It’s been a long but satisfying haul for the sons of ace tabla player Ustad Sharafat Ali Khan. Sajid-Wajid started their careers with small albums and their film innings with a single song, the qawwali Teri jawani badi mast mast hai in the 1998 Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya.
But all their subsequent successes, consistency and proven range (T-Series’ and Sonu Nigam’s record-breaking album Deewana and the soundtracks of Chori Chori, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Partner, Wanted and more) could not get them mileage. The brothers lay low, quietly doing their work and signing a few B-graders to keep their kitchens running even as Khan remained their benevolent mentor. And finally, in 2010, came Veer and Dabangg.
In a scenario littered with cacophonous (con)fusion, the music of Dabangg showed that raags and Indian folk backed by good lyrics and solid compositions could never be passé. The brothers restored not just the falling standards of Hindi film music, but brought back its dignity. While Veer had to suffice with connoisseurs’ acclaim because the film flopped, the game-changer Dabangg also brought back the time-honoured tradition of music contributing significantly to the film’s opening as well as repeat value.
In 2012, Rowdy Rathore and Housefull 2 saw Sajid-Wajid repeating the statement that melody could only augment a big movie. The duo has emerged as the most prolific composers of this year, even brought in to boost Ek Tha Tiger with their chartbuster single Mashallah, and now coming full circle with Dabangg 2.
As low-profile and humble as ever, the genial composers’ newfound confidence is the only change we see in them in the 14 years gone by.
Says Sajid, “We are thankful to Allah that the industry has finally woken up to us. The fact that we never ran after publicity has paid rich dividends now. Our father and grandfathers (Ustad Abdul Latif Khan, our paternal grandfather and Ustad Faiyyaz Ahmed Khan, our maternal grandfather) taught us that it is more important to last long than become passing meteors.
So we just kept doing our work, treating every song as an examination in which you never know what you will be asked to come up with next, like Teri Meri Kahaani, which needed music for three eras separated by 50 years. The music was a super-seller even after the film bombed, which is rare in Hindi cinema.”
Wajid also adds that the director is always the main inspiration, though terrific titles and heroes also motivate. “Remember that since Hindi films began, only musical actors have proved true superstars,” he points out.
A lot of thought goes into their songs. “We keep both director and stars in mind, besides the situation and subject,” says Sajid. “For example, we cannot show Salman Khan as either a loser or a common man — he is so larger-than-life.
For the title song that spoke of the character of Chulbul Pandey in Dabangg, we needed an element of machismo blended with masti and Salman Khan’s persona. The song Hud hud dabangg was born as much out of that as from small-town Uttar Pradesh. Raags are important too — the song Pandeyji Seeti from Dabangg 2 is in pure Raag Darbari.”
About changing trends back to desi melody, Wajid smiles, “I think our success has shown that while pancakes are fine for a change, nothing can substitute for the puri-bhaji as daily intake. It’s a total myth that people in and outside India want to hear western, fusion and so on all the time — Hindi films are such a hit all over the globe that they want us to be ourselves and not mimic western artistes. Melody is like oxygen to every Indian — we cannot live without it.”
Their forthcoming films include David Dhawan’s Chashme Buddoor, three films of Vashu Bhagnani including Sajid Khan’s Himmatwala and Priyadarshan’s Rangrezz, Sanjay Gadhvi’s Kudi Dil Le Gayi, Preity Zinta’s Ishkq In Paris, Sajid Nadiadwala’s Kick and Heropanti, and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Bullet Raja.
Dabangg 2, they affirm, will bring in all the punch of Dabangg into it, while sketching a new canvas. “Since Chulbul Pandey is now married, it was a challenge to compose romantic songs for a married couple. Obviously, we have also to heighten the bond of the franchise with our music and keep it an identifiable brand,” says Wajid.
Adds Sajid, “We have retained the same singers — Sonu Nigam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sukhwinder Singh, Wajid, Shreya Ghoshal and Mamta Sharma — and yet done something different. We know that expectations are sky high and that we have to meet them.”
The composers affirm that they make a concerted effort to be versatile. “We have to think for a film. For Ek Tha Tiger, when Salman bhai wanted us to do a song, we had already gone to the Middle East mentally, and composed a Mashallah for just such a larger-than-life espionage agent. Aditya Chopra loved the song instantly and said, “I was not even in that lane in which you had already gone to create a song for my film.” On the other hand, Ajab Gazabb Love needed a youthful romantic album around a crazy Punjabi family.”
The duo painstakingly casts the right singer for every song. “It’s the key to everything. A composition definitely needs justice. We are now re-creating Nainon mein sapna from the 1983 Himmatwala for our remake. We had to have Shreya Ghoshal and Amit Kumar as the original was by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar.”
Sajid-Wajid are comfortable with their late success and have no regrets. “From our long struggle and bad times was born our creativity and strength,” says Wajid. “Music directors talk about their stock of tunes, and we had over 500 stored in a Samsung recorder. But I discovered that I was over-dependent on them and one day, in our bad phase, I threw the recorder into the sea. When I told Sajid about this, he said that he was proud of me, because it was from here that we began to create afresh.”
He adds, “A tune that comes into one’s head is just the seed, like a story idea is not the entire film. A lot of work has to be done on the tune before it becomes a composition that is recorded as a song.”
Wajid adds that his only prayer to God today is to keep the flow of creativity, their true wealth, unabated. And Sajid adds, “Success is only possible with the blessings of one’s elders and peace at home.”