Planet Bollywood
"I am never completely satisfied with my work" - Sohail Sen
- Gianysh Toolsee           Let us know what you think about this feature article

After the musical success of What’s Your Rashee, Sohail Sen is back with the music of Khelein Hum Jee Jan Sey, which stars Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Vishakha Singh and Sikandar Kher. In an exclusive interview with Gianysh Toolsee, he talks about the music making, his singing and his future plans in Bollywood.

Khelein Hum Jee Jan Sey releases on Friday 3rd December 2010.

First of all, thanks for taking time off to talk to Planet Bollywood. What have you been up to lately?

Hello and welcome to all my fans here on Planet Bollywood. Well, I have just recently completed composing songs and background score for Mr. Ashutosh Gowarikar's movie "Khelein Hum Jee Jan Sey (KHJJS)" and currently I am composing music for my next project, which is from Yash Raj Films called "Mere Brother Ki Dhulan".

The music of Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey is very periodic. How much work went into composing for a periodic score; being your first one?

It is always a lot of fun but at the same time challenging to explore and research a new genre of music such as that created for "Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey". The story of the movie is about the 1930 Chittagong uprising in Bengal, with the majority of the characters and setup being Bengali. A lot of work and effort was put in to ensure that the music of the movie reflected the authenticity and theme of the story and region it took place in, namely Bengal.

During the last decade, we saw a lot of periodic movies with the likes of The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Lagaan, Jodhaa Akbar and more. Tell us how Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey is different from these scores and how were you musically inspired.

Basically, the theme of each of the movies you mentioned is very different from each other. Jodhaa Akbhar was an epic, The Legend of Bhagat Singh was based in Punjab, whereas "Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey" is a period action thriller movie that took place in 1930 in Bengal. It narrates the story of Mr. Surjya Sen, a small town teacher. So naturally the music of all the movies has also been very different. For KHJJS, my team and I did a tremendous amount of research on Bengali music and we listened to a lot of Bengali folk music. During this process I realized that Bengali music is not restricted to one genre, but several genres like Baul, Bhandari, Bhatiali, Bhawaiya, and Gajir geet. Incorporating music from these various genres into the songs and background score was indeed a unique experience.

As the music composer and also singer, how would rate the music of Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, being your next release after the hugely popular WYR? Are you satisfied with the final product?

I can never rate my songs as each and every song of mine has a special place in my heart in its own unique way. Frankly speaking, I am never completely satisfied with my work. I like to push myself till the last minute, till my songs have gone for mastering. With regards to singing, I have always felt that I am not a singer! It has always been Mr. Ashutosh Gowarikar who has insisted that I sing (smiles).

The background music forms an important part of the movie and is also part of the released soundtrack. The soundtrack also seems to place more emphasis on the background music, than the actual songs itself. Did that limit the scope to produce a better quality of songs?

Producing the best quality of songs has always been top priority. The songs form the core of the soundtrack and they were created much before the background score that you hear in the soundtrack. In fact the background music has been created from the song interludes. So nowhere has there been a compromise made on the quality of the songs.

Ashutosh Gowariker has worked in the past with A.R Rahman in periodic films like Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar. Definitely, he had some experience in what he wanted. Was there any interference in your work? And how did he extract the tunes from you?

First of all I personally like the Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbhar soundtracks a lot, since I think they adhere to the theme of the movie very well. I did the same with KHJJS. I always compose music keeping the directors’ vision in mind. This is my second movie with Mr Ashutosh Gowarikar, and so obviously the comfort level was much more than "What’s Your Rashee (WYR)". Ashu ji never interferes in my work. It is Ashu ji, Javed saab and my collective decision about the final music that will be in the movie.

I was called to Goa where the shoot was happening to get the feel of the movie. I, along with my team set up a mini studio in a hotel room in Goa. In the morning I would be on the sets, interact with the actor, and get familiar with the characters and locales. By the afternoon I would return to my hotel room and start composing. Late in the night by 1a.m or so, Ashu sir would come and select the tunes and discuss the music for the film. I was there for about a month. So technically, most of the songs and their scratch were finalized in Goa.

There are only three lead singers (yourself, Pamela Jain and Rajini Bose) in the whole soundtrack. Any reason for this restricted range?

There are 5 songs in the movie so obviously the bandwidth to utilize a variety of singers reduced considerably. Out of the 5, two of the songs are a chorus. For the remaining songs, we hardly had the need for several singers. The song ‘Yeh Des Hai Mera’ is about Mr. Surjya Sen and 4 other revolutionaries. ‘Naiyn Tere’ is about the friendship between two girls and their respective love. The KHJJS title track is about the revolutionary kids and their aim to free India. ‘Sapne Salone’ is a romantic song about the silent love and understanding between Kaplana Datta and Surjya Sen. And last but not the least; 'Vande Mataram' is a translation from Sanskrit to Hindi. Each song is in accordance to the situation in the movie.

The title track is very situational, using the Suresh Wadekar’s Ajivasan Music Academy. Tell us who initiated to use a chorus, instead of singers.

It was completely Ashu sir’s decision to have a kids chorus, since it is a song about revolutionary kids and their fighting spirit to free India. It was Ashu sir who suggested that we should have a group of kids singing it, so that’s how we decided to go for these kids and let me tell you all that these kids were brilliant during the recording session. They were well trained, perfectly pitched and had a fantastic grasping power. It just feels good that India is going to have a very bright future in music because of these kids and I think Suresh Wadkar’s music academy has done a remarkable and great job by giving proper training to these kids.

You have sung ‘Tujhpe Fida' in Sirf - Life Looks Greener on the Other Side, also 9 tracks in WYR and now for Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey. How would you rate your voice?

I am going to let the listeners decide how they want to rate my singing (smiles).

You have made use of a lot of traditional Indian instruments in the soundtrack. In WYR you also used a lot of live instruments. In an age, where softwares have invaded the musical scene, how was it to work with such instruments, so rarely heard nowadays?

Well, I compose for Hindi cinema music after all (smiles), and so I always make sure to use live instruments for my songs as it gives a different warmth to the whole track. It was actually a very difficult task to get the musicians and live instruments players to play for KHJJS. It was a big setback when I came to know that there are only 2 cello players in our Hindi music fraternity. Further, several violin and viola players have either sold their instruments or have stopped playing it, as most of the music composers either go Chennai or London to record the strings section. But we eventually did find some really good players who had earlier on played for Laxmikant-Pyarelal ji, R.D Burman ji and many other composers too from the 70s.

Currently, there is a new wave where most young music directors are singing their own songs. The debate is that even though the composers have a better understanding of their creations, sometimes the voices are not trained or matured enough for playback singing. What is your take on this subject?

Well, it depends from song to song. A composer can’t sing each and every song in the movie. I sang 9 songs in WYR because the movie demanded it and it was fine for WYR, since it was the same person Mr. Yogesh Patel singing each song. It is rightly said "If the character is the same throughout the movie , then why cant the voice be the same".

‘Sapne Salone’ and some of the instrumentals are arranged and programmed by Simaab Sen. Is Simaab assisting you?

Simaab is my first cousin and I am extremely proud of him as my younger brother. Yes he is assisting me; he started off with WYR as an additional programmer. Since I program my own songs, so I thought why not let him arrange and program to give a different feel to the track.

Unlike some newcomers, your music does not sound repetitive and each project has its own individuality. Furthermore, the tunes are not similar from your released ones. However, one can notice a similar Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen’s style of arrangements in certain songs. For example, the title track’s opening and interludes. Your reactions?

Well I belong to a family of composers - my great grandfather Jamal Sen, my grandfather Shambhu Sen, my father Sameer Sen, so obviously there will be some similarity as I grew up listening to their songs and I am proud to have those similarities.

Post WYR which was released nearly a year ago, you haven’t had any releases. Your next release is Mere Brother Ki Dulhan from Yash Raj Films. Have you been approached by other production houses or directors for assignments or are you being selective with the work?

Well it’s better to work on one film at a time, as I only do everything from composing to programming to record till the mixing so I can’t give time to other projects till the time one is not finished, but I would love to work on more projects in a year (smiles).

What can you tell us on the music of Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, which stars Imran Khan and Katrina Kaif?

Right now nothing much to say as it’s still in its initial stages, we have locked all the tunes and currently designing the sound for it but to my fans and listeners all I can say is that, after WYR and KHJJS, Mere Brother Ki Dhulan is an unusual unexpected score from me (smiles).

Your father (Sameer Sen) had a song (Dil Tujhe Pukare) in the recently released 27_13.20 Nakshatra (2010). Is he making a comeback in movies?

My father has a habit for saying yes, he never says no to anybody. So if something comes his way, he does it, that’s what happened with Nakshatra.

What have you been listening lately in Bollywood? Any favourite songs?

Lately I have just become a fan of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, he is just superb, heard Raag-Multani Kaafi couple of days back; it’s mesmerizing. In Hindi cinema lately, I liked Once Upon A Time In Mumbai by Pritam.

What does the future hold for Sohail Sen?

I really don't know (smiles). All I want to do is good quality work.

It was a pleasure talking to you Sohail.

It is always a pleasure to talk to Planet Bollywood for their in-depth understanding and thorough knowledge of my work. God bless.


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