Looking for Luka Chuppi on iTunes India, I laughed seeing the words Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, written in brackets next to the album name. The album has little in it that is original. All five of its songs are remixes – a confirmation that we are now officially at the peak of Hindi film music’s remix age. Three of the five songs from Luka Chuppi are by Tanishk Bagchi, who has become the poster boy of the trend; Bagchi has composed almost as many originals as he has worked on remixes in his career but it’s for the latter that he has mostly made a name for himself. Bagchi’s remixes have been part of several commercially successful films in the past two years, and he has frequently topped the charts since his version of AR Rahman’s “Humma Humma” for OK Jaanu.
Watching an interview of the composer, I got the impression that he might have got stuck in a position he doesn’t know how to get out of. When asked “Do you do songs that you don’t like, sometimes?(sic),” he’d replied in the affirmative, adding, “I just think about the money part when I do it”; at one point, he said, “I want to do independent music.”
When I meet Bagchi in his Oshiwara studio, packed with musical equipments, idols of gods and goddesses, and trophies won at Indian award shows, he sings a different tune (and with his newly done rasta-style dreadlock, sports a different look). He is honest about the money, and he agrees that it is not easy to say ‘no’ to offers lest it upsets the powerful music labels, but the very next moment, he is vague, elusive. “My mom taught me that wherever you get an opportunity which is related to music and is a good opportunity, you should take it up. Because if you reject it you are rejecting Saraswati, it’s a sin,” he says.
Bagchi doesn’t see a problem with remixes – and it is understandable why someone in his position wouldn’t say it on record. But his insistence that what he does is not remixing but ‘recreation’, or even ‘rehashing’ – without realising that the latter means worse – suggests that even he thinks of it as a bad word. “People will always say things. There was criticism about Himesh Reshammiya, that he is nasal, that he sings from his nose. But still he is Himesh Reshammiya,” is his response.
Bagchi suggests since he “puts in a lot of work into each recreation, and doesn’t just slap the original on a set of beats” – which is recording it with new singers, introducing new things in it, maybe a folkish instrument here, a rap verse there – his work should be seen as more serious. He brings up “Tamma Tamma” from Badrinath Ki Dulhania, and how he incorporated yesteryear radio presenter Ameen Sayani’s voice into it. Sure. But what’s the point of these recreations if the newness of these songs don’t jump out at you – as in, say, in the manner of Mikey McCleary’s reimagining of “Khoya Khoya Chaand” from Shaitan, which turned a classic on its head with just the right amount of irreverence. Most of Bagchi’s reworked tracks are largely undistinguishable from one another, a permutation combination of the same bag of tricks, except perhaps “Aankh Maare” from Simmba, which resurrects interest in a song nearly lost in oblivion, makes self-referential use of the voices of Karan Johar, Tusshar Kapoor and Kumar Sanu, and has a playfulness about it that is unpredictable.
Bagchi has in the past given glimpses of himself a musician who is more than his remixes. For example, “Bol Na”, a sweet, hummable song from Kapoor & Sons, or his collaborations with Vayu Srivastav – “Banno Tera Swagger” from Tanu Weds Manu Returns, and the album of Shubh Mangal Savdhan. Why does he and Vayu not work more often? He says he “is a wanderer” and doesn’t want to impose on Vayu. “We work together in certain projects, which I think Vayu would be perfect for. For example, he is great with wordplays. Sometimes, even when the filmmakers approach me, I suggest we take Vayu as well,” says the Kolkata-born Bagchi. He used to compose ad jingles and TV scores before he got his break in films.
He raves about Gully Boy’s soundtrack. He says he is interested in the noise traditions of music, likes stuff such as detuned piano. When does he plan to make his independent music? “Not before another 3 years,” he says. He doesn’t think he is in a position yet where he can be selective. Expect many more remixes from Bagchi this year.
He raves about Gully Boy’s soundtrack. He says he is interested in the noise traditions of music, he likes stuff such as detuned piano. When does he plan to make his independent music? “Not before another 3 years,” he says. He doesn’t think he is in a position yet where he can be selective. Expect many more remixes from Bagchi this year.
I ask him about his ambitions as a solo composer, of which he has spoken in interviews, about composing all the songs for a film as well as creating the background score. It’s the natural way of thinking for any Hindi film composer because it allows them to sink their teeth into a film in its entirety. But Bagchi’s reasoning is surprising. He says that he has had in the past had to share the credit with other composers when albums he has worked on have won awards, albums whose success he thinks he has more contribution in. “I don’t want to share credit with other composers if one of my albums gets an award. It isn’t good for them also. It could be because their songs weren’t as big hits, maybe because they weren’t promoted well,” he says.