Sanjay Leela Bhansali on his new album Sukoon: 'I always wanted to be recognised as a music composer'
Sanjay Leela Bhansali talks about musical inspirations, fellow filmmakers who also composed their own music, and new album Sukoon, that is 'ghazals made accessible for the millennials.'
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is not just one of the finest directors of Hindi cinema, but he is also a brilliant music composer. He speaks to Subhash K Jha on his new non-film album Sukoon. Containing 12 ghazals sung by various artistes including Papon, Armaan Malik, and Shreya Ghosal, the album is a tribute to the Ghazals greats.
What brought on this departure from your primary vocation, namely filmmaking?
Well, I've been composing the music for all my films since Guzaarish. I’ve grown up listening to Begum Akhtar, Mehdi Haasan, Ghulam Ali, and Jagjit Singh. My album Sukoon is a tribute to all these Ghazal greats.
So, is Sukoon influenced by the Ghazal greats?
Yes. And yet the compositions and the style of singing are not a copy of these greats. This is a young vibrant attempt to make the Ghazal accessible to the millennials. I hope I’ve succeeded.
Having heard the album, I can vouch for the uniqueness of the sound. The Ghazal has never sounded so young! This is how one felt when Jagjit Singh had broken the mould and shattered all myths about the Ghazal with his 1977 album The Unforgettables. Please elaborate.
When Jagjit Saab came to us with the sound of The Unforgettables, the purists were not happy. I suspect Sukoon too will be subjected to the same scrutiny and criticism, although I am not comparing my album to Jagjit Saab's.
Visionary that you are, you have given a new impetus to the Ghazals. The album also introduces veteran singer Suresh Wadkar’s daughter Ananya. Does she have a voice that makes you listen?
I grew up listening to Lataji. For me, she is the epitome of all that is beautiful in this universe. I search for a glimpse of her voice in all my singers, be it Shreya Ghosal or Ananya Wadekar.
You won the National award for best music composer in 2019?
Yes, when I heard the news that I had been awarded the National Award for being the best music composer for my songs and background music in Padmaavat, it was like a long-cherished dream come true.
I've always wanted to be recognised for my work as a music composer.
Ever since I started officially composing my songs in Ram Leela, it's been a new journey, a new avenue of exploration for me. For me the songs in Ram Leela, Padmaavat, and Bajirao Mastani are as precious as the songs I’ve created for Malaal, the film I produced but did not direct. Or for that matter, the music I’ve created for my forthcoming film Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Are we moving towards a trend of film directors serving as their music providers? Satyajit Ray is the only example of a major filmmaker in the past who composed music for his films?
There is a genuine music composer dormant in many filmmakers. Raj Saab (Raj Kapoor) used to compose a lot of his music in his head. Then he would share his creations with Shankar-Jaikishan who would then mould the compositions into a sophisticated work of art. Another great filmmaker, the underrated Raj Khosla was a singer-composer who collaborated with Laxmikant-Pyarelal for some fabulous music.
Also read: What makes me return to the unapologetic, unadulterated sweetness of the Sooraj Barjatya extended universe
Who is your greatest inspiration as a music composer?
Lataji, and only Lataji. I learned filmmaking by listening to the emotions expressed in her voice. My greatest compliment as a music composer came to me from my idol Lataji for the music of Bajirao Mastani. Lataji has inspired all my films. She told me that the Latpat Latpat opening of my Pinga song was from her song in V Shantaram’s Amar Bhopal. Lataji said she liked my songs and the way I’ve filmed them. Then she affectionately said, ‘Aapne mera Latpat latpat utha liya.’ I humbly submit that it is indeed true.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based journalist. He has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out.
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