For the last several years, Sunny M.R. has been known as one of the top music producers in Bollywood. Apart from programming songs for several Hindi films like ‘Bodyguard’, ‘Mausam’, ‘Jannat 2’, ‘Cocktail’, ‘Barfi!’, ‘Baahubali The Beginning’, Sunny has also composed for prominent Telugu films.
In this interview, he talks about his recently released single ‘Des Tere Naam’, long-term association with Pritam Chakraborty, collaborating with Arijit Singh, being more active as a composer, love for Carnatic classical music and more.
What makes ‘Des Tere Naam’ unique and different from several other songs weaved around patriotism is the fact that it talks about acceptance.
Yes! I believe acceptance is the first step towards freedom. Despite all the amendments in the law and several people extending their support, the LGBTQ community has not been fully accepted by the society. I have grown in the heartland of the country, so I have closely seen the kind of bias that exists in people’s mind against the community. I believe we should treat everyone equally and respect them for the contribution they make to the society. That’s the message that song puts across. Everyone is a part of this country and contributes to its growth. We have also spoken about how your country remains a part of you regardless of where you are. ‘Des Tere Naam’ has been made with a lot of love.
Which has been some of your favourite songs in this space?
I absolutely love ‘Maa Tujhe Salaam’ by A. R Rahman. In fact, I was deeply inspired by it when I was making ‘Des Tere Naam’.
You have had a long association with music director Pritam Chakraborty. You have produced so many of the popular songs composed by him. How has been your experience of working with him?
I worked with Pritam da two years in-house in his studio. After that, I started freelancing for different composers including him. The experience of working with him has been incredible. He would work on 15-16 films a year and each of those films would have 5-6 different songs. The challenge that we would be provided with every day would be different and exciting. The two years that I worked in his studio were five years of worth of work. Pritam da is one of the most humble human beings you will ever meet. He has always been very sweet and extremely encouraging.
You have worked closely with Arijit Singh too. Both of you used to work with Pritam at one point of time and recently, you collaborated with him on the ‘Pagglait’ soundtrack which he put together.
I first met Arijit in the year 2007 or 2008. I was working with Sandeep Chowta then. Arijit’s first ever song as a playback singer was for a Telugu film. That was the first time we worked together. Our friend Antara Mitra introduced Arijit to Pritam da. Around the same time, she asked me if I would like to join him too. All of us became a part of Pritam da’s core team then. We have been very good friends since then.
The 2000s heralded the beginning of the digitization of music. Live musicians were slowly replaced by machines and software. As a music producer, how do you look at this shift?
Honestly, I don’t think things have changed that much. Even though we have all kinds of technical tools, I don’t we can do without musicians. Every time I have to record a guitar line, I would rather call an artist than use a sample or create something electronically. Digitization led to things becoming small. The studios took a backseat as earlier the orchestra used to record everything at once. A lot of good things have happened because of digitization. It has given us the chance to explore multiple genres and experiment with different kind of sounds.
You have been deeply influenced by Carnatic classical music. Would you like to do something in this space in the near future?
Though not in its purest form, I have used Carnatic classical music in some of the songs I have produced. I do hope to use it in my music more prominently in the future. When you don’t belong to a musical family, you are not really exposed to classical music. My musical training happened while I was on the job. I didn’t have any formal training prior to that. I worked in Hyderabad for 7 years and recorded many Carnatic classical albums there. Initially, when I started recording those albums, they didn’t excite me much. Slowly, I started falling in love with that kind of music. Whatever I learnt is because of those years of recording so many wonderful albums.
‘Des Tere Naam’ has been composed and produced by you. We have largely known you as a music producer. Do you plan to work more actively as a composer in the mainstream space now?
Absolutely! It was a huge jump, so I needed some time to get ready. I have done a few Telugu films as a composer. I do plan to do more work as a composer in the future.
You have won several awards for many of the songs produced by you. Can you dissect the process of producing two of these tracks, ‘Selfie Le Le Re’ (‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’) and ‘Ghar’ (‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’) for us?
I co-produced both of these tracks. There were many musicians on these tracks. When we were working on ‘Selfie Le Re Re’, Pritam da told us that it is this larger-than-life song about celebration. and there was Salman Khan in the video. We got a basic track done for it and then, we got into the studio and dubbed live rhythms. At one point, we had 70 odd tracks on the song. ‘Ghar’ was a very different experience. It was a song that was marked by minimal orchestral arrangements and the sense of melancholy in it came out quite well. It’s a song that is very close to my heart.
What is the kind of music we can look forward from you this year?
During the lockdown, I started this series called ‘Unsung Verses’. I will continue doing it this year. There are many projects that I have worked on recently and will come out in the coming months.