It's been 35 years since he started out with an Asha Bhosle song in the B-grade Hunterwali. Anu Malik went through a trough in the early '90s but staged Hindi film music's only successful comeback with Sir, Baazigar and Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi. Since 2006, he has again hit a dull patch as a film composer, but his stage appearances as a reality show judge of six seasons of Indian Idol and four of Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega kept him in the spotlight despite debacles like Kambakhht Ishq, Gali Gali Chor Hai and others.
However, Anu Malik is now keen on demolishing the myth that he will be only seen judging aspirant singers. He is scoring six songs for Sanjay Gupta's Shootout At Wadala and has signed the next film of Firoz Nadiadwala, with whom has done six films from 1995 to 2005. He is composing two songs for Apoorva Lakhia's Zanjeer remake, has recorded a song for Anil Sharma's next and the theme song of Star Plus' Ram Leela, in which Ajay Devgn is narrator.
Chatting up the composer of a mind-boggling variety of films like Mard, Border, Asoka, Munna Bhai MBBS, Main Hoon Na, Murder and more.
Wasn't it upsetting when your filmmakers moved to others despite your good work for them?
I think that it is all destiny. I enjoyed working with them and I also saw a lot of loyal people who stuck to me when newer music directors came in and grabbed attention. It is enough satisfaction for me that a Sanjay Gupta for whom I did scores like Hameshaa called me up recently and said, "Anu, I need you!" Or when Apoorva for whom I did Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost before he did many films with others asked me, "Are you angry with me, sir?" Or when Firoz Nadiadwala stated, "One must take Anu out of his self-imposed exile."
So when someone asks me if I am angry with Farah Khan for changing composers despite Main Hoon Na, I can only answer that she is still a dear friend and we have been co-judges on so many shows. I quite liked the music of her Om Shanti Om, but in retrospect, people say that while OSO was good, Main Hoon Na is a classic. Today the songs of Munna Bhai MBBS, Baazigar, No Entry or Jaan-E-Mann live on unlike the same filmmakers' later films. So you should actually be asking Rajkumar Hirani, Ratan Jain, Anees Bazmee, Sajid Nadiawala, Bhushan Kumar and the Tauranis why they are not working with me!
Your generation was a much-maligned one.
True, the media was very unfair in collectively branding us - Rajesh Roshan, Anand-Milind, Nadeem-Shravan and Jatin-Lalit - as copycats because we were inspired in a few cases. But we never needed to re-create old classics to sell our soundtracks! Today, the media actually praises re-creations! Even in Yamla Pagla Deewana, my song 'Tinku Jiya' became even more popular than someone else's re-creation of 'Main Jat Yamla', the hit from Pratiggya.
Composers always put in something extra into their work for big banners, but that's not happening of late. What do you think of this trend - is music losing out in importance?
Yes, there is a certain indifference to it, and a major reason is that Sound Design has become the hero. When they celebrate the latest 100 crore grossing film, they do not pause to ask, "Did it have any music to speak of?"
There are also very few directors around with conviction, like how Mansoor Khan - and I really miss him! - removed all the 100 instruments that were recorded and just kept Alka Yagnik's voice and a guitar for 'Haaye Mera Dil' from Josh. Or a J.P.Dutta who at our very first sitting for Border told me, "Anu, sing out those tunes that you would be scared to present to other filmmakers!"
The director, rather than even the banner, is the key to inspiring a good composer. But let me put it this way: if an Aditya Chopra or Karan Johar were to sign me, I will give my life's best to their films, because I know their caliber as directors. In fact, I was very happy that when Karan Johar was asked on a show, "A.R.Rahman or Anu Malik?" he instantly said, "Anu Malik!"
How much have you adapted to the paradigm changes in music in the last few years?
I look upon them as a challenge. This is the age of working on Logic and laptops and using freelance programmers who can give your songs a nondescript colour common to all. So even as I adapt to today's tastes, I have to ensure that the core melody is strong and completely Anu Malik in flavour and that the sound is mine too.
I began working with singers like Lataji, Rafisaab, Ashaji and Kishoreda. Since then I have recorded with three or four more generations of singers and I love some of the voices today. The same is true of the lyricists, where I have worked with legends like my maternal uncle Hasrat Jaipuri, Anand Bakshi and Majrooh Sultanpuri and now enjoy working with Neelesh Misra and Kausar Munir.
Today, the biggest music consumer is the youth and I have to tailor my work to them. They are a generation that listens to Pritam, Vishal-Shekhar, Lincoln Park and Backstreet Boys. My daughters Anmol and Ada help to keep me abreast of the latest in music.
Then could you please explain why in 2010 the most downloaded film song among the same youth was 'More Piya' from Raajneeti and in 2011 it was 'Teri Meri' from Bodyguard? Isn't this a sham perception and an excuse to downgrade musical depth and caliber by those who cannot deliver these vital qualities?
At the end of the day, Indians will always connect with melody. I would, as I said before, commend people like Prakash Jha and Salman Khan for their courage of conviction in allowing their composers to make such strong old-fashioned melodies and not underrating the young generation. But how many people have this self-confidence and courage?
Who are the new-age directors and stars with whom you would like to do films?
I love the edgy cinema of Abhinav Singh Kashyap, Milan Luthria and Tigmanshu Dhulia. I am inspired by Ranbir Kapoor, John Abraham, who is spectacular in Shootout At Wadala, and Abhishek Bachchan. I am a director's composer, and it was Manmohan Desai who first told me to be fearless, compose what my heart told me to, and yet give commercial music.
You never assisted anyone or trained in classical music, and yet have endured for so long.
For that I have to thank God as well as my father Sardar Malik's genes. At the age of 7, I made my father listen to my first tune and then composed lines he gave me from a newspaper. He predicted that I would be very successful. He took me to Pt.Ramprasad Sharma, who has taught so many names, to learn music but Panditji threw me out because instead of learning the notes I started making tunes! He told my father, "Your son will never learn music, but he will become a great composer!" I was 15 when on my first recording I asserted myself as the boss with the recording engineer who made a disparaging remark about me as a teenager!
I am a unique composer who works always from the comfort zone of my house. God inspires me to make tunes in minutes, either from ideas and film stories or lyrics that have already been written. Right now, my head is buzzing with tunes and my films to come will show that Anu Malik is still as musical as ever.