Bickram Ghosh and Hariharan unite for Valentine's Day special album

It was the lockdown and the quest to revive familiar romantic melodies from Hindi cinema that finally united the two legends to come up with a six-song Valentine’s Day special album directed by filmma
Bickram and Hariharan
Bickram and Hariharan

One is a ghazal king and the other is a master percussionist. And, though Bickram Ghosh and Hariharan have delivered many a memorable performance together in live concerts, a collaboration for an album could never materialise in these years. It was the lockdown and the quest to revive familiar romantic melodies from Hindi cinema that finally united the two legends to come up with a six-song Valentine’s Day special album directed by filmmaker Arindam Sil. We caught up with the trio in between the filming of the videos in various locales around the city. Excerpts:

What took you two so long to get on board and work on an album?

Hariharan: We have been wanting to collaborate for some time, but the paucity of time and distance became an impediment. Bickram had sent me a few songs around four years back but as they say, good things happen in their own time. During the lockdown, he sent me a few songs again and asked me to sing. From one song, I ended up singing six songs for him in a month and that’s how Ishq, (working title of the album) happened.

Bickram Ghosh: I have known Hariji for years now and we have done several momentous concerts together. After my first attempt did not bear fruit, I took the opportunity and convinced him to consider the project during the lockdown.

Tell us more about the music and theme of the album.

BG: The thought behind Ishq was that we are missing the quintessential romance that was there in Hindi songs; that symphony of sweet melody and lyrics. There are too many over-the-top things happening in contemporary love songs. Hariji recorded the song in record time and we asked him to come down for the video shoot. It’s been swift till now. For the videos, we had to get Arindam Sil on board because he is there in every important project that I do, case in point is Genda Phool that became a superhit.

H: There is geet in the album, not ghazal or Sufi, which is refreshing. It’s about confessing your love.

There’re some popular Tolly stars in them…

Arindam Sil: We have Bibriti Chatterjee, Sauraseni Maitra and Priyanka Sarkar among the Tolly actors. The rest of the cast for the other videos will be decided later. Ronit Raj who is into television in Mumbai is also there in one of the videos and in another, we are hoping to have Hariji’s son Karan.

Which are the songs that have been shot so far?

BG: We have shot three songs and the rest will be shot later. There are Baton Baton Mein Ruthi Ho Kahin and Dil Hawain Hai and the third one is Naina. Sugato Guha, Sanjeev Tiwari and Rajiv Pandey have written the lyrics. The song that we shot today is about love for Kolkata. Priyanka Sarkar plays the metaphor for the city. It’s all about capturing a different essence of the city.

Curating six different videos for six love songs must have been difficult...

AS: When Bickram sent me the songs, I realised these were a series of love songs and that there was a high possibility of the theme becoming repetitive. So, at the outset, we thought of creating specific aspects of love and Sugato helped me with that. The lyrics are well-written and the music is incredible. People ask me why is it that I take Bickram in every film that I make? It is because his creation is not monotonous and is always fresh. It was great working with Hariji, the voice which taught us all about romance.

How varied is the rhythm and melody of the album?

H: We all love romantic songs and there is a marriage between melody and rhythm in each song of the album. Being a tabla nawaz and percussionist, Bickram is very subtle with his compositions. There is a smooth flow of music in the songs. It’s not noisy, unlike the songs we hear nowadays.

BG: Today we only think about downbeats, the kick. Rhythm is also in small sounds, in nuances. We are overpowering everything with a kick. I have used instruments like mridamgam, sitar, sarod and bansuri in the album.

Since the theme is love and one of the songs is about Kolkata, how would you define your love for the city?

BG: My love for Kolkata is like the comfort of the womb. There are beautiful hues in the city immersed in its myriad culture. Kidderpore is different from North Kolkata and so are other parts from each other; it’s like a kaleidoscope.

H: The first show that I did with Asha Bhonsle in ’83 was at Netaji Indoor Stadium. I met my wife here and I have so many fans and an understanding audience here, especially for my ghazals. My connection with Kolkata is deep and sweet.

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