They are now veterans, and yet, their music always is an attempt to be contemporary yet-considered a paradox today – homespun. Sajid-Wajid, sons of the late Ustad Sharafat Ali Khan, the ace table player who played for decades for stalwart film and classical musicians, have imbibed the values and principles taught by their father. In a world where barely one in ten composing entities last for even a decade, they have completed 20 glorious years.
Here is a look at their four-stage journey so far.
1996-2001: The auspicious beginning
How 20, we ask, since their first song was ‘Teri jawaani badi mast mast hai’ from Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, the Salman Khan home production released in 1998. Says Wajid: “The song was recorded by us in 1996. The film came out in 1998.”
Their song has outlived the couple of passing hits of that multi-composer film. Their second film for the same team, Hello Brother (1999), had them composing four songs completely different from the first film. And each was popular, like ‘Area Ka Hero Hoon’, ‘Hataa Sawan Ki Ghata’, ‘Hello Brother’ and, above all, ‘The Sweet Melody, ‘Chupke Se Koi Aayega’.
In this phase, the duo also composed Marhaba, a non-film album rendered by the same Sabri Brothers, and started the concept of 28 Non-Stop Remix for T-Series, which marketed these as well as another remix album, Hungama Ho Gaya.
Impressed by their musical acumen, Gulshan Kumar gave them Deewana, an album with his protégé Sonu Nigam. This 2000 soundtrack remains the highest-selling non-film album in Indian music history, with timeless melodies like ‘Ab Mujhe Raat Din’, ‘Iss Qadar Pyaar Hai’ And ‘Deewana Tera’. Happily, for Sajid-Wajid, it was so popular that no one quite noticed their first complete film score that year-the 2000 Sanjay Dutt flop Baaghi, or the single song in Sanjay Gupta’s Khauff.
In this beginning itself, Sajid-Wajid showed how versatile they were, while sticking to melody, giving importance to good lyrics, and exhibiting the values from their classical lineage- Ustad Faiyyaz Ahmed Khan and Ustad Niyaz Ahmed Khan -their maternal grandfather and grand-uncle respectively, and Ustad Abdul Latif Khan-their paternal grandfather. Even their remixes were melodiously done.
After all, they had to also make all their gurus’ names shine too: Sajid learnt the tabla from Ustad Allahrakha, while, Wajid had been tutored by the famed Das Babu in guitar.
2001-2005: Challenging times
This was a phase, when, both, success and luck seemed to cold-shoulder them. Well-thought out scores likeSharaarat tumbled after the film did, Kya Yehi Pyaar Hai failed to make waves, and their only impacts came in the ‘Lagan lagi’ song they contributed to Tere Naam and the hit music of Mujhse Shaadi Karogi.
However, this is the phase in which Sajid-Wajid created the finest score of their early phase-in Milna Luthria’sChori Chori. Says Sajid, “Our legendary lyricist Anand Bakshisaab predicted a bright future for us, but, we could not work again as he passed away, though we did one song in Mukesh Bhatt’s Gunaah.”
Chori Chori pushed the creative envelope, with Adnan Sami singing (with the Sabri Brothers) the rousingqawwali, ‘Roothe yaar nu manana’, the soft ‘Main ek ladki‘ by the then ‘item” song fame Sunidhi Chauhan and other lovelies by Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik and others.
Yes, towards the end of the phase, simply to run their kitchens, the brothers did have to do B-grade films like Dreams, Hot Mashooqa and AK-47.
2006 – 2009
Initially, the tepid spell continued. But, the turning-point came with the 2007 David Dhawan-Salman Khan blockbuster Partner. This is the time when Sajid-Wajid were financially stable enough to travel to several parts of the world and study the music there. The idea was to absorb and integrate, not copy or re-create. The music of Partner was hugely successful, because, despite the strong melody, there was a lot of rhythm and influence from global styles, and despite these, the songs were as deeply rooted as traditional ones!Partner was an all-hit score!
Say the brothers: “Even in our lowest phase, we never shied away from classical touches- the harkatein and the murqiyaan. We never pandered to baser trends, but always catered to rooh (soul) in our songs. The foremost thing we keep in mind is that we come from a rich lineage and that we should do nothing jinse unnki naak kat jaaye ya sar jhuk jaaye (by which they will be disgraced).” The global influence was vital to widen their musical spectrum and infuse new shades, but the core classicism had to remain.
Salman Khan, the man who gave them their first break, was always solidly behind them, and Partner was their first solo film with him. After this, more winners came with Salman-Hello, Wanted and Main Aur Mrs. Khanna. Only Wanted succeeded at the box-office, but with Hello, Wajid proved that he could be a hero’s voice with the hit ‘Bang bang’ that he sang for his mentor. By this time, both, melody and (for a while) the lip-synched song had gone for a toss in Hindi cinema, and confusion reigned as there was no clear indication where films and music were going. But, at this critical juncture, the brothers were clear about one thing: “A composition should never sound like a jingle! It needs rooh-daari (soulfulness), pukhhtaa sur (pure notes) and a proper aaroh and avroh (rise and fall of musical octaves). Only then does the magic happen. In‘Bang bang’ we had given a rock number with melody and rich lyrics. Yes, the filmmaker too must know how to take it out of us.”
2010 onwards: Peak and Present
This golden chance came with Dabangg, and the hysteria the score generated proved that the audience was thirsting for memorable music! Deep, raag-oriented melodies, simple, but apt orchestration, fine language and depth in the lyrics and skilled singing by proper playback singers (crooners by the dozen had come in!) made this music sweep all the popular awards that year and make the film the biggest hit of the year along with Salman Khan.
Correction: the golden chance had also come earlier that year with Veer, arguably, the duo’s most accomplished score to date in every sense. The grandeur and variety inspired by the film’s backdrop, the dedication of the film’s team, Salman Khan and lyricist Gulzar resulted in the kind of score associated with the epics of Subhash Ghai and Manoj Kumar at their peaks. Veer, the film, unfortunately turned turtle and the score got lost despite gems that are loved to date by connoisseurs, like ‘Kanha’ (a stunning thumri), ‘Sureeli ankhiyon wali’ and ‘Salaam aaya‘.
From Dabangg began Sajid-Wajid’s most successful phase that went on to include Rowdy Rathore, Housefull 2, Teri Meri Kahaani, Chashme Baddoor, Main Tera Hero (with new sensation Varun Dhawan), Daawat-E-Ishq(their first full film for Aditya Chopra after a sensational song ‘Mashallah’ in Ek Tha Tiger) and Tiger Shroff‘s debut Heropanti.
However, despite these hits and composing for sports events, Sajid-Wajid, like so many solid talents, are not busy today.”That’s alright,” says Wajid, who is confident of his work to come in Prabhu Dheva’s next. After all, their musical skills were on full display in their solo song ‘Cinema dekhe mamma’ in 2015’s Singh Is Bliing. “Today’s music scene is not congenial to lasting melodies. But, we prefer to stick to what music should be,” says Wajid.
We have heard buzz of Dabangg 3, we say. The duo prefers not to comment!