Singer-composer-lyricist Anupam Roy looks back at his journey in Bangla music and talks to Titas Chowdhury about working on singles and Hindi films
You shot to fame with Autograph in 2010. From then to now, how would you describe your journey?
It is a journey of almost nine years and it is very difficult to put into words. I have been lucky and blessed.
You have started composing singles that are being produced by SVF Music. How did the decision to do something different come about?
I have been doing albums for the last nine years. Hence, making a single is not new for me. Like any other artiste, I always wanted to have my own album. But things here are not very smooth. Film music takes precedence over any other kind of music. So people think it is better to be in the limelight.
Things changed for me after Autograph. I would have come up with my albums anyway, but I don’t think that they would be so popular. Autograph has given me a lot. The songs placed in the movie and the way they were picturized became popular because they were a part of a huge film. I have always been into making albums; I have been doing my own stuff. There are a lot of songs that I write. When I feel like they are not in sync with films and not in line with the theme, I release them as singles or albums.
What kind of response have you been getting for your singles so far?
The response has been very encouraging. We are generally very scared to do Bangla singles and albums. I made an album called Bakyobageesh in 2014 which released along with a song that I had composed for Chotushkone. The song from Chotushkone became so popular that my album did not reach out to a lot of people. It was very unfair. I thought that the next time I make an album, I would release it at a time when none of my film albums will be around or else it would face the same fate.
But things look brighter now. Maybe there are so many similar kinds of sounds around that people want to listen to something different. That is paving a way for a new kind and genre of music that does not necessarily fit into film narratives. My single, Kalboishakhi worked moderately well. We performed the song live many a time. Next came a song called Mithye kotha, a dance number. No one expected a dance number from me. That song really clicked. They started requesting the song at live shows.
I had the chance of experimenting with alternative rock, and that is how we created the song, Ish Debashish. It is a song that deals with a midlife crisis. There is no movie in Bengal that deals with a subject like that or that has the space for a song like this. That is why it found a place in my solo project. It also did quite well, not as much as Mitthe kotha which is more mainstream in its appeal. But we have been performing the song at our concerts.
A lot of singers believe that composing non-film music is more liberating than film music. What do you think?
That holds true for many artistes. For me, that is partially true. I don’t exactly compose for films. I write my songs on my own. But if a script or a film comes to me, I usually play my existing songs from my bank. The makers listen to them and take their pick. It is not like a film dictates my songwriting. The makers select my songs for their films. So, the process is different for me and I think it is very liberating.
If at all I have to make songs for films, then I am restricted by the characters, the storyline and the situation. If I have Soumitra Chatterjee and Sabitri Chatterjee on screen, I will not have a loud song; I would have a mellow number or maybe just a soft cello or the piano playing in the background as a prelude to my song. I think it is liberating when I am writing and composing songs for films as well. When it comes down to albums, it is completely liberating. In albums, I can use any instrument I want and there is no restriction with regard to their duration.
You have worked in both the Bangla and the Hindi music industries. Do you sense any differences?
Yes, there is a lot of difference between both these industries. When I am working on a Hindi film, I am making music for audiences who belong to a different demography. It is very difficult to create a tune that appeals to everyone. But, in Bengal, I have a very good understanding of the kind of songs that the Bangla audience will like. Rabindra sangeet is very popular in West Bengal. But they are not popular all over India. So many people have tried to translate them in several languages, but they have not worked. Only the national anthem has worked at the national level (Laughs). Bengali and Hindi, as languages, are so different. S D Burman, Salil Chowdhury and R D Burman have crossed boundaries and have created everlasting melodies. I try to follow in their footsteps. I want to create something like they did. I do not know how long that will take.
Hindi films become a little difficult for people like us who are starting their journey in this industry. Most of the songs that you compose do not find places in films. Last year, I worked on a film called October which was a fantastic film. I composed a song that was sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. That song became quite popular but it was not there in the film. In fact, there are no songs in the movie. Then, I had also worked in Pink. I had composed two songs for it that were not there in the movie. I consider myself lucky that five of my songs were retained in Piku. I had also composed its background score. That was a very fulfilling experience.
And what are your upcoming projects?
I have composed one of the songs of Badla, which has been directed by Sujoy Ghosh.
Bengal has been very kind to me. I have been offered four to five movies a year and sometimes more. I started this year with Shah Jahan Regency. I am composing music for Srijitda’s Vinci Da. In May, I will be doing Shibu’s (Shiboprosad Mukherjee) Konttho. After that, I have another of his films called Belashuru. I also have Mainak Bhaumik’s Bornoporichoy. So I have my hands full. I think 2019 will be quite musical for me.