They never planned on music as a career forget film-music as a profession. They do not play by the rules, preferring to set their own. They have even gone the reverse way, of starting out with complete film scores for Isi Life Mein and Do Dooni Chaar and are now doing one to three songs in a movie. Finally these two sons from a liquor tycoon’s family, Manmeet and Harmeet, together known like some company – Meet Bros – are men who have branched out in cinema after starting out as a foursome, then becoming a trio, and are now the latest duo of brothers in film music.
We catch up at their studio for a candid chat.
A quick recap of your background.
Manmeet: We come from a business family in Gwalior – our father owns 300 liquor shops in the state of Madhya Pradesh. We were sent to Scindia School where music was a compulsory extracurricular subject. While in school, I composed and sang ‘Jogi Singh Barnala Singh‘ for a programme and people loved it. I gradually learnt the harmonium on my own and some other instruments. My interest in music grew and I even won the Best Drummer award in the Republic Day Parade as part of my school’s team. My brother Harmeet, who is two years younger, gradually got interested in music by the time we were in college. We were into our family business but we also started doing a couple of live shows every month. We were unique as we would sing as one voice. We even bid for and got a FM Radio station in Gwalior and made our own shows that were instant hits. Friends would suggest that we should do film music, but by the time we realized that maybe we could try in this field, I was 33 and Harmeet was 31. We came to Mumbai and started our struggle. Our first album was for Zee Records in 2002, which included us singing in one voice, and the song ‘Jogi Singh‘ as well.
There is confusion on whether Isi Life Mein was your debut film or Do Dooni Chaar.
Manmeet: Among the filmmakers, we met Pradeep Sarkar, who said that he had no time to listen to us that day, as he had to leave for some work. But both of us started to sing and he actually sat down for 30 minutes and signed us for a film that got shelved. Habib Faisal was sitting in his office and observed us. He called us two months later for Do Dooni Chaar. As for Isi Life Mein, working with the Barjatyas was like schooling for us: we learnt discipline and the method of making film music: after all, they were a banner that had worked with legends.
You guys had Anjjan and Ankit Tiwari join you in these films and the music was credited to Meet Bros. Anjjan Ankit. Then Ankit stepped away and now Anjjan too has left?
Harmeet: When we had our radio station, we needed people. Anjjan was a music teacher from Kanpur and was our co-singer. He brought this boy along – Ankit – taking responsibility for him and saying that he wanted him to be with us. But Ankit actually wanted to always be a singer, so he moved out soon and after Aashiqui 2 he made a name for himself even as composer. Anjjan’s was a different case. So many articles and even filmmakers ignored his name blatantly when we were ‘Meet Bros. Anjjan’, adding to the fact that over here, songs are known only through their singers. Plus, he is a simple, low-key, soft-spoken man and both of us are crazy, wild, loud and aggressive brothers! He wanted to make music independently because of all this.
Why do we see credit lines in your song as “Meet Bros. Featuring XYZ”?
Manmeet: For the same reason. Even in online codes, only the singers’ names go, so no one knows who has composed the song. This way, we ensure that credit is not taken away from us, the composers who have actually given the song to the singer! That is the way it is internationally, and that is how everyone will soon do it in Indian cinema as well. Even someone like Salman Khan understood when we made ‘Hangover‘ in Kick and he agreed to the credit-line ‘Meet Bros. Feat. Salman Khan’.
Why did you choose to do piecemeal composing after starting out with complete films?
Harmeet: It’s not as if we cannot do complete films. We are doing Ramesh Sippy’s Shimla Mirchi because such inspiring subjects come once in a way. But after we composed some very good tunes in Zanjeer 2.0 and they went waste, we did a rethink: why take the risk when so many films flop, or when only one to three songs are promoted per film? Why not divide our 30 songs over 20 films so that when they stand out they get attention? We did 9 films before ‘Baby doll‘ that got us noticed.
Manmeet: Let me tell one more thing: In another 5 years, the trend of one composer in a film will not be there! It makes sense for a producer to get the best tunes from someone like us who may specialize in a party song or item song, a Jeet Gannguli who is best at soft, romantic songs, and so on.
But isn’t that creatively limiting for a composer’s talent? That way, how will he be able to explore every other kind of song?
Manmeet: We are not interested in exploring, because we are confident that we can do every kind of song! In Baaghi alone, we did two completely different songs – ‘Chham chham‘, whose base tune we jointly made within a record 25 seconds, and ‘Girl I need you‘. We did ‘Ijaazat‘ in One Night Stand. Even in the past, if we have done a ‘Baby doll’ we have done ‘Mere nishaan‘ in OMG – Oh My God! apart from so many diverse kinds of party numbers. Our music caters to all ages from children to the old generation that abuses today’s music.
Most of your songs are still overtly gimmicky.
Harmeet: I agree, but then the common man loves them for that very reason! We as brothers believe in masti, and in the Yo credo of ‘You only live once’. But we always want to compose within some boundaries, so that no one is offended or hurt. And then, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. After eight awards and so much popularity, we do want to show that we can do all sorts of songs. And Manmeet and I are very fast – we usually crack the first tune within minutes, with both of us contributing segments, and it is usually the only tune that we need to compose for that filmmaker.
Manmeet: We mostly work with lyricists Kumaar or Shabbir Ahmed, who we call ‘machines’ because of their speed. And we crack the entire mukhda, if not the song, in that very sitting.
Is this the secret of your success?
Harmeet: We have done so many things in our life, including making TV serials and acting. We are planning to make films, and I am a storywriter too. But we analyze what we can do best, and then go full steam at it, never giving up.
Manmeet: I recall Prabhudheva sir asking us for a particular kind of song for a challenging situation in Singh Is Bliing with some unique English insertions. We expressed doubts whether we could deliver, and he said he was sure that we could. The result was ‘Dil kare chu che‘. In films, we believe that a song must be like an ad for it. We now intend to explore Indie music with Sufi and some crazy fusion, which are experiments we cannot do at a film producer’s cost.