Vishal Bhardwaj goes from being a filmmaker to a composer to a singer in the most effortless manner. As his newest venture, Ek Thi Daayan (ETD), a co-production with Ekta Kapoor, approaches release, we talk to him about his career, having a creative partner in his wife and the bond he shares with Gulzar.
Tell us about the film’s music, especially songs like ‘Tote ud gaye’ and ‘Lautungi main’.
We have a tradition of haunting songs such as ‘Kabhi deep jale’ (Bees Saal Baad; 1962) and ‘Gumnaam hai koi’ (Gumnaam; 1965). I’ve wanted to make a song in that style but never got the chance. In ETD, at a very pivotal moment, one of the characters has this line: ‘I will be back... lautungi main’. This song is themed around that. I’d put together the basic structure of the song about 25 years ago. Those notes remained with me. I composed the tune for ‘Tote ud gaye’ long ago for another film. For ETD, I recomposed the whole song.
When you look back, how have you evolved and what have been your milestones?
Change is the only constant. If you don’t change, you become stale. My first milestone was ‘Chaddi pehen ke phool khila’ for Jungle Book. Then Maachis (1996) and Satya (1998) came along.
My music changed from Omkara (2006) onwards.
Earlier, I was making songs but they weren’t rich when it came to sound. So when Clinton (Cerejo, music producer) and Hitesh (Sonik, music producer) joined me, my perspective of sound changed. I saw them working on my songs and that’s when the concept of music producers came into my life. Clinton changed the soul of my music. The melodies remained the same but the presentation became more beautiful. Now I can’t function without him.
You’ve gone from being a composer to a filmmaker. Are you surprised by your popularity?
It surprises me how a person with such little talent can become so successful. I’m not talented, I’m hard-working. You have to be intelligent enough to know that you are a fool. If you know that, then you can work on yourself. I know what my weaknesses are and I work on them. I don’t flaunt my strengths. God has been great; he wrote the correct screenplay for me.
What are your weaknesses?
Even though I’ve composed hit songs like ‘Beedi’ (Omkara; 2006) and ‘Dhan te nan’ (Kaminey; 2009), it’s difficult for me to compose dance numbers as I don’t like to make fast songs. That’s not me. My pace is reflected in songs like ‘O sathi re’ (Omkara; 2006) and ‘Lautungi main’.
Have you ever thought of turning performer?
I can sing on stage but right now, I don’t have the time. I’ve been offered many world tours but I’ll get into that once I take a break.
Will you be teaming up with Rekha?
Yes, and even Clinton.
As a couple, how do you and Rekha function in the creative space?
Everything has two sides. Sometimes you come home and don’t want to talk work. At other times, it’s good because when you are in the work space, it’s nice to have a partner who can be part of that.
‘After Ishqiya, this is his best work’
Says wife Rekha Bhardwaj, who has partnered with Vishal in a new film
Vishal says that he doesn’t consider himself very talented. What do you have to say to that?
I don’t agree. He says this because till he was in college, he was not exposed to classical music and ghazal singers like Mehdi Hassan. He was always exposed to film music because his father was a lyricist and as a child, he used to visit Mumbai.
But once he got into classical music, he started exploring it. And since he is extra hard-working and sincere, he’s grown by leaps. His quality of music has changed for the better. After Ishqiya (2010), this is his best work. In fact, Vishal wanted to be a cricketer. But when his father died, he had to support himself and there was no other way of doing it than by pursuing music. He tells me, when he was growing up in Meerut, Usha Khanna and Laxmikant Pyarelal used to visit their home. Vishal used to compose even then. So the seed was there but it took time to become a fruit.
Vishal and Gulzar’s partnership has always been successful.
Vishal’s sense of poetry has been very good. He started reading Gulzar saab when he was in the seventh standard. He is very grateful to Gulzar saab, who inculcated the zest to do good work in him. Everyone has a yardstick and we have Gulzar saab to keep a check on us.