His hot innings continue with Jannat, Race, Kismat Konnection, Singh Is Kinng and the year's biggest grosser, Golmaal Returns. With over 12 big films to come, the Pritam record plays on...
Golmaal Returns is a huge hit, but the best song Tu saala was not in the film. How do you feel when such things happen?
Obviously I feel very bad, because such a song's life is finished and it goes waste. But I am lucky that the song still became popular. Rohit (Shetty) wanted to film this song in a big way with the use of Motion Picture Control technology as multiple Kareena Kapoors haunt Ajay Devgan when he goes to a pub after one of their fights. But for various reasons, they scrapped the song.
After hot soundtracks like Dhoom and Dhoom:2, what went wrong in Sanjay Gadhvi's Kidnap?
I guess Sanjay and I wanted to relax and not be ambitious the way we had been! Sanjay gave my ex-partner Jeet and I our debut film Tere Liye and introduced us to Aditya Chopra who gave us our breakthrough film in Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai. When Jeet broke away, Sanjay gave me Dhoom, and after the successs of Dhoom there was obvious pressure to excel in Dhoom:2 as well. So we sort of took it easy this time!
Does hit music make a film or the other way round?
Good music definitely gives a boost to a film's opening. Then if the film is a hit, the music works even better.
How would you define the elements of good music?
I think that a good composition definitely works first, but good singers can lift it further, for the same composition will work better with better vocals and vice-versa. After that, a whole lot of elements take over. The orchestration also makes a difference, less because of its quality and more because of how it resonates with the listener. Finally the lyrics make a song live on. Lyrics are very important. I recall making 25 tunes in two days in a closed-door sitting and remembering only a couple of them. But when the words were written I recalled each one.
As things stand today in your career, what kind of music can we look forward to from you in 2009-2010?
I think that romantic songs will return in a big way, but in a new form, like with a rock-meets-lounge flavour.
But there is so much Punjabi infiltrating into your music that people have started calling you Pritam Singh!
Laughs) When I went to Delhi for a series of shows, the posters and invites both said "Pritam Singh Live In Concert"! (Laughs again). I supposed my long hair, beard and my name - Pritam is common in Punjab - combined to do the trick along with the Punjabi songs I have done in so many recent films from Jab We Met and Race to Kismat Konnection and Singh Is Kinng.
Is this overdose of Punjabi pop justified?
I guess the Punjabi language is a peculiar mix of percussiveness and sweetness. Ramesh (Taurani)ji often jokes that when you are stumped for words, Punjabi phrases are the best way out! Then Jab We Met and Singh Is Kinng needed that flavour, as does Anurag Singh's film that I am doing for Yash Raj with Shahid Kapoor and Rani Mukerji. On the other hand, many of my melodies acquire that flavour only because of the lyrics and later the visuals, like Move your body now in Kismat Konnection which was never composed with Punjabi lyrics in mind. And what is Punjabi about Mauja hi mauja from Jab We Met? It's an R&B song, but the rest of the content did the trick.
You say that a good singer lifts a song, but your generation of composers also use off-key singers, non-singers and also those whose Hind and Urdui dictions are pathetic. Why is that?
I think that it's all a part of working with new voices and new textures. Personally, though I may be wrong, I find flawed diction quite cute. Unusual phonetics can make a song sound more appealing.
Take Bakhuda tumhi ho from Kismat Konnection. Alka's gentle voice seems such a welcome relief after Atif's off-key rendition and poor diction.
Alkaji told me that she got more appreciation for this song than so many of her hit solos. (Laughs). But in this case there were two aspects that people do not know: one, that normally duets are in the middle octaves as they balance the higher female pitch that often starts a duet and the lower male scale. But I designed this composition with a high male pitch and a low female scale. The second aspect was that originally Alkaji was to start the song, which is why you hear Atif singing unusually low. I had recorded two versions with Atif, but the producers insisted on the one I liked less.
You have been over-busy. Does that stress you?
It does, though I thankfully never lose my temper. But the workload's begun telling on my health and from January 2009, I will concentrate on five films a year and complete one score at a time! Mukesh (Bhatt)ji jokes that I am like a "Tirupati ka naayi" (a barber from Tirupati) who cuts a little hair at a time and moves on to the next customer, so that none of them is able to leave! (Laughs again).
Billo Barber is your next big release. And Priyadarshan is someone with whom you have done multiple films while it's a first with Shahrukh Khan. How was the experience?
It was great. Shahrukh's a fantastic guy - 15 minutes into our first meeting it was as if I had known him for years! And Priyan-sir is very clear about his brief and very quick about his choices.
Despite so many hits, all that people see is how many songs you 'copy'. Also mass composers like you and Himesh Reshammiya as well as Anu Malik and many older giants are simply not respected as much as those who do less work and have less impressive track-records. Why? And how much does it hurt?
It definitely hurts. I admit that I have taken many songs from various sources, but every composer who has done that has also done so much original work, which is played down. Why focus only on the negative? Jab We Met, one of my biggest-ever hits, was 100 per cent original.
I have proved that I can make every kind of song -I am not only about club numbers, like it has been the case this year. I have been thinking about this for a long while now and I have made my own study about film music. There was a time when I was starting out and I would be thrilled about making a great, complicated chord, but now I make sure that my producer does not even get to hear it. I have learnt that simplicity works, and making a simple song is the most difficult!
When I came here I had no work, so when good work started coming, I took it on because I know that work will stop coming the day I cease giving hits. So early on, one has to make a choice - of giving simple music because the producer's and film's successes are paramount, or going on a self-indulgent trip and getting the media's laurels! I had no godfather, but Sanjay Gadhvi, Aditya Chopra, Mukesh Bhatt, Anurag Basu, Priyadarshan and Imtiaz Ali came to me because they knew I could deliver. Though it hurts because it is unfair, I have come to terms with the fact that I will not get due respect, like all mass-oriented composers who have suffered the same way.