It has been twenty-six years since he started his career as a music composer and till today, Prem Anand is the most popular and successful music director in the Oriya film industry. Very few music directors have managed to achieve the kind of success, he has in the industry. Now, apart from working in the Oriya film industry, Prem Anand has taken his first few steps towards Bollywood. In this interview, the ‘music scientist’ from Odisha talks about his long and eventful journey, the milestones in his career, Bollywood plans and more.
You started in 1993 and have composed for 60 films since then. You have managed to retain your position as the numero uno music director in the Oriya Film Industry. It is very rare for music directors to have such long careers in films. How did you manage to do this?
I feel very happy. I try to keep myself aware of the changing trends in music and the way the listeners’ taste is evolving. It has been twenty-six years since I have been working. I faced a lot of hurdles. I am glad I managed to receive the love of the listeners for so many years. I find it difficult to believe that I have been around and relevant for so long. I try to make music for all age groups, of audiences of every kind. My songs from the film ‘Love U Turn’ released, I got very good response. The people here at have been very encouraging. They are happy that somebody from Odisha is making his mark in Bollywood. I was the first Oriya composer whose song touched the one-million mark on YouTube. One of my songs “Haaye To Prema Ro Rangoli” has hit 37-38 million views. If you include both the audio and video versions, the views will go upto 50 million. It remains the most-viewed Oriya film song on YouTube.
The soundscape and the trends in music keep changing frequently. How do you keep yourself updated?
I have never stopped learning. I listen to more music than I create. I do a lot of research on music. Producing a song is as important as composing it. I like listening to all kinds of music. Music does not have any language. I started the trend of programming songs in the Oriya film industry. For the longest time, people were only using acoustic or live instruments. At that time, some people said Bombay has corrupted me. I never compromise on melody. Earlier, in one day we would compose two film songs a day. Now, we work on one song a day. So, now people are actually working longer on creating a song.
Did you have formal training in music?
Yes, I was a student of Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya. I learnt music for several years. Many people in the music industry are untrained and there is nothing wrong with that. Having said that, it is always better to have formal training in music. Most of my songs are based on Ragas. If I was not trained, I would, probably, not have been able to create the kind of music I make.
You are now aiming to make it in Bollywood. You made your Bollywood debut with the film ‘Dekh Bhai Dekh’ in 2009 and recently composed two songs ‘Baahon Mein’ and ‘Khuda Raazi’ for the film ‘Love U Turn’.
Yes, I had one song in ‘Dekh Bhai Dekh’. I got to work with Udit Narayan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Shankar Mahadevan, Kavita Subramaniam during my stay in Mumbai. The song “Aankhon Mein Kyon Nami Hai” was sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. We recorded the song in Sahara Studio, Mumbai. Rahat Sahab loved my composition and told me that I should continue to stay in Mumbai and try to do more work here. A couple of years back, I had recorded a song with Sunidhi Chauhan. It was the title track of the film ‘Abhimayu’ and it became one of the greatest hits in the history of Oriya cinema. At that time, Sunidhi also suggested me to come to Mumbai. The two songs I composed for ‘Love U Turn’ got a very good response. This film was, in a way, a comeback for me in Bollywood. I hope I get more opportunities from this point onwards.
You have also composed for a Marathi film called Short Cut.
Yes, I composed a song for that film. It received a lot of appreciation. Was in Mumbai for a while but had to come to Odisha as my father was unwell. Now, I hope I more interesting opportunities in Bollywood.
You are known as the music scientist of Odisha. How did that title come about?
I was invited to the All India Scientists Conference that had been organised in Chandipur a couple of years back. Dr. Binoy Das was the director of the Strategic Forces Command’s Integrated Test Range (ITR). Dr. Das is a huge admirer of music. At the conference, he conferred me with the title of music scientist. He told me just like we scientists try to discover new things, you have brought about many new innovations in the field of music. I felt extremely honoured when he said that.
After being a top composer in the Oriya film industry, you had to struggle in the Hindi film industry. That must have been tough.
I like to go through challenging situations. In Mumbai, I got to meet some well-established people from the industry. I had met Sajid Nadiadwala. He really liked my compositions and I was supposed to do the music of a film being produced by him but, for some reason, things did not fall into place back then. I recorded two songs for him. Hope they get used in one of his films someday. I also met the late Yash Chopra. He was busy with ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ at that time but I managed to get a couple of meetings with him. He liked my work and assured me that he will put me on a film once he is done with the shoot of ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’. As we know, he passed away shortly before the film was supposed to release and I never got to meet somebody from his company after that.
You have worked with some of the best singers in the country. Tell us about a few interesting experiences while working with some of these singers.
When I requested Shankar Mahadevan to sing for me, he refused for some reason. Then, I mailed the composition to him. The next day, he called me and said that he loved the tune and would like to sing the song. He asked me to come to his studio and record the song there. I went there and recorded the song in his voice. In the early 90s when Sonu Nigam had just arrived on the scene, I had some pre-conceived notions about him and used to ignore him. Of course, very soon the entire world woke up to his talent and I worked went on to work with him on several occasions.
Many composers, these days, have a bank of songs with them. Do you have a bank of songs with you as well?
Yes, I have a bank of songs. I keep composing and producing songs regularly, so I have a large bank of songs ready with me. Sometimes, producers pick songs from that bank and many a times, we prepare fresh songs according to the different situations in the script.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I want to continue doing good work in Oriya films. At the same time, I am looking for good opportunities in the Hindi film industry. If I get a good platform there, I can do some good work there too.