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Interviews |  20 Jun 2009 17:10 |  By AnitaIyer

Shamir Tandon - "I feel let down as my songs are never played in autos or night clubs because they lack fast tempo"

Shamir Tandon was in the media glare recently for having composed track with the legendary musician Lata Mangeshkar for Madhur Bhandarkar's Jail. However, he is apprehensive that his tracks won't be played after the hype is over.

Known for his music for Madhur's triology Traffic Signal, Page 3, Corporate and the forthcoming Jail, Shamir Tandon has an impressive lineup in Bollywood this year. Having done legitimate collaborations for his tracks- One love, Bure Bure, he lashes at the composers for engaging in plagiarism. In a conversation with's Anita Iyer, the corporate professional turned musician chats about his experience working with Lataji, his experimental music and opines on the issues in the music industry.

There has been a lot of buzz around on you composing a track with the melody queen, Lata Mangeshkar for Madhur Bhandarkar's �Jail'. How was it composing for Lata di?

Lataji is a living legend with sanctity attached with her name. This was my third recording with her, �Kitne ajeeb' from Page 3 being the first, one unreleased and this track from Jail. Right from the time we approach her to sing, we feel the reciprocal enthusiasm to sing for us although she is not singing many songs these days. I sent her scratch of the track in my horrendous voice and she immediately responded with a positive answer. The track she has sung is basically a bhajan played in the jail early in the morning. so, this the prayer to which they wake up in the morning in the film.

Do you or the recordists in the studio get intimidated while recording the track with Lataji?

It would be surprising to know that she comes bang on time for recording unlike the new crop of singers! Lata di brings lyrics handwritten by her and carries her own �chai and garam pani'! She asks, although she doesn't need to, if she can make minute changes for the enhancement of the song. She ensures that nobody is intimidated that they are recording with �Lata Mangeshkar' and encourages criticisms while recording to ensure the product is finally good.

From this generation, I am the only one blessed to be given a chance for recording as she isn't recording these days. I was touched to know that in her biography among the pictures which include Madan Mohan, Sajjad Hussain, Khayam Sahab, she has added pictures of A R Rahman and mine among the current lot!

The music that you compose is very different from the current lot of peppy numbers we hear on radio or discos…

In the last four years, the music I have been composing did not follow the contemporary flavour and one of the reasons being, the films I worked on did not demand that kind of music. I feel a little let down when I notice my songs are never being played in a rickshaw or night clubs because my songs aren't the ones with fast tempos. Also unfortunately, people tend to measure song's popularity on the basis of its play in night clubs and radio.

I believe, the songs I compose, like this track with Lataji, won't be played by the media much. As of now, it is getting coverage because Lataji has rendered vocals for it, but later channels might hesitate to play it. Youth music channels have a perception that such songs are not preferred by the youth, but I think they tend to challenge the intelligence of the youth by underestimating their preferences.

What is your take on the contemporary peppy tracks ruling the charts?

We have to be true to the profession we are in. We are film music directors and it is different from an album director. While working on your album, you can experiment with whatever elements you want but in a film you have to cater to the need of the masses. If you don't create a music that the producer demands, you are not doing justice to the profession you are in.

You have worked on a number of films on an assortment basis- Bluffmaster, Mission      Istanbul to name a few. What is your take on working on assortment basis?

I would never like to work on an assortment basis. I think the way the industry is shaping up, it is unfortunate that this trend is being seen in the industry. Film director visualises and music director puts audio to his vision, this gets disturbed in case of multiple composers. In the last couple of years, multi composer compositions in films have not worked than a single composer for a film. The general perception in a multi composer album is that the director has picked the best of musicians and has a mixed bag of music, which is wrong. In reality, barring a few films, this concept doesn't seem to be working. Today films have a limited scope for music and that is endangered by muti composer trend.

There are some veterans like Pankaj Udhas who believes that songs would disappear from Hindi Cinema… do you endorse these thoughts?

The number of songs in films are decreasing, the kind of cinema made these days don't have much scope for music. You have only 2-3 songs in totality and it doesn't make sense to engage more than a composer for that. Most of the songs are used as background scores and the concept of actors lip syncing is diminishing in Bollywood. Even my song like â€?Kitne ajeeb rishte' was used as a backgrounder in Page 3. But music can never be eradicated from Bollywood films, even though the films don't fit in, the film makers would somehow squeeze in the track in the film. Music plays an instrumental role in promotions and bringing the initial footfalls in the cinema halls. Good music gives some kind of credibility to the film, there is a saying in the industry- â€?If you don't have Aamir or Shahrukh, you must atleast have good music'! 

You have been very experimental in music for your films…

I would say that the film makers I have worked with have also been experimental. Like Madhur Bhandarkar, his genre is experimental and realistic, so I get a scope to experiment. In my music for Sanjay Gupta's forthcoming Acid factory I could experiment because Sanjay has a flair for music.

You are coming for Shemaroo's animation movie �Panga gang'. What is the scope of music in an animation movie?

There is lot of scope for experimentation in animation movies. Times are changing and animation worldwide is a very big industry now and I think in a course of time, music will find its prominence in animation movies. We have examples of crazy fox and then the recent Vodafone's Zoo Zoo characters, where the animated characters created waves. Walt Disney is also sourcing music for its animation movie, India is on a global map and it our onus to take it forward and showcase our potential.

Having delivered some great music with Madhur Bhandarkar, how did your association with him begin?

It was when I was the managing director of Virgin that I met Madhur. I was sitting at a coffee shop at Taj when I was introduced to Madhur Bhandarkar by a common friend  I expressed my inclination for composing for Bollywood music and hummed a few tunes in his ears as you cant shout your lungs at Taj! He liked my music and we have been working together since then.

How was this transition from a management guy to a musician…

I studied cost accountancy and MBA in marketing and international business. I was musically inclined but didn't know what music director and compositions meant because that time there were no reality shows and exposure to music was limited. I started doing ad jingles and my bosses in earlier jobs were encouraging that I pursue my passion for music. So, I was a professional by day and musician by night. I didn't have a formal training in music but I believe you have to understand the process of recording which I learnt on job while doing jingles.

We need to have a infotainment for people, as they are not aware that the harmless piracy that they engage in is illegal, unethical and they should be educated in the right way.

What are your views on the cliff between the musicians and industry over royalties?

In our country, the royalty issue is still in preliminary stage and I think over a period things would be restructured. If things work out in a next couple of years, we can buy an island for ourselves if we get one superhit song a year. It is good that some composers are in a position where they can demand royalty and are shaping the industry and are paving paths for the newer generation. There is a movement where united forum of lyricists and music directors are voicing and it is a process as you cannot change what has been followed from the past 60- 70 years.

Do you think music directors are underpaid in the industry?

It is not only the music directors but also the lyricists who are underpaid in the industry. Singers have an alternate source of revenue called live shows and can earn a couple of crores in a month. But the lyricists and composers have no right once they do Kanyadan of the song.

What are your views on the prevailing plagiarism in the industry?

Plagiarism occurs at two level, one where in a subliminal manner, there are remote resemblances to a song and second when there is a straight lift of tracks from Korea, Japan, Brazil. Every artist looks for two things money and credit, so if you can give the credits to the original creators and divide the money with him, it works. Composers in Bollywood must embrace legitimate collaborations and not overlook the creativity of the original composers. I had collaborated with Boy band Blue for �One Love', and similar collaborations for Say na and Bure Bure from Bluffmaster.

The recent non-film music you composed was for the IPL track for Deccan Chargers. Any more non-film lined up?

Right now I am focusing only on films because ultimately Bollywood is the biggest medium which gets you the recognition. Deccan chargers was the IPL which stood last the previous year and won this year, (guffaws) I would like to believe my music has inspired them!

What are your upcoming Bollywood projects …

My Bollywood lineup includes Vijayata Films, Cheers, Sanjay Gupta's Acid Factory, Satish Kaushik's �Hawaidada', Popcorn Studio 18's Loot, Apoorva Lakhia's untitled, Mahindra and Popcorn's Mumbai Chakachak, Pritish Nandy Communication's Click, Manmohan Shetty's Aamras, Sanjay Dutt's Mukti, Sohail Khan's Kya fool hai hum, Shemaroo's Panga Gang and some more. Phew!