Pritam: (Laughs) Since it’s AR Rahman, I don’t feel bad. Imtiaz is still a friend. Things were different for Rockstar. He had already committed to Rahman way before he had committed the film to anyone. Rahman was doing Rockstar before Jab We Met, when it was with UTV and John (Abraham) was the hero. Rahman had done a few songs then. So I knew Rahman was the obvious choice for Rockstar.
As for Jab We Met, I got on board completely by chance. Sandesh was supposed to do the film, then Shahid (Kapoor) and Imtiaz decided that everybody would do two songs each. I was supposed to do Mauja hi mauja and Yeh ishq haye because I am very fond of Kareena (Kapoor Khan). But somehow my destiny changed when Nagada happened. I don’t remember who was supposed to do the song in that situation. When that song was happening I was getting married and Imtiaz called me and said, ‘Listen, you have to do this song. Where are you?’
I said I was getting married and he was, like, ‘Acha, kab khatam hoga?’ I replied, ‘Kal reception hai aur kal raat tak aa jaunga.’ Since he was shooting in Lonavala, he asked me to come there. After the reception, Irshad (Kamil) was literally waiting in the car for me and around 12-1 o’clock, I left with him for Khandala. By the time we reached there, Shahid and Imtiaz had just packed up. This is such a funny incident because in the car, Irshad and I were thinking what to do and I said that sir nahi hoga ye parso shoot hai out of question hai ye.
Shahid was staying at Duke’s in Khandala. So we went there and I started playing my guitar. The tune for the song happened in 15 minutes. Imtiaz liked it and Shahid liked it and they looked at me and said, ‘It’s 4 am now, let’s go back.’ So we left as it was the last day of their shoot.
While driving back, I kept saying this is a very bad tune please don’t record it. The following day, it was orchestrated in half a day and while the song was being recorded, Irshad was writing the lyrics. Before the word ‘Nagada’ came up, so many words came up. He even came up with the word ‘Patakha’.
Imtiaz was saying, ‘Nahi, theek nahi hai’, and we were recording at Meet Brothers studio and singer Javed Ali was on the microphone waiting for the lyrics ke garma garam lyrics aye toh main dub karoon. Irshad used to write two lines and Imtiaz used to okay it and at the same time two-two line karke gana record kiya.
We finished the recording the song at night and I still felt it was a very bad song. I told Imtiaz not to do it. Then they went to Chandigarh to shoot the song. I kept sending them songs to replace it but they shot it anyway. And the song became such a big hit. So you never know what destiny has in store.
Sorry, I forgot the original question.
Pritam: How does it feel toh ho gaya…
BOI: That was the question.
Pritam: Jab We Met also came to me by chance and then Love Aaj Kal was a damn good film. Now I don’t remember how it felt. (Laughs)
BOI: Speaking of destiny… Tell us about your journey from Tere Liye to Dhoom?
Pritam: I used to do a lot of advertisments and television serials after I graduated from FTII. I used to do advertisements and jingles for Raju Hirani. I used to do all his work. Raju introduced me to Sanjay Gadhvi as he was editing for him. Sanjay heard the songs Jeet and I had made back then. He was, like, ‘Chalo chhota film banata hoon’, and he made Tere Liye. I think the music of Tere Liye was very good.
BOI: Yes Dil dhapak…
Pritam: (Cuts in) Khali Dil dhapak nahi… the entire album was good. You guys remember sirf item song. No one remembers any of the good songs. (Laughs)
The film was very small. I think the music company Aditya Music promoted the film and they took the film too. They later sold the film to Zee but soon Zee Music packed up. So that entire music album went unnoticed. If that hadn’t happened, at least one song would have become popular in compilations of Zee Music.
After that, we got no films. I kept doing advertisements. Then Sanjay did Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai for YRF and in that album, Sharara sharara became a hit. Even Jaage jaage was noticed. But we still didn’t get any films. After that, the partnership broke. I did Dhoom with Sanjay and after Dhoom, and I started getting films. So till Dhoom, the journey was pretty bad.
Pritam: No, yaar, that is my problem. I don’t approach producers. I still don’t approach anybody.
BOI: Now you don’t take their calls.
Pritam: No, it’s not like that. (Laughs) Once I tried also. One day, I was very frustrated and was looking at a film directory. I messaged all the directors and producers whose numbers were there in the directory. No one answered except Ramesh Taurani. Rameshji till now answers every message he receives and his reply was, ‘Okay I will meet you.’
BOI: Although Raju Hirani recommended you, strangely he has never asked you to score music for his films.
Pritam: Yeah, it’s strange destiny not getting a chance to work with him as he is the one who got me in to films. He was very keen I work on Munna Bhai but it did not work out so Anu Malik took over the film. Whenever I meet him, I remind him that I still haven’t worked with him.
BOI: You said it was a bitter-sweet journey. You have told us about the sweet moments. Which were the bitter ones?
Pritam: The unpleasant memories are of the films you thought would do well but didn’t. There are so many films like that. I thought the songs of Tum Mile were good but it did not do well. There are so many albums that you think are good or a song is good and it doesn’t work. Then there’s this constant pressure of delivery.
Once a song goes out of your hand it belongs to the public. I believe that applies to any kind of art. Once it gets into the market, the song becomes theirs, the consumers’.
There was this couple in Delhi who I bumped into after Jab We Met. They told me Tumse hi is their song not mine. The boy said he had gifted the girl this song and that they got married through this song. Similar to him I too have so many memories attached to certain RD Burman songs, so much so that I actually feel they are ‘my’ songs.
There was a friend who sang Khul jayega kismat ka tala main bhi actor banunga naam wala from the movie Giraftaar, at a talent contest. I guess Bappi Lahiri himself doesn’t remember this song. Bappi da ke top 100 mein bhi yeh gana nahi hoga. But my friend sang it so well and he became a hero in school after that. So this song belongs more to him than anyone who was a part of it.
Again, I don’t remember the question. I just realised how much I love to talk (Laughs).
Pritam: Oh! leave the bitter I like staying with the sweet. There are these small, sweet moments which help you survive. In 2010–2011, I had lost interest in music. I don’t know why but I felt I had no purpose and I used to wonder why I was working at all. Then, on the Internet, post Agent Vinod and Jannat 2, I found this fan club which was dedicated to me. Somebody had made a fan club for me and they kept on tweeting and I was reading their comments. Someone had given my music a negative review aur ye log uske pichche hi padh gaye thhe that you don’t know anything.
I felt I needed to keep working for these people and I didn’t need to care about anything else. I think every artist derives his spark from somewhere and I felt that spark through them. I think they are also responsible for 2012 being a good year for me as they gave me a lot of energy.
BOI: Earlier, we had these distinctive voices but now we have a new wave of singers. Is that a good thing for the industry?
Pritam: Yes, it is. I have worked with a lot of new singers. I have faced comments like. ‘Your songs will not have longevity’ or ‘You are not using established singers well’. I am hated by the singers’ community because I keep on dubbing and redubbing singers. I am aware that they openly bitch about me. But I keep on trying new voices for my songs because if I don’t do that then how will these new singers come in. Now you don’t know which singer will become a good singer.
Like Mohit Chauhan might have had Silk Route and a song like Khoon chala from Rang De Basanti. But I had heard him sing Guncha and was on his back after that. I asked him to dub Labon ko labon from Bhool Bhulaiyaa but it did not work. But I persisted with him as I felt this guy had something.
So when Tum se hi happened for Jab We Met, he was accepted and he became huge. You have to back new talent to get new singers. Directors are backing new music directors and it is a good thing as new talent should be promoted. Everybody needs a break and everybody needs people backing them.
I use new voices to give freshness to a situation. That was the primary thing with me and Anurag in Barfi! because the songs of Barfi! are very retro. If Kishore Kumar were to have sing that song, it would have sounded like a Kishore Kumar song. There would have been nothing new in that. Nikhil Paul George gave a freshness to the retro song. Yes, old singers were excellent like Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi and we have new voices. When Sunidhi Chauhan was launched, she was launched as a one-off song from Mast but has proved her worth, hasn’t she?