From where tunes flow

From where tunes flow

Bhushan Kumar, the man behind India’s biggest music label, aspires to do much more than just create chart-topping music

But for a short phase in the mid-1990s when T-Series went off film music and production and concentrated only on non-film music, the company has been a market leader for most of its existence. Bhushan Kumar, now its head honcho, has inherited one of the biggest corporate legacies from his founder father, Gulshan Kumar, who built this empire by beginning with the music of a small 1984 film, Lallu Ram. It was in 1985 that T-Series made its first huge mark with Pyar Jhukta Nahin, the film that brought in the revival of melody after a discordant era.

As early as in 1989, T-Series made its film production debut with the hit video film Lal Dupatta Malmal Ka, moving on to feature film productions in 1990 with a few musicals, of which Aashiqui became a cult musical. However, after that, T-Series had only occasional trysts with success like Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin, and it was Gulshan Kumar’s dream to become a big-name producer.

Successful venture

It is this dream that son Bhushan Kumar has taken forward and not only made T-Series the numero uno music label but also the numero uno film production company. After taking over the company following his father’s death in 1997, in 21 years, he has reached a status unequalled by any corporate entity in Hindi cinema. Today, T-Series’s YouTube channel is also the world’s No. 1 across all genres!

“T-Series is going to have 10 releases this year as producers and co-producers,” smiles Bhushan. “As a music label, of course, we have many more.” This year, Bhushan’s co-productions include the acclaimed hit Raid, the super-hit Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, and the critically acclaimed Blackmail.

Since he took over, how much has Bhushan followed in his father’s footsteps and how much has he shifted gears due to the changing times and audience tastes? “I have always followed in my father’s footsteps,” he smiles. “There are things that cannot be changed, like every Indian’s love for melody — be it in a dance track, slow, sad or romantic song.”

“As for changes, again, it was my father’s dream to grow in films. So three years ago, I decided that I should also go into full-fledged film production. I had already developed a sense of music, but though we have always been producing films, it took some time to have a modicum of script sense. But now, people are joining us creatively as they have confidence in us. They also know that we will market a film well, that it will be completed and released, and that successful music will happen.”

He also points out, “A film like Raid or even last year’s Hindi Medium could not have been made earlier. People are now beginning to like realistic stories in this era of digital information. So, you have to do good research and also put in a lot of thought in them. Equally important, however, is the commercial element. When we made Airlift, it opened our eyes. Again a story inspired by real-life events, despite our hit music and other elements, we thought it would be a non-commercial film. But it was a big hit!”

On the line

At the same time, Bhushan concedes that films like Sonu… are also welcomed as always. So, they are happy producing films in multiple genres — among their films to come are Hindi Medium 2, Akiv Ali’s romantic comedy with Ajay Devgn, Salman Khan’s co-production Bharat, a film with Emraan Hashmi and others.

How do they manage so many films? “We only take on as many films as we can handle well,” he replies. “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. As a company, we have no plans to go public. The money we spend is all ours, so are the profits and the losses.”

All their films have at least one song recreated. Why is that? “These recreations are because of public demand,” he declares. “Even today’s generation loves old songs for their melody and content. But those songs do not have today’s sound. They want to listen to them with a new sound, so we are going with the flow.”

How can he say that he is going with the flow when it is T-Series (which markets 70% of film music) that has set this trend? Bhushan smiles shrewdly and admits that they do have the maximum films as a music label. “We did begin the trend. It really took off only with ‘Aaj Phir Tumpe Pyar Aaya Hai’ in Hate Story 2.”

What decides whether they make an original song or a recreation? “The demand of the situation and film decides that,” he says. “In Raid, we needed an intensely romantic background song for the lead couple. We had ‘Sanu Ek Pal Chain’ recorded with us as a Rahat Fateh Ali Khan recreation of his uncle Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s 90s hit. Sometimes, we use the original with a new beat, as with ‘So Gaya Yeh Jahaan’ in our Nautanki Saala!, or with the original voice and a new sound, like we did with Mr.India’s ‘Hawa Hawaai’ in Tumhari Sulu.”