‘A.R. Rahman and Pritam’s approach to music helped me understand how to work on the music of the film’
Pagglait’s music album has been singled out for praise for its freshness and depth. What are you hearing?
Everyone I have spoken to has said that they have loved the album, and I feel what they are saying is genuine (laughs). Most people have really loved the soundscape of the film. I am hoping that more and more people will like it.
You have said that Pagglait was the apt film for you to debut as a composer because Sandhya’s (played by Sanya Malhotra) story of self discovery and triumph mirrors your own musical journey…
Yes, I did say something that was close to that. When we sat down to discuss the music of the film, my musical journey, however, wasn’t the core of the discussion. What we discussed was how Sandhya evolves, makes her own identity and realises that she can make a choice. All this while, she had been leading a life where she had no choice and no idea of a future. And then suddenly, she finds herself steering her own journey. That was something that was very inspirational because in the cycle of life, we sometimes forget who we are and where we are heading. And then there is a snap and you realise that you have to start your life on your own. I found that very relatable.
The film touches upon themes of grief, loss, self-discovery, eventual triumph and confidence in the face of all odds…. What was the mood board that you were looking at for this album?
I had a graph of Sandhya’s emotional journey and that of the other characters in the film. It goes from confusion to an irritation that she’s not feeling any grief (on the death of her husband). That photograph (of her husband’s former girlfriend, played by Sayani Gupta) makes her feel something… until then she was numb. That’s when her emotions start flowing. There’s conflict, there’s also realisation and then there’s her decision to strike out. So it’s a journey of independence.
The film has a well-etched graph and I had a proper brief for every scene, I had the opportunity of emotional cut points — both high and low — and there was an ebb and flow in the dynamic of the whole album. We had clear notes of what we are going to do and that’s how we worked. We started locking the pieces and that’s how the journey went.
Almost every number in the album has a reprise/ revisited version. Why was it important for you to do that?
This was very, very important. Through this album, I have tried to introduce some new artistes who are very good vocalists. We had five female singers — Neeti Mohan, Himani Kapoor, Meghna Mishra, Chinmayi Sripada and Jhumpa Mondal — in mind. I wanted to work with them because I really like their (vocal) textures and the way they approach their music. We sent them all the songs, and left it to them to choose which song they wanted to sing. Everybody sang one version of each song… and we loved everything!
Now for the film, we had to choose one voice and everybody we spoke to, specifically the director (Umesh Bist), chose all the voices for the album. And that’s why we went with multiple renditions.
Which was the most challenging number to compose and would it be fair to ask you to pick a favourite?
Trust me, I never composed anything, I just sat, had the lyrics and tune in mind and it just came to me… I prayed that some good music should flow through me, and it did. I am very grateful to the Almighty for that. I just put it all down to a higher energy and I am glad people are loving the music. I had absolutely no hand in creating this. Everybody who worked on this project made it happen, and I used my mind and intellect as a musician to get it right. Thank God it worked out.
The song closest to my heart? (Pauses) I really don’t know. Whenever I create something, I try and dissociate myself from it because then I don’t lose my perspective. My intellect shouldn’t be filled with illusion, you know. I don’t attach myself to any of my songs. So I can’t really pick a specific song from this album, or any album.
You have sung extensively for composers like Pritam and A.R. Rahman. Has their influence seeped into your debut album?
Absolutely… 100 per cent! I have grown up with A.R. Rahman’s music. I have learnt so much from him in terms of the production of music. My inspiration in taking the step to produce my own music has been A.R. Rahman. And, of course, while working you have so many inspirations… you shift from one to another.
Even before I started working with him, I loved Pritamda’s production values and style of composing. I loved his songs. When I got the opportunity to work with him, I could execute all the experiments and ideas I had in my mind in Pritamda’s studio. I feel it was his studio in which a lot of the music in my mind was created. Both of them are my inspirations and their ideas and approach to music really helped me understand how to work on the music of Pagglait.
Will we see a lot more of Arijit Singh the composer now or will singing always remain the priority?
Nothing is really a priority. If I am told to compose something and I feel I fit best for it, then I will do it. If I am told to sing and if I feel the song suits my voice, then I will sing. And if I don’t fit into anything, then I will just practise and enjoy my music (laughs).