Bollywood Hungama
Last Updated 14.11.2018 | 6:59 PM IST
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‘SIGNS’ Language – Sohail Sen

He’s got a dream break with a director who’s never worked without A.R.Rahman for the last decade. And Sohail Sen, fourth-generation composer from his clan, has clearly made the best of this chance with What’s Your Raashee?


What’s Your Raashee? is your first solo break after Sirf-Life Looks Greener On The Other Side. What went wrong with the music of that film?

I had done six songs for the film but the marketing was not up to the mark.


But that’s destiny, right? You had a dream break like this coming.

Well, frankly I could not believe it when Ashutoshji told me that I was on!


Ashutosh has not looked beyond A.R. Rahman for 10 years. How did you land the film?

My father (composer Sameer Sen of the former Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen duo) and Ashutoshji are old friends. When I requested Ashutoshji to come to my studio to listen to some of my work, to my surprise, without a second thought he asked me ‘What time do I come?’ A few days after he came he called me to his office and told me that I was on. He wanted 13 songs for this romantic film in which Priyanka Chopra was playing 12 different characters, one belonging to each Zodiac sign. I was a bit nervous initially, because of such a big break, and normally, an album with 13 tracks today means six songs and seven remixes! (Laughs) But when we started working, he made me feel very relaxed. Work was so smooth that it took sometime to realise that I was through!


The music you made him hear- were any of those songs chosen for this film?

No, every song has been freshly composed. What he heard in my studios were my demos – it has been my habit to compose and programme songs for this reason.


There are 12 zodiac signs but 13 songs. Why is that?

If you listen carefully to the last song, which is What’s your raashee – chehre jo dekhe hain, you will realise that it’s like a compilation of the other numbers.


In which way were the songs composed, since on the inlay each one is billed with a corresponding sign?

Every song has a theme and we have tried to keep a different lead instrument for each sign. For example, the song Jaao na, which represents Kumbh raashee or Aquarius is represented by the guitar. For Cancer (Bikhri bikhri) we had the flute and for Virgo (Pyaari pyaari) we have kept the piano. Even in the background score we have a theme for each zodiac sign.


Is it a random link of 12 instruments and a dozen signs or is there a connection between the characteristic of a sign and the instrument’s character?

Well, there is a connection, but to understand that you have to watch the film. Like the Virgoan Priyanka Chopra is a soft-spoken doctor and because a piano is very soft and soothing it fitted. The Cancerians are said to be light-hearted and similarly the flute is an air-based light instrument.


And why is there no female voice in the Aries song, which is also the second title-track?

You will have to watch the film to understand that!


Was it easy to create so much variety when there was one actress?

It was. The 12 Priyanka Chopras look completely different from each other!


You are also singing most of the songs-so that is also a dream break. Is this because there is this new trend of all composers regularly singing?

(Laughs) Not really. It’s just that when you are composing a song and then programming it and fine-tuning the lyrics, you sing it so many times that usske sur gale mein baith gaye hote hain and so you really are the best person to sing it unless there are strong reasons for employing someone else, because a singer only gets to hear the song at the eleventh hour. Ashutoshji insisted that I retain my voice in most of the tracks.


The soundtrack features Gowariker favourites like Bela Shende, Madhushree, Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik. Was the decision to cast singers largely his?

Well, it was a collective decision.


Why not 12 voices for the twelve different charachters?

We did think of that but the singers who have done more than one song have exhibited so much diversity, like Tarannum’s three songs Jaao na, Salone kya and Dhadkan dhadkan are totally different from each other and so are Bela Shende’s Su chhe and Koi jaane na, in which she hardly sings much.


You have even made Ashutosh and his sister Ashlesha render songs.

Ashutoshji is a very musical person. His mother, who has sung in Lagaan, is a classical singer and Ashlesha is also learning music. Ashutosh has already sung in Pal pal hain bhaari in Swades and he is very good in Maanunga maanunga. He has a great ear for orchestration and instantly comes to know if an instrument is muted.


Ashutosh once told me that Rahman’s music in his films was different from the composer’s norm because the filmmaker insisted on instruments like sitar, sarod and sarangi.Did he do that with you?

He definitely had valid suggestions about instruments and raags. But from day one, he told me to make music straight from the heart. In fact, his standout quality was that he never put any sort of pressure or deadlines on Javedsaab, my team of musicians or me.


What next?

I am 24/7 into What’s Your Raashee? right now since we are doing the background score. I will look at other offers only when I am free.


As a fourth generation musician, what has been your training in music?

I have grown up in a joint family where I woke up to Dadaji (the late composer Shambhu Sen)’s singing, and there was music right till we slept at night. Dadaji was my first teacher and I would play some instruments with him. Later I learnt the piano with Tony Pinto and also assisted my uncle Lalit Sen.


Screen India

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