In his own quiet way, he has found his niche in the hurly-burly of Bollywood, garnering acclaim for his melodious music as well as his films, which include Saat Khoon Maaf, Kaminey, Omkara and Maqbool. His latest, 'top secret' production Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola, is already keeping cinewatchers guessing about what he has up his sleeve.
She, on the other hand is known for her fabulous voice, though her daring rendition of Namak ishq ka has overshadowed her more classical numbers.
Alike, yet different, they make a compellingly watchable couple. Rekha Bhardwaj talks without stops about Vishal Bharadwaj.
You do seem rather different from each other temperamentally. What brought you together?
In a way, it was music. And the fact that we were in the same college. But mostly, the bond between us was the crazy streak we both had, perhaps still have.
We met in 1984, at Delhi University. I was in Music Hons, and Vishal was in Arts. I was a year senior, and was quite well known, as I would take part in all the college music cultural functions. We met at an annual day function. He planned to sing some songs by Jagjit Singh and Pankaj Udhas on stage. He was rehearsing, so was I.
Somehow we got together, and then the crazy streak took over. We would laugh a lot, over nothing. But music proved to be the real bond.
What was he like?
He would compose music even then, and was quite lost in that. I liked the soulfulness of his compositions, though there were not many embellishments. His classical training started much later, when he started listening to the ghazals of Mehdi Hassan.
And you, on the other hand were a student of classical music. How did that work for him?
I had the training of the Indore Gharana. Serious stuff. And that gave me a sense of pride. I was straight forward, critical, almost badtameez. I would react loudly to his compositions with my views.
Did it bother him?
Not really. He was always a patient man, and he realised I was classically trained. I could influence him in that way.
His strength was his poetry, He'd started reading Gulzar while still in school, and knew most of his work by heart . He could recite freely from Dr Basheer Badr's long poem. In college, he would also compose a lot of poetry, and I had nothing to criticise in that sphere.
Why did you two move to Bombay? Was it films that beckoned?
He went through a terribly tough time. His father and brother were in Bombay: his father was a lyricist, brother was a producer here. His brother suddenly died of a heart attack, when Vishal was in the second year. He went through a tough time after that. From 1990 to 1995, we struggled a lot. But today when I look back, I think our days of struggle were the best days.
How did things change? What changed?
Meeting Gulzar changed our lives. He got his break. First, Jungle Book, then Matchis. Gulzar treats him like his own son. Because of Gulzar so much in our life changed for the better, including our perspective. Gulzar used to tell him, "Be patient, have success on your terms."
They still share a very close relationship, is it not?
They are like father and son. They understand the language of silence, of being silent together.
How is Vishal's relationship with others?
He is very sensitive, he values a relationship, be it with me, or his mother, or his team members. He has the ability to make a difference in people's lives without being asked.
But as a creative person, is he slow and steady or volatile?
When he is creating, he breathes it, lives it, be it a song or a scene. If he reads a story he likes, he will talk endlessly about it. He will be excited, want to share it with me, with his assistants. If he has a song on his mind and cannot sleep, he will wake me up and sing it. It is so complete an involvement that I have to take on responsibility for other aspects of his life.