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Interviews |  12 Dec 2016 13:34 |  By Kavita Yadav

Kaabil is giving me sleepless nights: Salim Merchant

MUMBAI: First time judge on &TV’s ‘The Voice’, composer Salim Merchant is confident about his role on the reality show. He knows that he has earned goodwill through his work in the industry and this is also what has got him the best singers on the show. While the other judges on the reality show have had to use their tactics to please the best on the show, Merchant has shared a smile and earned the voice.

In a no filter interview with, Merchant explains what has worked in his favour on ‘The Voice’, who he will side with on the show and why he will not be a part of any gimmicks. Read on...

What is that differentiating factor that you’re bringing to the show?

We all have different personalities, different voices. Each person’s judging style is different and our music styles and genres are different. Of us four, I am different because I am also a composer. So my style of listening and judging a song is different.

Has the audition phase managed to blow your mind, in terms of talent?

The first season of this show was very successful and it got a lot of love because of its unique concept.  This time, we have found even better talent. We have got amazing singers from small towns. We expected more talent from the metropolises, so we were amazed to see them. We have singers with both western and classical music knowledge. They have very good cinematic voices. I hear a lot of singers' demos, but the kind of talent we have got does not need any coaching. They are ready to sing playback.

Have you managed to get the best singers in ‘Team Salim’?

Going by the show's format, if more than one judge presses the buzzer, the singer gets to choose the coach. And here most of the singers selected me, perhaps because they felt that they would get more work from me. A music director has an upper hand. My team is very strong.

Expectations bring in responsibility.

It brings a lot of responsibility. In the next round post the auditions, I will have to choose six out of 12. I don’t know who to let go and whom to keep. That’s a huge dharma sankat (catch). So I have chosen one between the two with help of a duet song. The one who performs better, stays.

Will we see the coaches fighting for the best talent?

Fights are old hat and look stupid. We have a lot of respect for each other, we are all friends. Benny (Dayal) started with me in ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’. Neeti (Mohan) was part of a group called Aasma and we (Salim-Sulaiman) composed their first song. Shaan and I have been friends for 25 years. We have a competitive spirit when all four chairs turn. Every judge tries to woo the contestants to get them in their team, so that will be worth a watch. I don’t say much on the show, but the singers do choose me. It’s musically beautiful, there is no drama.

Will you support a contestant from your team, if he/she is outstanding, but has a bad day during a particular performance?

There is no retake. If your voice is bad, there is no excuse. One can sing certain lines and make the song beautiful. But if the person has capabilities and he/she can do magic in future, I will save him/her.

This time, ‘The Voice’ will witness competition from ‘Indian Idol’, ‘Rising Star’ and ‘Dil Hai Hindustani’. Do you feel the competition?

 We have 1.3 billion people. There is room and space for everyone. People will watch ‘The Voice’ and ‘Indian Idol’. When I was a judge on ‘Indian Idol’, I was also watching ‘The Voice Season 1’. I used to find the show very interesting. I used to see the repeat telecasts. There are people who will watch both. Our country thrives on music reality shows. Now, it’s online as well. We have a huge appetite for music. Two things will always go full in India - ‘gaana’ (music) and ‘khana’ (food).

What is keeping you tied up these days?

‘Beyond Bollywood’ that released in London and now it’s playing in Kingdom Of Dreams, Gurgaon. The Hindi adaptation is running successfully. We have named it ‘Beyond Bollywood’ because it’s connected to our folk music. It’s beyond Bollywood. People feel music is just Bollywood but that's not true. We have a lot more than that. Bollywood is influenced by folk. This play is a mix of Bollywood and folk music of different regions. It’s a very entertaining love story. We (Salim-Sulaiman) are also the producers of this play.  

Music festivals too are bringing in the Bollywood spice. Does this mean that independent music is losing the festival space to Bollywood?

Bollywood is also a style of music. When you go to a world restaurant you get every cuisine. There is electronic, rock, there can also be Bollywood. I do a lot of concerts, where I do a lot of other things. I also sing a Bryan Adams. We have done a ‘Coke Studio’ and ‘The Dewarists’. We are fortunate that people have given us love in every genre.

What’s next on the film front?

Rahul Bose’s ‘Poorna’, it's  a story of a 13-year-old who climbed Mount Everest. It’s a true story and we have composed the music for the film. There is another untitled film with Yash Raj. But I have been spending my days and nights on ‘Kaabil’. The film's story is fantastic, but it’s giving me sleepless nights. We are doing both the background score and music of this film. The background score is a character of this film. It’s a very important part of the film. We usually do the songs for films but in two-three years, you get a film that says that you must do its background score. I had got very emotional after watching ‘Kaabil’ so I had to take it up.