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Known for his work as a composer for films like ‘Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham’, ‘Chameli’, Uff! Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai’ and ‘Jab We Met’, among others, Sandesh Shandilya has delivered a lot of quality music for listeners to cherish for years to come. In this interview, he talks about his journey from being an engineering student to a revered music composer.
You have studied engineering. How did you get into music?
Did you take formal training in music?
Yes, I did. I attended the Shriram Bharti Kala Kendra in Delhi. After that, I moved to Mumbai and started assisting music composer Surinder Sodhi. In the meantime, I learnt music under the tutelage of Ustad Sultan Khan.
Which was your first project as a composer?
It was a non-film album called ‘I Love You’. Udit Narayan had sung all the songs in it. It turned out to be a major hit. After that, I composed the music for some other private albums like ‘Piya Basanti Re’ (Ustad Sultan Khan and Chitra)and ‘Pyaar Ke Geet’ (Shubha Mudgal). Eventually, I moved on to films and ‘Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham’ turned out be my first release as a film composer.
Some films, which you had composed music for in the last couple of years, had good music but the songs were hardly promoted. Do you think record labels do not promote the music of smaller films as well as those of the bigger films?
I agree that a lot of my songs went unnoticed because of lack of promotion by the music companies. As a musician, my job is to create music and then leave it to the producers and the music companies to promote it. Music companies are looking for profit and that’s fair enough. If they feel promoting a particular album would not yield them any benefit, they do not promote it. However, the music of smaller films should be promoted better. Also, the media, the radio channels and even the listeners are biased towards bigger films. If there is a film coming up which has a big star in it, everybody looks forward to hearing its music. They are not too excited to see lesser known faces on the CD covers or the song promos.
The non-film album scene, today, is almost non-existent. The music companies, too, do not promote them. Two years ago, you came up with, ‘Piya Basanti…Again’. While ‘Piya Basanti Re’, which released almost fourteen years ago, was promoted extensively by the record label, no promotional activities were carried out for ‘Piya Basanti…Again’.
It’s tough to point out the exact reason as to why music companies have stopped promoting non-film albums. It could be because CDs don’t sell. I see very few stores selling CDs these days. Most of them have shut down because of lack of sales. Music companies lose out on a lot of revenue because of this. So, that could a reason.
Do you think, in smaller films, producers try to cut costs by interfering in the music production process? Do they ask you to hire lesser number of musicians, using lesser equipments or doing things which would lower down the cost?
No, the producers don’t have a say in this regard. I have the complete freedom to employ as many musicians I want to and use any equipment or software that I want to.
You introduced Mr. Irshad Kamil to films with ‘Socha Na Tha’ and ‘Chameli’. Together, you both have done some interesting work together. The last time you worked with him was on the film ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana'. Do we see you two teaming up together for a project in the near future?
Yes, in fact we are doing two films together, one of which stars Irrfan in the lead. We will continue working together.
Was there any composer you grew up admiring?
There have been many- R.D Burman, Madan Mohan, Laxmikant Pyarelal- the list is endless. I love all the composers from the golden era of Hindi cinema.
Many of your songs have a pleasant pahari feel to them. Those songs take the listeners to the mountains with their atmospheric sound.
You are absolutely right. In fact, you are the first person who has mentioned this to me. Glad that you noticed this. I grew up in Agra. I have never really lived in places surrounded by mountains. But, I am hugely inspired by mountains and pahari folk. Maybe, I lived in the mountains in my previous birth. (Laughs)
The music of ‘Rang Rasiya’ has just been released. The film was stuck for a long time. Did you make some changes in the arrangements, sound design, etc. for the songs to sound fresh?
When the makers decided to release the film, we had a meeting where we heard the songs again. We realized the songs sounded very fresh and no major changes were required. As the songs were composed almost five years ago, we did mix those songs again as there is better software available today and technology has grown by leaps and bounds.
What are the projects you are working on at the moment?
I have done a couple of songs for ‘Satrah Ko Shaadi’, a film produced by John Abraham, Shoojit Sircar and UTV. It is a romantic film centred on a wedding. The songs are written by an upcoming lyricist called Deepak Ramola. He is a twenty two year old and his lyrics have a lot of depth. Then, there are some other films like Ketan Mehta’s ‘Mountain Man’, ‘Time Out’ produced by Viacom 18 and a film directed by debutant Priya Mishra which stars Irrfan.
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