A 'sound' talent

music matters

A 'sound' talent

He’s the original electronics wizard who stormed into film music with Tridev, and was working with such music over a decade before A R Rahman came in. He created waves for over a decade with aces like Vishwatma, Mohra, Aar Ya Paar, Tere Mere Sapne, Gupt, Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan and even the now-admired score of the flop Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat (2001).

Son of the legend Kalyanji of the Kalyanji-Anandji team, Viju Shah now does assignments when he wants, and has recently done a Gujarati film, and is doing Julie 2 and Rally, a small film for a Bengaluru-based producer.

Never away from music, this affable composer, who also composed standout background music for films like Chaalbaaz, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Yalgaar, Sunny Deol’s Dillagi and Dil Ka Rishta, is waiting for Rajiv Rai, his Tridev-Mohra-Gupt director, to (soon) finalise his next project. Rajiv has never worked without Viju since the first 1989 blockbuster, that had evergreens like ‘Tirchhi Topiwale’, ‘Gajar Ne Kiya Hai Ishara’ and ‘Gali Gali Mein Phirta Hai’.

Back then

Smiles Viju, “I recall Vishwatma not doing too well, so Rajiv’s father, the late Gulshan Rai-ji wanted the then-top names Nadeem-Shravan for Mohra. But Rajiv, with whom I had also worked a bit on his debut film Yudh with Kalyanji-Anandji’s music, was adamant. Even today, when it’s been 13 years since Rajiv made a film, he is very sure of what he wants.”

Incidentally, Viju has an admirer in composer Nadeem, who got him to arrange music for his solo album Sayesha (1997), and for the last film of the duo, David Dhawan’s Do Knot Disturb (2009). He is also very close to Amitabh Bachchan, and is always there to play the background music when the superstar, who was very close to Viju’s father Kalyanji, recites his father Harivanshrai Bachchan’s poems ‘live’.

About his other films to come, will he be working with the singers he was comfortable with, or will it be younger names? “I am working with Nakash Aziz, Pawni Pandey, a new singer named Mishti, and also KK. It’s like this: even a brilliantly sung track by an older singer sounds retro and gives an outdated feel that puts off today’s audience. Young singers are the only way in which we can give a new colour to music.”

But then, what about the old song re-creations that are abounding in almost every second film today, with many of them working? His ‘Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast’ from Mohra was a part of Machine recently, ‘Tirchhi Topiwale’ from Tridev and ‘Saat Samandar’ from Vishwatma were used earlier, and even Kalyanji-Anandji’s compositions from Qurbani, Janbaaz, Blackmail and Don have been recycled. The new films that featured them include Housefull, Double Dhamaal, Chalo Dilli, Boss, Kick, Wajah Tum Ho, Raees and the new Don.

Viju shrugs, “It’s a well-oiled setup where the original creators do not get anything, and now I have almost given up. All I say is that when someone does this, they can at least ask the original creator’s permission. If they had just requested us that they want to use our song, we wouldn’t have stopped them! And it was not about money. Of course, big names like Sajid Nadiadwala can even afford to pay us when they and the music company are making money from these songs!”

Sound that works

In his career, he points out one exception: the remake of Victoria No. 203 in 2008. “There it was the original filmmaker Brij’s son Kamal Sadanah producing the film and he had the rights, and Kalyanji’s son and Anandji’s nephew — me! — doing the music, and we re-created ‘Do Bechare Bina Sahare’ and ‘Thoda Sa Tehero’ in it,” he smiles.

As a trend, however, Viju is unable to make sense of this, especially now that one film has even two or three such numbers in the soundtrack. “I think I would primarily blame the director, whose audiovisual vision a film is! The director is the most vital player in song selection as the key part is whether he justified the visual communication or not. If you check two recent examples, Goliyon Ki Raasleela — Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani, you will see that Sanjay Leela Bhansali has justified his songs. This is because his biggest forte is filming a composition, and taking a song to another level.”

Viju is optimistic that just one new strong album from a big film will change the entire confused scene today. “Good or bad, trends can be really funny!” he smiles. “I remember one of my directors refusing to have a tabla and a dholak in my songs because no one was using them after Rahman came in! Then Raja Hindustani came, ‘Pardesi Pardesi Jaana Nahin’ became a chartbuster, and suddenly, the director thought that it was okay to use the two instruments!”

We come to what is his forte — sound and electronics. And Viju, the whizkid in this department, asserts, “When I used electronics in Qurbani or Tridev, I was very clear that electronics can never be a substitute for acoustics. It can only add a new dimension to a song. In ‘Tirchhi Topiwale’ you are hearing a tabla and dholak through the rhythm box. That was also a realisation for me that it was the sound that worked.”

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