Planet Bollywood
Interview with Sohail Sen
- Anish Mohanty           Let us know what you think about this feature article

In a very short span of time, composer Sohail Sen has made a name for himself by making some memorable music for movies like ‘What’s Your Raashee?’, ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’, ‘Ek Tha Tiger’, ‘Gunday’, among others. In this interview, he talks about music and his journey as a musician.

1. The music of your last release, Gunday, was unanimously praised by critics and audience alike. How does that feel?

It feels wonderful for the music of Gunday to be appreciated so unanimously. Music is my passion and my life and when you work so hard to create something from that passion, which, in turn, gains so much popularity and appreciation, it certainly is very rewarding. All the hard work is paid off, and I feel happy and even more motivated to continue creating such music.

2. The first film that you composed music for, 'Hamilton Palace' (also known as 'The Murderer'), starring Mahaakshay Chakraborty, did not see the light of the day. Did that disappoint you?

Well, considering the fact that it was my first film, I did feel a bit disappointed. But I just took it in my stride, didn’t really allow it to affect me too much, and I do have fond memories of composing for my first film.

3. You had scored some brilliant music for two of your earlier movies 'What's Your Raashee?' and 'Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey' but the music could not reach out to a wider audience. Apart from the fact that these movies did not do well at the box office, the music prior to the release of the films was not marketed properly. 'Mere Brother Ki Dulhan' was the soundtrack that got very popular with the masses. The music was very good and aided by good promotion by Yash Raj Films. Do you feel had your earlier soundtracks been promoted as well, they could have covered a wider distance as far as popularity is concerned?

First of all, thank you for complimenting me on the music of 'What’s Your Raashee?' and 'Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey', two films also very close to my heart. I think they were promoted well and when you have a name like Ashutosh Gowariker attached to it then obviously things would be promoted well. But anyways, due to the popularity of my current films, the music of the earlier ones is getting noticed all over again, and so I really have no complaints.

4. You have worked with Yash Raj Films on three films. Do you have a contract with them? Do we see you working them in the near future?

Who does not to work with Yash Raj Films, and yes you will see me soon composing songs for them again.

5. You have always spoken against having multiple composers in films. You had to go through such an experience with two films namely, 'Sirf- Life Looks Greener On The Other Side' and 'Ek Tha Tiger', where a song each was composed by different composer/s.

Yes 'Sirf-Life Looks Greener On The Other Side' and 'Ek Tha Tiger' did have more than one composer. The overall experience was good but due to shortage of time I couldn't do those songs. However, I prefer being the only composer for a film. It’s a completely different ball game when you are the only composer and the entire film belongs to you.

6. You sung extensively for 'What's Your Raashee' and 'Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey'. After that, barring a song or two in 'From Sidney With Love' and 'Gunday', we did not get to hear you sing much. Why?

It all depends on the director. For 'Whats Your Raashee' and 'Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey', Ashutosh Sir wanted me to sing and same happened with 'Sydney With Love' and 'Gunday', it's the director's choice after all and I too don't force myself to sing every song.

7. Your father, Mr. Sameer Sen and grand uncle, Mr. Dilip Sen, had worked as music composers in the Hindi Film Industry. Did they give you any specific advice as far as composing music for films is concerned?

My father (Sameer Sen) is a huge support in my career, I don't think, without him, I would have been able to achieve so much in life. He is my friend, my father and my mentor and whatever I have learned today is all because of him. We always discuss my music and I get a lot of candid feedback from him

8. How long did you train yourself to become a composer? Did you train as a singer too?

My training started when I was seven and till date I am training myself to be a better composer with every film because music education is a never-ending process. I am a composer first, singing happened by chance and no, I didn't get any training in singing.

9. What are the musical instruments that you can play? Which instrument do you, usually, use to compose a tune?

I play tabla, percussion and piano. Piano is my first love. I usually compose with piano.

10. The background score or should I say, the composers who work on the background music are not given as much credit as the composers who compose songs? Even the background score is not as much talked about as it is in the West.

From the very beginning, Bollywood music has mainly been dominated and identified by its songs, singers and mainstream music composers. Pragmatically, the concept and market for background score as a separate entity (as in the West) doesn’t exist here as of now. Music CDs are released prior to the movie being released and may not have the entire background score as part of it. As a result, background score composers are not as well-known as perhaps their Western counterparts, where composing the background score for a movie is really a very prestigious affair. However, things are changing here too with the influx of a more global audience and film makers akin.

11. Unlike most composers whose music sounds familiar over a period of time, the music of each of your films sounds remarkably different from the rest. You clearly do not follow a template and have not restricted yourself to a particular genre or style of music. I feel that's a remarkable quality to have as a composer.

Thank you once again for complimenting my music. I believe in variety being the spice of life and the same is true when it comes to music and songs. I normally do a lot of research while composing for a movie, to figure out what will work and sound the best. The movies nowadays demand it too, given such a wide range of locales, eras and stories. And so, I have to spend a lot of time in finding the right voices, deciding the right instruments, and then composing and experimenting with all of that to eventually make the soundtrack unique and as you said, different from the rest.

12. Talk about the artists whose music you were influenced by while you were growing up.

There are lot of artists whom I get influenced from-John Williams, James Horner, Hans Zimmer, Michael Jackson and many more.

13. Your cousin, Simaab Sen, is also a musician and composer and has worked with you as an arranger and has done a lot of independent work as well. Talk about him.

I think he is really doing well and I am really happy for him. He is one of the closest cousin with whom I had spent most of my time growing up. I am really proud of him and he is doing some great work.

14. Do you have any plan to release single/s or a solo non-film album as a singer?

Yes, a solo album of mine is in the works and hopefully, if all goes well and as planned we will see one in the near future.

15. Which genre of music are you most comfortable in or the one which you think is your forte?

I like to compose all kinds but yes, romantic songs is what I love composing.

16. Which are the filmmakers or production houses that you are looking forward to work with in the future?

I would like to work with all of them. It's for them to decide to work with me.

17. With piracy at its peak and minimal physical sales, music companies, today, lose out on a lot of revenue. How does that affect you?

Piracy does cause a lot of economic loss to the music industry. It not only affects financially but also emotionally to see quality being compromised for price. It has to be tackled, and more stringent anti-piracy policies should be carried out and joint efforts should be made to improve the original price and availability of the product.

18. What are the projects that you are working on at the moment?

Currently, I have been working on an interesting track for tennis league which is happening in Abu Dhabi.

19. A message for those who are reading this interview.

Want to thank my readers for their wonderful support, love and affection for my music. It gives me great pleasure to read their responses and I really appreciate and value their feedback always. Love and best wishes to all.


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