Gentlemen on the rise: Sachin-Jigar on the high road to success
There is a kind of poetry in the fact that the title of Sachin-Jigar’s debut Bollywood project, Eeshwar Nivas’ My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves, is inspired by a Laxmikant-Pyarelal song from the 1977 Manmohan Desai film, Amar Akbar Anthony. Bollywood loves its composer duos even though they are only a handful, with Sachin-Jigar (Sachin Sanghvi and Jigar Saraiya) being the latest to join a line that has other yesteryear legends like Shankar-Jaikishan and Nadeem-Shravan and contemporary bigwigs like Vishal-Shekhar, Salim-Sulaiman and Sajid-Wajid.
Ever since earning mass commercial success for their songs in the 2011 comedy hit F.A.L.T.U, Sachin-Jigar has shown remarkable versatility in their music, shown best in their later songs like the runaway disco hit Saturday Saturday and the soulful Saibo. Their recent projects include A Gentleman (Sidharth Malhotra & Jacqueline Fernandez) and Simran (Kangana Ranaut), both of whose songs are still raking in the views on YouTube. With a host of projects lined up this year, we caught up with them and found out more about their early days, musical philosophies, and why Pritam remains the invisible force in their success.
What was your inspiration to take up music as a career, even though much of your early efforts were towards academic goals?
Jigar Saraiya: We come from typical Gujarati backgrounds where either you get into the family business or a white collared profession like medicine, law or chartered accountancy. It took some time for our parents to come to terms with our passion. When we were music arrangers, our relatives thought we were part of some orchestra, as they didn't know that we are into composing. I had cleared my CAT to do my MBA. But the day I gave my exam, I had decided to get into this industry. I didn’t even see my results. On the day of my exam, there was this 41-year-old guy giving the same exam while I was 22. I shuddered at the thought of struggling till I was in my 40’s. I am happy about having learnt Commerce, as we are able to keep track of the monetary side of our success. Whatever money we made out of theatre, we invested in building studios. We had an idea about how to sustain. Commerce has done well for us.
Take us back to your earlier projects and how you transitioned into composing for Bollywood.
Sachin Sanghvi: We met because we were trying to ease out each other's workloads. We realised that we have a lot in common beyond music. From TV projects we moved on to film arrangements and we are now a ‘jodi’ for life. I used to sing for navratras before dabbling in theatre and TV and then films while Jigar was an assistant music director with Rajesh Roshan. We garnered a lot of mileage and fame from Remo D’Souza’s film F.A.L.T.U. We approached each song with a different idea and the audience appreciated our efforts and it gave us a lot of encouragement and that is what we needed at that time. People still listen to and dance to Chaar Baj Gaye, it’s a good feeling. But on the downside, our phones just kept ringing after that and it's still ringing as we speak. Lyricists have wreaked havoc on our phones.
You were blessed to have worked with some of the biggest names in the Bollywood music industry.
JS: Yes, it’s been quite a journey. Raju bhai (Rajesh Roshan) and the Roshans gave us the feel of the level at which we had to raise ourselves, the big cinema 70mm sound. We also learned the lessons of how to develop a melody that can sustain itself in the hearts of the audience and never leave. But our stint at Pritam sir was the real twist in the tale. He’s a master of the job. From composing to the final stage of mastering he has laid down a procedure and follows it faithfully. According to our skills, he divided us into following up with different steps of the big procedure. We learnt lots about sound designing – how to undo dragging a song, how to understand a director, and how to produce the big fat commercial sound of Bollywood. Both these institutions taught us so much and help us meet the who’s who of the musician and singer community. We developed certain goodwill and met angels like Bombay Vikings fame Neeraj Shridhar. He helped us at every step once we became independent. We always took risks. Just when we started doing well in theatre we got into television and while we were flourishing there we got into arranging for Hindi films.
We joined Pritam sir who eventually gave us a go-ahead to arrange for other music composers, and we started working for A R Rahman, Anu Malik. Just when we were the highest paid in music arrangement, Pritam sir pushed us to the next level — composing. For us, it was like starting from scratch again. But it was always a calculated risk. Whenever we went to the next level, we ensured that we could sustain for six months financially. But it wasn’t easy. When we decided to compose, we were discouraged by two very big directors. They heard our songs and said that it won’t work and that we should either go back to the arrangement, or better still go back to our respective father's business. But Pritam sir instilled hope in us saying — ‘Times are changing, sounds are changing and so will the music’. He had realised that we had a distinct sound and had a good hold on quality composing.
SS: Our stint as arrangers will stay with us all our life. To be able to assist these people at the peak of their career, to witness how they go about their business is wonderful. Each one approaches the process differently: if one goes for the melody first, another goes for the production, etc. I wanted to become Kumar Sanu when I was training to sing until Roja happened. Somebody like Rahman Sir, who has become an inspiration for an entire generation, is the simplest human being alive. In a certain song, he might want to play only four chords because he wants to drive a message. He has immense clarity. He gave us a lot of perspective on how something simple can be made complicated and vice-versa. Raju bhai taught us how to differentiate between a normal tune and a tune that can fit the character; Pritam Sir taught us how to be ahead of time. There is a father figure inside him. It’s been a very enriching experience.
Thoughts on the evolution of their musical style.
JS: We don’t want to commit to a style because we don’t wish to repeat. We came from different backgrounds of music. Sachin grew up learning Hindustani classical. I used to love artistes like John Mayer and the likes. We had a difference of opinions but then we realised that our bond is too strong. Our relationship is like our parents' marriage, it is understood that we have to be together all our life. There is no ambition in this combination. It’s like till death do us apart. We eventually find a midway in case of a difference of opinion. We draw inspiration from people, experiences and life in general whilst composing our music. A major musical influence was AR Rahman. His music was life-changing for so many youngsters like us — we had never been exposed to the kind of soundscapes and arrangement that he brought to the fore.
SS: Our music is about the soul and the human connect. Even if it’s a thumping dance track, it should entice your mind and soul. With the onset of time, I feel both of us have got a little more understanding of the audience’s appetite and with time we have learnt a little more music-making which has evolved our sensibilities as musicians. Every recording teaches us a new lesson. Most of our hits so far have been with non-stars. We have survived on our own music, talent and ability. But composers will have to perform even if a star is backing them. For instance, Himesh Reshammiya will have to prove minus Akshay, Sajid-Wajid will have to perform with or without Salman around.
What is the approach you adopt while making music for movies?
JS: We’re completely director’s boys and go with their conviction. The heart of every film is the script, once you have that then it’s completely the director’s vision. Since we’re coming from a theatre background, I think that has helped us to imagine the song and its situation, and how it will gel with the scene.
SS: We are trying to write melodies that will outlive the films. We look for the ‘take back home’ element in a song first. Sometimes when it all goes wrong, you scrap it and start over fresh.
Do Bollywood movies depend heavily on their music?
JS: As composers, we need to cater to producer demands so we then inculcate hooklines that reflect this trend in some way. We don’t think we can now stay on one song or that one tune or that one melody for too long now. The depth seems to have eloped. So much entertainment is being churned out that we wonder how the listener picks one favourite from so many choices. Also now there is a bouquet album with an ensemble casting of music composers. Somehow I feel epic albums have always come from solo composer films (Taal, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na, Dilwale Dulhaniya, Bunty Bubbly, Baazigar, Aashiq Banaya Aapne, Dev D, Love Aaj Kal )
SS: Today’s music lacks melody. However, films represent the times we live and today's generation wants to dance. Music is not only confined to those who seek soulful melodies as they form just one segment of the listeners. Why are singers in India not as big as their Western counterparts? That’s a question everyone needs to ask. Half of the films have run-of-the-mill songs, which will probably work for 15 days and then play at weddings. We call it popcorn music. I am not against it, but I am saying that we are undergoing a transition phase. This will probably last another two years until the album culture returns. An album is rare and I want it to become even rarer because you start taking things for granted when it's in excess. I want it to become extinct so that people start valuing the concept. Another aspect is that folk and indie music needs an equal push like international EDM festivals coming to India. Today, music bands and Indi-pop artistes have to invest their own money to bring out an album because music companies want a finished product. Today its all remixes and recreations, but that is not a pure form of music.
What are your upcoming projects?
We have many projects coming up this year and they are all theme-based projects. The music produced for every movie will be different as they are of various genres - one of them has a patriotic song. We are also working on our individual albums from the which the singles will be released first and the album will be released later. However, we are still waiting for a plan to release it.