After A R Rahman hit pay dirt with Slumdog Millionaire and then got Kylie Minogue to sing for him in Blue, the Indian music industry has been abuzz with talks of international collaborations.
But even as composers like Adnan Sami collaborate with Jermaine Jackson and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy work with a Timbaland associate, the prolific music composer duo, Vishal-Shekhar, has been oddly silent, with no news about going international from their quarter. But from what Vishal Dadlani has to say, it is likely that the duo is on the verge of closing major deals with producers in the US.
“We have been having talks for over an year now and are currently in various stages of negotiation with a big hip-hop music producer in the US, as well as one of the world’s leading r ‘n’ b divas,” says Dadlani. “We have never spoken about any of this so far, because we haven’t yet signed on contracts yet. We don’t believe in making noise unless we can back it up.”
Dadlani goes on to reveal that the duo has been to Los Angeles earlier this year, where they had several meetings with A-list artistes and producers, and are heading to the US again next week to possibly close a couple of deals. “A R Rahman has opened the way for Indian musicians,” says Dadlani. “Western artistes look at musicians from India with great respect now and treat us as equals. In every conversation that we’ve had with labels in the US, we’ve found that they want to tap our industry as much as we do theirs.”
The composers, who have had only one release this year with Aladin, have been careful about choosing the right international projects and have even turned down offers to compose for a couple of disapora films. “We are very clear about one thing,” Dadlani spells out, “We will not work on an international project unless we receive equal billing on it. We want to collaborate as artistes, and not as producers – we would ideally like to bounce around in concerts with an artiste we end up working with. Till then, we are happy being big fish in a small pond”
Even as things materialize on the international front with Vishal-Shekhar, the duo is happy working on its upcoming projects – Dharma Productions’ I Hate Love Stories, Siddharth Anand’s Anjaana Anjaani and UTV’s Arjun. But Dadlani particularly also seems to be enjoying his newfound innings as a playback singer.
The composer, who also doubles up as the lead vocalist for rock band Pentagram, has sung for Vishal Bharadwaj in Kaminey (‘Dhan te nan’), Pritam in Dhoom 2(‘Dhoom again’), Rajesh Roshan in Krazzy 4 (Title track), (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy in various projects (including ‘Barson re’ in London Dreams) and is now burning the airwaves with Salim-Sulaiman’s new release, Kurbaan, where he has sung the angsty-rock title track. Then, there are the ten-odd tracks he has sung for his own albums.
Dadlani plays down his playback singing assignment, saying he just “happens to have” a unique voice and attitude, and he is singing only because he’s friends with most of the composers. “I have no illusions about my voice as a playback singer,” he laughs. “I’m a bad playback singer and everyone I work with knows that. I’m probably the flavour of the month, but the fact is that I’ll never overshadow singers like Sonu (Niigaam), Shaan and K K.”
Even so, the composer admits that singing for other composers helps him learn his craft better. “When I work with a composer like Shankar Mahadevan, who is one of the best singers in India, I learn a thing or two about singing,”
But, of course, point out to him that he is the vocalist of one of India’s biggest rock bands, and he instantly quips, “I was just talking about playback singing. When I perform with Pentagram, I’m the best f**king singer in the world!”