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Reinventing Tunes

A supremely talented part of the musical duo Salim-Sulaiman, singer-composer Salim Merchant talks to Bhakti Mehta about their latest tracks in the film 102 Not Out

Salim-Sulaiman have always surprised us with something new in the music they compose. Their latest track, Bachche ki jaan from 102 Not Out, has received a thumping response from the audience. Salim Merchant remarks, “The response has always been great for us. We are fortunate that the audience has always loved the music we make.

“More than that, it is not about the response when we make a song. We make a song to fulfill a certain dream that we see in order to fulfill the dream that the director sees. We make it according to what the story demands and make sure it blends with the characters and the idea of the director. That is basically what we aim for as music composers. In that space, I think we have achieved our share of acclaim and I am very happy with all our achievements,” he says.

Merchant also reveals his inspiration for the song. “There is a line in the film by Mr Bachchan, where he says, ‘Mujhe duniya ki har nayi cheez achchi lagti hai lekin music purana achcha lagta hai.’ That was my cue point for this entire film. We wanted to keep the music very vintage and old-style. And I think somewhere down the line, we have achieved it.”

The composer says Bachche ki jaan was made after the movie was shot. “The idea of what needed to be done was pretty much in front of us. We knew what we had to do for this song as we had watched the film. The picture and edit was quite clear and told us what we wanted to do. The director did not have to really spell it out because it was right there and everyone was on the same page.

“It is a song about a father, played by Mr Amitabh Bachchan, pushing his son, who is Mr Rishi Kapoor, to a limit which makes him uncomfortable. The song is about how we face these challenges and things that are outside our comfort level. That’s why, in a very casual and informal way, we say, bache ki jaan loge kya? Everyone says things like that and we thought it would be great to use this as our theme. When these lyrics were written, I thought it was a great hook. It is fun working on such songs and especially ones like these which are unusual for a story like 102 Not Out. It just blended so well with the story and I thought it was an amazing addition,” he says.

On making a song after the film was made, Merchant adds, “Composing for a song depends on what kind of number it is. There is nothing easy or difficult about it, one way or another. We made this song after the scene was shot and it was good. We have another song in the film called Baal hai safed, which was composed before the shooting. Often, we hear a story first, get to know what the story is all about, and then compose a song on it. Sometimes, it is the other way.”

He explains why he chose Arijit Singh as the voice for Bachche ki jaan. “Choosing the right voice is very important for every song. While making a song, we keep singing it casually and then discover which singer will suit the song. I am very honest about what a song needs and try to deliver. I would rather go with whatever is required for the song than what is trending. People asked me why I picked Arijit for this song because he is known to sing love ballads. But, I think Arijit has a very versatile voice, which he proved when he gave songs like Dilliwali girlfriend and Nashe si chad gayi. I thought he would be perfect for this song.”

Sharing details about the other two tracks he has composed for this film, Merchant says, “One song is Kulfi and it is one of my favourites. It is a soft ghazal sung by Sonu Nigam. It is a beautiful ballad. Then there is Baal hai safed, which I spoke about earlier. It is an easy-breezy song, which has an old-world charm, like Ajeeb dastan hai. It also has a jazz vibe. I don’t really like to talk about my work because it is like praising myself. I am not very fond of that. I would rather the praise and appreciation come from the audience.”

Merchant talks about his impressive body of work, saying, “More than being popular, I like the fact that we are making good music. I think Sulaiman and I have been very lucky to have been making music that the audience has loved right from the beginning. When it was Kurbaan, we made a little realistic music; when it was Fashion, we made realistic music; when it was Band Baaja Baaraat, it was Punjabi-style music; in Chak De! India, it had a patriotic feel. So, we have been very fortunate to have been doing what we love, making music. Somewhere it worked.”

 

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