Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Coming into the foreground -Salim Sulaiman


Sulaiman (above)

Sulaiman of the Salim-Sulaiman music duo, talks to Sandhya Iyer about their big break with Aja Nachle and how background score in films has evolved over the time

As music composers, they may not have made it to the foreground yet, but as creators of background score, they are by far the 'it' guys of Bollywood. Not that they haven't done commendable music scores. Besides their foot-tapping music for Kaal, the duo also has to its credit Iqbal and the recent Chak De India.

Salim-Sulaiman’s biggest strength has been their avid exposure to world cinema/music and their ability to bring in that sensibility into the fast changing world of Hindi cinema. The duo broke away from stock, stereotypical background music and opted instead to use elements within the film's music score itself, thereby lending it a certain seamless quality. Fanaa was a clear example. He says, ”Songs shouldn’t jump out saying 'Hey, here I am', they must blend with the entire music which is what we try and do."

Sulaiman also agrees that the field of background score has assumed a certain degree of imminence only in recent times, especially after films like Bhoot, Aks Krrish etc. Strange, considering how much Indian audiences hate silences in films.

He laughs, “Yes, true. All this while, filmmakers generally got the background score done from whoever was willing and available, it was the last thing they thought about. If it’s a sad scene, there would be a flute playing in the background, if it was a really, really sad scene, then there would be a sitar or sarangi. Action, suspense all had their stock music. But I think Bhoot’s music score played a defining role in changing perceptions about how it can be more creatively used. Today, we have people booking us six months in advance, so there is a definite difference,”: he says.
This trend, he feels, is in keeping with the West, where background scores always stay very true to the film. Considering how much Bollywood is widening in reach internationally, Sulaiman feels the change was but, a natural transition.

In keeping with the duo’s insistence on doing films where the music ‘naturally fits into the script’, their scores for both Iqbal and Chak De India were ones where the music came in only after the films were ready. “In such cases, where the story-line is very strong, it makes perfect sense to create music later on because then you get the clear picture. You know all about its colours and visual presentation. Also, both these films didn’t have any lip synch,” he says.
Talking about Chak De India, he says that the duo always knew that the film’s title songs would become a sports anthem after the film’s release. “The whole designing, publicity of the film was done in a certain pre-planned manner but we knew the music would be BIG after its release.”

Now, the duo is hoping that Aja Nachle picks up momentum. “While we were composing for CDI, Aditya (Chopra) asked us casually if we’d like to do the music for a Madhuri starrer and we jumped at it. There was pressure, no doubt. I mean Madhuri comes with a massive legacy behind her, with quite a plethora of hits like Dhak Dhak etc. So it was obviously a challenge to create something that takes her to the next level. But after a point, we decided not to let this aspect play on our minds and felt we should create our songs and be true to the script. And also, the film has Madhuri in a more mature role, it’s a different era, so the style of music becomes quite unique in any case. Thankfully, Madhuri herself was elated after hearing the music, especially the title track.”
Sulaiman is hopeful the music will pick up in sales once the Om Shanti Om-Saawariya buzz dies down. “Currently, Aja Nachle is on no 3 and 4 but I think once the limelight shifts from these two biggies, we’ll know exactly what the audience thinks of Aja Nachle music”

On another note, the duo seem to be happy withen their own private space, not venturing into any high profile music talent hunt shows. "Yes, you know after a point, these shows become just another tamasha and to be honest, the reach is so huge that any off hand statement from you and you can be branded for life. I'm not sure I'm prepared for it. We have been approached for music shows but for the moment, we are resisting these offers."

Coming up next for them, as music composers are films such as Race, Bhootnath, Fashion and Bombay To Bangkok.

Favourite background scores (own films)
1. Krrish
2. Dhoom 1
3. Bhoot
4. Ab Tak Chappan
5. Chak De India
1. Satya
2. Bombay
3. Aks
Last music score he loved: Partner (Sajid-Wajid)


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