniors used to play in the band so I mixed around with them and escaped the physical hardships of detention. Then I started playing for a band once I left school. Then in 1985, I went to America to study music and came back a year later. I was like a studio guitar player playing with all kinds of people. I played with Kalyanji-Anandji and Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Then I joined Louis Banks unit for a year and a half which really made me grow as a musician. I used to be with Ranjit Barot. We had a band and wrote songs as well. That was a big part of my musical growth. In 1989, I wrote my first jingle. In fact I was high at a party, immediately went to the studio, started writing and haven't looked back ever since.
Do people now identify you as the composers of 'UP Bihar Lootne' from Shool?
Loy: The 'U.P. Bihar' song was something that contracted us as people. A lot of people asked us whether we actually did that song. And I think 'Kajra Re' has taken that even further.
If you guys had to choose between the music of only one of these, which one would it be? Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho, Bunty Aur Babli?
Loy: I think Dil Chahta Hai, because it was something really fresh and broke a lot of ground. Ehsaan: I would agree with Loy. I was listening to 'Jaane Kyon' on FM the other day and now it just sounds like another song. But at that point of time I just cannot remember what thought process we had gone through to make the song.
Loy: Also, there was a bit of hand percussion. I don't think we used that instrument again. It's like a pop band concept.
How easy or difficult is it for the three of you when it comes to composing and coordinating while making a song?
Ehsaan: It's total chaos. The thing is that we don't have any set roles. There was a set role initially when one would come up with a melody and then Shankar would add an Indian part to it. Loy would think of it from an arrangement point of view. But now it's all kind of mixed up. You know I have composed the sitar part in Kajra Re which is very Indian. The Kal Ho Naa Ho theme is composed by Loy. So it's all muddled up together and that makes it more interesting because each time we work together, we have a different input. For the film-maker who is there sitting there with us, it turns out to be very entertaining for him because the three of us have a very nice sense of humor. Shankar is the funniest guy in the world. People like Shaad Ali and Karan Johar got used to our style of working now but earlier it would be shocking. It really works out well at the end of the day.
Aren't there a lot of squabbles between the three of you while making a song?
Loy: A lot! Ehsaan gets very upset if it sounds remotely like anything else. Then he'll get sleepless nights. Then next morning we'll see him with dark circles. Then he'll finally say it sounds like another song and will call up a few people to see if he is right. Then we say no it's all right. Then once we sit down and convince him that it doesn't sound like anything else, we move on.
Ehsaan: Shankar and Loy have a lot of clashes mainly for the fact that Shankar comes from a very Indian classical background. We come from a western centre where we think harmonically.
Loy: It's nice to have such clashes because it's because of these clashes that make the music sound more fresh and cool.
Which one of you guys generally take an award home? Do you guys own a chain saw?
Loy: Initially, we used to get only one award but now most of the times we are given three awards. It's actually not about who takes the awards. It's more about winning the award and making good music. Ehsaan: We actually don't even remember who has taken the award home. I asked Shankar whether he had the screen award and he said he doesn't. Maybe Loy might have it so give him a call. We told Screen that Shankar has taken the head of the award, the legs are with Loy and the middle is with me. Screen then gives us one award during the event but sends us two later.
Who are the musicians from the past who have really inspired you?
Loy: As a piano player, Louie Banks definitely. He's really one of my favorite jazz piano players. Then there is a guy called Madhavachari. If you can track him down you have to listen to him. Internationally, there are Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder and many more.
Ehsaan: I'll start with Bollywood influences. I love Hemant Kumar. He's one of the finest composers there was. There off course are R.D.Burman and Shankar Jaikishen. I love Eric Clapton and Deep Purple a lot more. I got a thousand CDs at home and we guys keep on complimenting a lot of CDs to each other.
Who are the current music directors who you guys really like?
Loy: A.R. Rehman, because he redefined a lot of things. Vishal-Shekhar are doing a really good job. I like some of Himesh Reshammiya's stuff though all of his work doesn't go down with me.
Ehsaan: Off course A.R. Rehman. Top of the line no doubt! I like Vishal-Shekhar too because their background is the same like us and their music is well composed. Then I think Sandesh Sandhaliya has done some good stuff as well. I love what he did for Chameli. Have to compliment Himesh. If we have 2 hits a year he has 20. Jatin- Lalit though not together anymore did some great work as well.
Who are you favourite singers?
Loy: Sonu Nigam, Shaan, K.K., Udit Narayan and lots more. I think a good singer is someone who can add value to the song rather than just show his name off.
Ehsaan: I love Sonu very much. But top of the line has to be Shankar Mahadevan. I don't think there is anybody better than him in the country. I don't want to compare the both of them because they are two different types of singers. But when you see technicality, range and versatility, Shankar is the best. Shaan and K.K. are nice. Udit Narayan for whatever he stands for is very good. From the females Chitra and Mahalaxmi Iyer and my favourites.
Which is the most rare or unusual instrument that you have used in your compositions?
Ehsaan: We used an Australian instrument which is called the 'diggidy do' in Dil Chahta Hai. It's a very difficult instrument because it gives only one note and you can only do rhythmic variations on it.
Did you expect Kajra Re to be the craziest rage of the year 2005?
Loy: When we compose music, we just try to make it good. The fact that it becomes a hit is not really in our control. Sometimes we feel that there is a vibe to it but we can't really say that it is going to be a nationwide hit.
Ehsaan: When we composed the song, it felt good. So I knew that if the song would catch on it would go on big time. You look at a song and you wonder if it will play at wedding or rick-shaws. When I saw Kajra Re being picturized, I had the feeling that it would work.
There was word that Amitabh Bachchan did not like the tune of Kajra Re?
Ehsaan: That's true. We met him at a Diwali party and he told us that he wanted an anthem for himself and Abhishek to be on screen together. He heard the song and asked for a few changes. We told him yes but Shaad Ali and Aditya Chopra were happy with the song and they convinced Amitabh that it's fine. He heard it a few more times and agreed as well.
In 2006, you have a huge list of films which include Farhan Akhtar's Don, Nikhil Advani's Salaam-e-Ishq, Karan Johar's Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and Salman Khan's Marigold. So tell us about all these albums?
Loy: All we can tell you is that the music is by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. We are working with all OF them once again and it feels really nice.
Ehsaan: Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna is a lot more mature in terms of compositions. Off course there are item numbers as well. Salaam-e-Ishq is in a different format totally. We have tried experimentation here but they are all good and popular songs and it was fun making them. Marigold is different as well because we have collaborated with foreign singers in the album.
Word is that you are remaking the original songs of Don. Is it true and which ones?
Loy: Kahike Paan Benares Wala and another one.
What are your takes on remixes?
Ehsaan: I think remixes are a valid form provided it is done well. I don't like the remix of Kajra Re and I think it sucks. But on the other hand I have heard remixes of Hindustani and Dil Chahta Hai and they have been done well.
Loy: Remixes are generally geared towards dance. So they have much more energy and oomph in it. A remix just happens to be another way to look at a song and there is nothing wrong with it.
Would you be comfortable composing for a period film?
Loy: We would love it.
Ehsaan: We haven't had a chance yet but then again the country hasn't seen too many period films in the last few years. But if asked, we would love to compose for that.
What according to you is the reason for piracy?
Loy: Technology has changed a lot and has made copying easier. People are not morally hassled by it any more. Morality has changed.
Ehsaan: Piracy is bad but now I think it has gone beyond a decision whether it is bad or good. I don't think people are thinking in terms of piracy. It's more about it being more convenient.
The Trio's Track Record
- Mukul Anand's Dus (1997)
- Shool (1999)
- Dillagi (1999)
- Mission Kashmir (2000)
- Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
- Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai? (2002)
- Ek Aur Ek Gyarah (2003)
- Armaan (2003)
- Kuch Naa Kaho (2003)
- Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003)
- Rudraksh (2004)
- Lakshya (2004)
- Kyun...! Ho Gaya Na (2004)
- Phir Milenge (2004)
- Vanity Fair (2004)
- Bunty Aur Babli (2005)
- Dil Jo Bhi Kahey... (2005)
- Marigold (2006)
- Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006)
- Don (2006)
- Salaam E Ishq: A Tribute to Love (2006)
- Luck by Chance (2007)
(Venue courtesy: Zenzi, Bandra (W), Mumbai)