Monday, October 06, 2008

Inside the music of DOSTANA with Vishal Dadlani - An Exclusive Drift Interview

Its no secret that Vishal and Shekhar have been riding a comet up the ranks of Bollywood's elite music directors in the last few years. But dig behind the hoopla generated by their steady stream of hits and you'll be able to hear a very canny pair of musicians build a versatile and commercial portfolio.

Vishal Dadlani Pentagram Live ShowTake their last few major releases for instance: Om Shanti Om, Tashan, De Taali and Bachna Ae Haseeno all contained a distinctive theme for each CD. The fact that between them they have successfully employed a variety of their own talents (composing, live shows, song writing, vocals) gives them a unique 360 view into the process of creating hits.

On the soundtrack for the new movie Dostana - one of this year's major releases - Vishal-Shekhar amp down the theatrics to create a smooth, sensuous clutch of songs.

Vishal Dadlani was cool enough to stop by the Drift and tell us all about it.

Aspi: Hey Vishal, thanks for stopping by the Drift and doing this with us. How's the leg doing now (given that you survived all that bouncing around on The Unforgettables)?

Vishal: The leg is outta action for a bit. Just got that much overdue surgery a few days ago, and it'll be about six weeks before I hit the studio again!

Aspi: Ok, how did you and Shekhar meet? Mwa-ha-ha, I'm just kidding, you don't have to answer that ghisa-pita question. You can put the gun away now

Vishal: Thanks, can't tell you how much I appreciate this! ;-)

Aspi: But I will ask you this: is there any specific fuel (food, drink, etc) that you keep handy in the studio to get through those long days?

Vishal Shekhar Unforgettables Tour BachchanVishal: Chinese jasmine tea is a big booster for me! I do about four cups a day!

Aspi: Listening to Dostana, I got the feeling that you were creating the definitive Lite FM CD – it sounded breezy and reminded me of sunny days. Was there an underlying theme to the music or did each track evolve independently?

Vishal: I have to give all credit to [Dostana Director] Tarun [Mansukhani] . He's the guy who went all out to find a sound that, while commercial, was unique to him, and different from the well-established Dharma [Productions] sound!

He made us put in a lot of work (maybe 200-300 different tune options), and gave us a lot of space and patience. But, it was all worth it! He wanted the light, breezy vibe you feel when you hear it, but without losing sight of the fact that it's a huge commercial score!

Aspi: On Jaane Kyun there is a Vishal Dadlani who turns in a bravura vocal performance. That doesn't sound like you at all! Is there another Vishal Dadlani in the industry that I don't know about or is that you truly singing a personally game changing song?

Vishal: Well, I do a few voices you haven't even heard yet! ;-) Seriously, though, I was getting a little trapped into singing songs that were solely within the rocked-out style, and this was a big opportunity for me to do something different with my voice. I'm glad Tarun and Shekhar took a chance on me, and I'm glad people dig it!

Aspi: Vishal, who hires lyricists? Is it the director, the music director or it depends?

Vishal: Usually, we (music director/director) suggest their names, and the producer pays them.

Aspi: You've worked with Anvita [Dutt Guptan] before on Bachna Ae Haseeno and now here on a couple of tracks. Her lyrics seem to suit your music really well. What's the one thing you hope and pray for in a lyricist?

Vishal: The ability to understand that a music director's opinion is a somewhat valid one, and the patience and humility to sometimes change lyrics accordingly. That, and a new approach, a fresh insight. Easier said than done, believe me! And Anvita has it all!

Aspi: Do the actors always stop by to listen to the songs? And what kind of inputs do you get from them? Any specific inputs from John , Abhishek and Priyanka on this CD?

Vishal: Sometimes they do, but on this one, it was all Tarun, all the way. Nobody (except Karan [Johar] on a couple of occasions) heard a song till it was recorded! Luckily, everyone loved 'em!

Aspi: I think it's really cool that you have found a new way to use an old world voice like Saleem. I think Maa Da Laadla is one of the most unique club tracks of the year but I'm not convinced about those helium vocals. How did that song happen?

Vishal: It's a mad story. We were badly stuck on that song. It's a bit of a joke situation, and Tarun hadn't gone nuts over anything we'd done for it yet, so in a fit of frustration, Shekhar took a day off, and promised Tarun six options the next day.

He played them all to him, one by one, and Tarun kept bouncing them, until he played this one. The duck vocals were a bit of a joke, but Tarun just loved it, and so they stayed as they were!

Aspi: Could you walk us through the other tracks as well?

Jaane Kyun  (Vishal Dadlani)

Vishal: Meant to reflect the spirit of the film, it's a song of friendship, of people getting to know one another, and starting to rely on one another. It's a beautiful emotion, but we had to express it in a new way, both sonically, as well as lyrically. I especially love the line 'dushman ke iraade, sachhe lagte hain'.

The song has a lot of shiny, happy energy, and is one of the few tunes in this film that was approved by Tarun in the first thirty seconds of hearing it! He also loved the expressions I'd done on the scratch, which is why he insisted that I sing it.

Desi Girl (Shankar Mahadevan , Sunidhi Chauhan )

Vishal: First up, I firmly believe that Indian women are the most magically beautiful women in the world! The root idea for this one was brought to us by our sound engineer Calvin [Vaz]. We were looking around for a hook for this particular situation, but hadn't really found anything. He came up with the idea "I like my girls Indian", or something like that. We rejected it outright as being cheesy, but then Tarun changed it to the concept of "desi girl", and suddenly, there was the song!

Between conception and recording, we made five scratches, and each time, Tarun wanted it faster, and higher, for more energy. So, by the time we finished, the song was pitched so high, that only Shankar could possibly have sung it. We called him, he came in and totally rocked it!

Shut Up & Bounce (Sunidhi Chauhan)

Vishal: This is a light hearted party-song, the intro for the film. it's shot in Miami, so there are lot's of hot girls everywhere, there's the super-hot Shilpa Shetty , and there's the ocean. Can't ask for more.

There's a sinister story behind this one too, though. Tarun the Tyrant kept "bouncing" options for it, until, as a reference to our predicament, Karan said "Maybe we should call the song 'Shut up and Bounce!'" I loved it, ran into the studio, and came up with a basic idea, which went thru many transmogrifications before eventually becoming what it is!

Khabar Nahi (Vishal, Shreya Ghoshal , Amanat Ali )

Vishal: We were stuck (again) for a love song that was simple and true, but yet new and not filmi at all. Anvita and I were brainstorming on the smoking-verandah outside our studio, and I asked her "what happens when you fall in love?" And then, answered the question with a phrase I use often, "You don't know which way is up!".

Then I translated that, came up with the first line. She took it from there, and made it magical! It was Tarun's idea to add the Sufi bit, as a stark contrast to the pop melody of the main song. Shekhar came up with that bit, and completed the song.

We both instantly though of Amanat as the perfect voice for that bit, and called him. We also tried Raja Hasan out, but that didn't gel. You still hear him the backing vocal track behing the first interlude, though.

Kuch Kam (Shaan )

Vishal: A song of loss, of loneliness. But, true to Tarun's nature, not expressed in an earth-shattering way. It's almost colloquial, almost casual. It's about how everything is a little less true without friends to share it with.

And, I think Shaan shows great maturity as a singer by restraining the innate joy you usually hear in his voice. This is the second time he's done this for us (Dastaan-e-OSO being the first). He's still learning and growing as an artiste, and as the person who did his first film song with him, I'm truly proud of the guy!

The rhythm on this song is programmed by Samrat Bharadwaj, along with our regular producer, Abhijeet Nalani. That combo is what made Jhankaar Beats happen, and I think that's one of the reasons why this song is very special to me.

Aspi: I wanted your thoughts on the following three new singers who I've grown quite fond of.

Shilpa Rao

Vishal: Beautiful voice, great determination, will do great things! Her voice made Khuda Jaane even more special!

Himani Kapoor

Vishal: Great singer, unique voice, will also achieve great things! Jogi Mahi was just a voice-test for her with us. We'll definitely do something big with her soon.

Harshdeep Kaur

Vishal: We worked with her on Le jaa in the film Karam , and she's absolutely fantastic too! I hope this Junoon victory does big things for her.

Himani (stylistically) and Harshdeep (stylistically and sonically) will have to step out of the Richa Sharma mold, and find their own personal niches, though.

Just so you know, I love the fact that there are so many new singers around! It makes me happy too see so much talent all around. Shekhar and I wish we could do songs with all of them! And, maybe we will! ;-)

Aspi: Hey, will there be another Jo Jeeta Wohi Superstar next year?

Vishal: Who knows. I mean the way SRGMP has bombed this year, maybe we just managed to escape the reality show melt-down! ;-)

Aspi: Final question: and it's mandatory on the Drift: can you fold a fitted bed sheet?

Vishal: Ummm.........sure. Why the hell not! I can do anything! ;-)

Aspi: Vishal, thanks again. Best wishes for much success with Dostana and beyond. Megan Diwani (you remember that Shekhar-Megan episode on SRGMP don't you?) sends her love. And just about everyone on the Drift wants you to know how much they love you (and Shekhar).

Vishal: Love you all right back, especially Meg, who we both dream about constantly! :-)

All links in the conversation inserted by me. 
The Dostana CD is out now. The movie opens November 14, 2008. 
Many thanks to Saniya Makker for the picture of Vishal-Shekhar at The Unforgettables



Bella said...

Wow, Aspi

Great write-up, congratulations. And thanks to Vishal for being his funky self and giving us such an insight into the music that they create.

Mwah! Love u Vishal :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dear Asp !

Anonymous said...

Wow, Vishal on the drift. As Chris Mathew would say "I felt this thrill going up my leg" :)

I did not know Vishal Shekhar gave the music for Karam. I had loved the music and the movie. Searching on them there is another movie Musafir that I did'nt know of either.

Haven't heard of this album. I will have to soon!

btw, I am in love with the Bachna Ae Haseeno remix version.

Anonymous said...

great job aspi..loved the post..

Anonymous said...

OMFG Aspi! That was amazing! I cannot believe you got Vishal of Vishal-Shekhar on the drift! Aspi, you should start walking around with an entourage because after this, you are definitly famous!!

Vishal, we do love you guys here, and as a SRGMP watcher (last season, atleast), totally miss you guys on there!

Anonymous said...

WOO-HOO! What a maha-vishaal interview, Drift saab!

For once the target of your questions is as playful as you are!

Great musical insights, greatly entertaining answers.


Anonymous said...

ok, one teeny tiny shikaayat too...
How come you did not insert more pictures of The Vishal in the interview?

I am thinking Filmfare (or was it Stardust) type folded poster photos?

Anonymous said...

Hey Aspi

Thanks so much.. I was eager to hear abba de makin of Dostana.

Happy to c it.

Grt job!!!

N very entertaining. Luvd it

Isnt Vishal the only male celeb on the drift to know how to fold a fitted bedsheet.......;)

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of Vishal Shekar and their music. I also saw Unforgettables.
Thanks for the interview! Very nice job Aspi!

Anonymous said...

Vishal, thanks for all the details!

Aspi, i like your music reviews but these 'inside the music' series you have is way better. sorry, just being honest. these are very insightful and fun to read.

Anonymous said...

wah, wah Aspi, landmark for the Drift. Highest ranked drift celeb stopping by and glad I was able to catch it this morning!

Vishal thank you so much for sharing this. Its a treat to know all this from you before I go and give a first listen to Dostana music.

Aspi, all you now need are The Himesh and Judge Javed :)

Anonymous said...

Successful albums, you must be joking. All the recent ventures from the duo have been duds except for OSO. Their music seems to have going downhill these days. Where is the versatility or uniqueness about their compositions. I feel Shankar Mahadevan, ARR, and the underrated Vishal Bharadwaj are way ahead of V-S. They need to add some Indian classical touch to their creations instead of the overtly westernised feel present in all their songs these days.

Anonymous said...

Vishal, if you were a woman, I would insist on hugging you.

Anonymous said...

Let's all be glad Shekhar isn't a woman otherwise who knows what would happen?

Anonymous said...

Fatwa, ready, set!

Asifbhai, aaj lunch pe ghar aa jayiye.

Anonymous said...

Nawaz, I approved the aid package and am now in Bangladesh. Waiting for you at the Dhaka Boat Club per your instructions. Jaaldi Kurro (I'm even learning Russian for you!)

*bats eyelids*

Anonymous said...

Laholbilakhoobat! Asifbhai what should I do now?

Anonymous said...

Nawaz, chinta mat kar - I'll take care of it.

Maulanaji, thanks for the invitation. Meet me at the Dhaka Boat Club for lunch at noon. I'll be disguised as a black woman wearing a white trench coat.

Anonymous said...

Claps, whistles, crackers. Woohoo Aspi. Thanks for this

Its really good. Loved the making of the music as much as the music.

Thanks Vishal. U R AWESOME!

Aspi, the drift is going places for sure. N SO ARE VS! Love their music!

Unknown said...

Hey, I'm glad everyone enjoyed this.

Vishal is tremendously fun to interview.

Anon, regarding the (lack of) hits you mentioned. Its hard for us fans to gauge the sales of an album. I certainly don't know how to reliably get that information. (Hey even the major labels in the US over report).

But in India, word of mouth is a tremendously accurate indicator of sales. And so I rely on that (and a few other unscientific but reasonable sources).

Regarding versatility, V-S (as any good modern day music directors will) work very closely with the director of the film. So to a large extent, I think they serve the movie first, then the music.

Given that if you'll listen closely, their compositions are diverse. Not hit you on the head diverse, but enough that you can recognize the versatility.

maxdavinci said...

wah sirjee kya baat hain!

this is one of the rare and unslavish reviews I've read recently. Jahan dekho sab gun-gaan mein lage hain..

It's good to see VS experiment with new singers and give them songs in big budget movies.

Unlike apna annuji who gave emon and deepali a song in some mithunda flick...

hit hi hit hain! and as always mata rani ka ashirwaad ho..JMLR

Anonymous said...

This love ishtory unfolding in B'desh is cracking me up!

To be true to subcontinental politics tho, Asif Z should be scampering off with Condi's diamonds and wealth.

Anonymous said...

Question from a fool....Who is this Mata that people refer to?

Anonymous said...

Nawaz, you've changed - where is that handsome man I met in Bangladesh?

In any case you tried to get fresh with me so I kicked your ass. How dare you call me Fat Ho! I'm going back.

Anonymous said...

Asifbhai, where did you learn Karate? Hardly had the words Fatwa left my lips when you jumped up and kicked the shit out of me.

I have four broken ribs now.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Maulanaji. How about meeting in Alaska? I'll be disguised as a dumb but hot white woman with brown hair and rectangular glasses.

Anonymous said...

Asifbhai, you rascal!!

Good one!

musical said...

Wow! Thanks a ton, Aspi! Vishal's interviews are always such a treat! It all makes you appreciate their music at a whole new level. You can feel the love and passion the duo has for their music.

And am loving my jasmine green tea even more now ;).

Been lurking here for a while, but had to delurk today! Thank you, thank you. Love the Drift.


Anonymous said...

still dint get to listen to this one.bad bad.
can't wait for the weekend now...

Anonymous said...

and i loooooooooooooved the interview:)

Unknown said...

musical, welcome and thanks for letting us know you're here.

Cinderella, let us know what you think after you give it a spin.

Anonymous said...

Follow up question for Vishal:

How do you balance the business, creative and personal facets of your life? It's a lot to juggle so what gives?

Anonymous said...

Hey Aspi,how come you have the answer to every single question in the universe.You're like a walking talking breathing human encyclopedia.Me jealous.

Unknown said...

CD, no I don't yaar - I don't know who the Mata is that Anon was curious about.

Anonymous said...

Ek Prashn -
Vishal gaate hain , Shekhar Gaate hain, HR gurrate hain, Farhan chillate hain, Annu shor machate hain ,Preetam budbudate hain ? Sabh MD/D gayenge toh singers kya karenge..

Better to have Reality shows for music composers.. :-)

Unknown said...

shubchintak that is a hilarious and original thought.

Anonymous said...

Wow AspiG, am the anon that posted a few days back! Thanks for the great interview! Love VS music and almost all the songs of BAH and Dostana!
V - u rock & so does ur voice! and so does S..Cant believe S came up with Maa da laadla ! It rocks!

We all love VS & we love Drift!!

-Avid Drift Fan!

Kanan said...

Vishal = coolness unlimited! ;-)

You guys rock, VS.

And Aspi, hardik badhaaiyaan for such an awesome interview. I'll be listening to the album soon.


ps. No, it's not a tank top. :P ROFL...

Anonymous said...

when it comes to <3, turn it sideways and it becomes a heart!! aww, how warm and fuzzy! hehe

Unknown said...

Its official then - I'm either an idiot or a creep.

Anonymous said...

btw, I also love the first pic of Vishal and am totally envious of Priyanka's body in the other pics.

Unknown said...

ADF, welcome! (since you are now named).

Anonymous said...

Asif, u there? I met this guy who kept saying your name over and over again. And he wouldn't let go of my hand. Then he muttered something and ran off.

Was that the Lawrence of Arabia Ma used to tell me about?

Anonymous said...

Asifbhai, you looked so beautiful in that disguise! It took great self control and the blessings of the almighty for me to extricate myself from your clutches and leave.

Please don't dress like that again otherwise I'll have to issue a fatwa on myself. lol!

Anonymous said...

Is it the same Shilpa Rao from Toise Naine laage from Anwar singing Khuda Jaane?

I've been so out of the loop when it comes to B wood or Indian music for the past year.

But if it is the same Shilpa Rao---yay. I've been hoping for more songs from her.

Unknown said...

Lin, same Shilpa Rao. She's got a voice different enough that you can pick it out of dozens. Our earlier interview subject Clinton was raving about her too.

Anonymous said...

aspi, the biggest and best celeb interview yet on the drift ---- congratulations and thank you! of course i'm completely biased coz vishal is an overwhelming fave of mine. i never did get all the fuss about shekhar when vishal seems so much zanier and fun ;)

i put dostana on loop while working yesterday and vishal-love notwithstanding, i'm not feeling it! it seems to have a stock V-S feel. the desi girl item number in particular seems awfully generic. i sort of felt that way about SEL after thoda pyaar thoda magic, but they roared back with Rock On. hope VS do the same. the one winner for me on the album is Khabar Nahi. The pop-sufi combo is lovely and amanat's voice is a great fit.

enthusiastic waves to all the drift regulars. i've been MIA from comments but i do read all of you (not just aspi!) faithfully :)

Anonymous said...

Congrats Aspi for bringing Vishal here..i have a ? 4 do you conduct these interviews? email, phone or some other cool technology?

I have some comments for Vishal. I hope he reads them and if possible, drop a line in reply and make my day

Vishal...Thanks for doing this interview and giving us backstage details about Dostana. Much Bigger thanks for giving Amanat Ali a break...His voice sounds so peaceful/soulful, like a breath of fresh air....Please please give him some more stuff...You and Shekhar are prob the only MDs worthy of their tags (SEL too, you guys Rock), who keeps their promises that they gave on national TV.

Anonymous said...

Finally heard it!

i like:
Maa da laadla[fun],khabar nahi[soulful]kuch kam[loved it!]
was more than glad to hear Amanat Ali.hope we get to hear more of him:)

i was listening to VS' telugu soundtrack.i find it so very tollywood-ish but there's one track that i began to like a lot!!it's called 'Merupula..'..though very telugu-filmy,it's got that distinct VS touch to it:)


and Happy Dusheraa to all of you:-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, aspi. :)

Anonymous said...

oyee hoyee he is so funny!

Anonymous said...

This is way cool!
Not only VS are one of my most fav from the current crops of Bolly music Ds, I totally dug them on SRGMP 07!
And I am happy for them not to show up on this yrs' SRGMP - 2007 contestants were worthy of having V S as mentors, but this yr is the worst of all season. And if the continue the drama, I wish their TRP falls below Krishi Darshan!

Talking of Dostana music, I just want to say they have a winner in 'Desi Grrl' - its got all ingredients to rock the charts way after the movie fades in our memory. Esp from a NRI crowd perspective, this song is here to stay!

Unknown said...

hey can anyone tell me whats the name of the song..which comes in the film..

"Your smile is heavenly
you touch me tenderly
your eyes they speak to me
a thousand summer nights
oh lovely lady
you mesmorise me
you fill my heart and soul
with pleasure and delight

i feel so complete with you
i never wanna let you go
".....its on abhishek and priyanka.....please need ths song...!!!

Anonymous said...

get interview Aspi.

All songs are catchy, but Kuch Kum is the best..

LUIZA said...


LUIZA said...

i love dostana