Anurag Saikia finds ecstasy in tiny joys

Anurag Saikia’s new album, Mast Mein Rehne Ka from Vijay Maurya’s eponymous film is about turning the prosaic into art and celebrating the beauty in simple things
Anurag Saikia
Anurag Saikia

Anurag Saikia's music is about feelings. A traveller at a crossroads, Mulk presented a distinct qawwali tune emanating from his time spent in places like Nizamuddin Dargah that shaped his understanding of qawwali. For Article 15, with no trouble, he corresponded his untamed romanticism into his art. His recently launched album, Mast Mein Rehne Ka, tied to the uplifting and eponymous movie, featuring Jackie Shroff and Neena Gupta, instills the belief that despite setbacks, the cup remains half-full. Anurag chiselled music around this idea as he turned them into an almost philosophical resonance. In our interview, he describes how the team behind the music project took seemingly ordinary sounds, such as keys jingling, switches clicking, or camera flashes, and transformed them into musical elements. Needless to say, they grasped the rhythm and pulse of Mumbai. It was all about discovering musicality in the mundane with even the most commonplace of noises.

Excerpts from our conversation:

You have given some major hit songs for Mulk, Article 15 and now Mast Mein Rehne ka. Which best suits the romantic mood of any real-life experience that you infuse in your songs?
Mulk had this distinct qawwali tune that remained with me. My time spent at places like Nizamuddin Dargah and other dargahs was moving. I worked closely with remarkable singers like the Nizam brothers, soaking up their wisdom and insights, which deeply influenced my understanding of the roots of qawwali music. These visits became a constant in my life that later found their way into the creation of my first qawwali, Samay. Mast Mein Rehne Ka was an engaging affair. I was given the lyrics by the director, Vijay Mallya, and from there, I wobbled the music around those words. The result was a beautiful song, another piece that I connected with on a philosophical note.

Mast Mein Rehne Ka is a movie to which a lot of middle-aged people relate. What was your thought process behind its music?
The project spoke to everyone. What made it special was the way we embraced the sounds of Mumbai’s everyday life. From the jingle of keys to the click of a switchboard or even the flash of a camera — these were the sounds that filled our days. And we decided to snarl them into the music, infusing it with the very heartbeat of our city. It was about bringing a slice of our lives into art. It was about celebrating the beauty in the ordinary, making it relatable.

Your songs are helmed by stars Jackie Shroff and Neena Gupta in the film. Can you talk about your rapport with them?
Working with Neena Gupta in Panchayat was memorable. She brings such grace and depth to her work, and being part of a project with her was enriching. However, my current project with Jackie Shroff feels like a whole new chapter. He’s someone I’ve admired, and to finally collaborate with him is an incredible honour. His demeanour and the way he treats everyone with such respect feel amazing. Being around him has been overwhelming in the best way possible. I’ve had the privilege of working with seasoned actors before, but this experience with both Jackie Shroff and Neena ji has been wonderful. Their professionalism coupled with their genuine warmth has made this endeavour special.

How is it different — when you make an album for OTT, then for a movie and later create something singularly?
Creating music for films or OTT platforms versus making independent music involves a few distinctions. With OTT projects, there’s more time to develop the music gradually due to the longer duration. In contrast, films demand expressing musical ideas within a shorter time frame. Independent music feels like nurturing your creation, giving you the freedom to shape it as you wish and release it whenever you like, in any style or language. What’s most important to me isn’t the platform but the people I work with. Building strong connections with them makes the process more enjoyable and fulfilling because the people involved in it matter more than the kind of project I involve myself in.

Mast Mein Rehne Ka is streaming on Amazon Prime.
— chokita@ @PaulChokita

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