A. I started learning music when I was very young. I learned to play the piano when my fingers were too small to even reach the keys. As I grew older, I saw my parents dedicating their lives to music and it inspired me. My father, Nanda Kumar, is into Western classical and my mother, Sharmistha Burman, is an Indian classical singer. So, I have grown up listening to almost all genres of music. Basically it all started in my childhood. With my musical background, it was easy for me to learn the techniques and skills. And being a programmer helps me in a big way while composing music.
Q. From party numbers to soft romantic songs, you have tried your hand at several genres. Which do you enjoy more and why?
A. By god’s grace I have been lucky to deliver songs that have been very well received by the audience. Whether it’s recreated peppy tracks like “The Humma Song” (from Ok Jaanu), “Tamma Tamma Again”(Badrinath Ki Dulhania), “Tu Cheez Badi hai” (Machine); or original songs like “Bolna”(Kapoor & Sons), “Bardrinath Ki Dulhania” (the film’s title track) and others, I have enjoyed composing all. However, I personally enjoy soft music.
Q. You have recreated a lot of popular songs from the past. How challenging is that process of recreating old melodies?
A. Recreation is a process wherein I learn a new melody construction as well as rhythm arrangements. Earlier, the process of composing and producing was completely different. While recreating I follow a simple rule, which is to keep it minimalistic and clean. Most of the songs recreated by me are popular and iconic songs of the past. Even without the recreation, people were still aware of them. That makes it even more challenging as I have to change the entire song and mood of all these songs. One feels a slight pressure to meet the expectations and bring the demand of the song on a par with its original composition. Creating original tracks and recreated tracks, both take equal amount of hard work and effort. All I know is that you have to have honesty and original ideas while working on any song.
Q. Recreating and remixing a song are often confused with each other. What is the biggest difference between the two?
A. I do not remix songs. I recreate music, which is completely different from remixing.
Remix is what a DJ does when he puts a beat behind a song and plays it at a club. Whereas recreation is close to creating an original soundtrack out of an old melody. For recreating music you have to have chord sense and knowledge of arranging. Anybody can do a remix but recreation is not easy.
Q. How do you take criticism of your work?
A. Criticism drives me ahead. It motivates me to work harder and I respect it
Q. Many from the music industry, including veteran artistes, have said that one talented singer tends to dominate the scene for a given period, and then relinquishes their throne for someone else. What are your thoughts on this?
A. I don’t believe that is the case. It’s the talent that earns you the position. It’s not only how capable you are but how efficient you are to execute it with honesty.
“Creating original tracks and recreated tracks, both take equal amount of hard work and effort. All I know is that you have to have the honesty and original ideas while working on any song.”
Q. What are your thoughts on the scope of playback singing in Bollywood? Do you think the industry has a welcoming attitude towards young and emerging artists?
A. The industry always welcomes new talent and grants success to the ones who are honest and original. I always believe that if you work hard the rewards will follow.
Q. Before making music for films, you have produced and arranged music for TV shows. Given the emergence of alternative spaces like TV and the Internet, do you think now is a good time for aspiring artistes to make their mark?
A. My journey started with Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Before this, I used to produce and arrange music for TV shows, including Dance India Dance and Thapki Pyar Ki. I had a bank of songs, but I was scared to play it to others. But after “Banno” [track from Tanu Weds Manu Returns] became popular, people started giving me importance and I gained the confidence to pitch my tunes to others. My friend Vayu, also a lyricist and I collaborated on many tracks and director Aanand L. Rai happened to hear one of them and that’s how I landed my first break. The makers of Kapoor & Sons had our songs in their bank and when they needed a romantic track, we modified one of our works to create “Bolna”. So, I would say that there is scope for everyone in this industry as long as you are ready to work hard. Films definitely have a larger audience.
Q. Of course, making a mark in Bollywood is not easy. Was there a phase of struggle involved in your career?
A. Nothing comes without hard work even if you are a star kid. Industry is transparent with everyone. You have to have true passion and communication skills.
Q. Your favourite music composers and singers from the industry?
A. A.R. Rahman is my favourite, after my parents.
Q. Who are your biggest musical influences?
A. My parents have been my biggest music influences.
Q. Could you talk to us about your upcoming projects?
A.There is the Saif Ali Khan-starrer Bazaar, which is up next. Besides, I have a lot of originals coming up, including my own singles and collaborations.