In conversation with Bollywood composer duo Sachin & Jigar

The tree of their friendship has grown over time with roots delving deeper, longer and stronger. Their struggle has weathered many storms as well as tided over all odds to chisel out a space for their craft in this competitive music industry. Now the bonding between well-known Bollywood composers Sachin Sanghvi and Jigar Saraiya aka Sachin-Jigar is a fabled inseparable buckle that looks impossible to break! Having evolved gradually but consistently as a hit machine, these music partners are a name to reckon with among the current breed of musicians. The duo shares of its story right from the salad days as amateur starters, stint in theatre as well as on small screen, apprenticeship under industry bigwigs, equation with fandom, familial support and inspiration to a lot more things unplugged in a tête-à-tête with us.

How did you guys form a musical duo? Where did you first meet and hit it off?

Sachin: Everything happens for a reason you know. And we realise this in hindsight when we reflect on the past. We would actually meet more often than not to share our workloads while straddling theatre with television. Jigar then one day asked me to join the very reputed Rajesh Roshanji and his camp to taste mainstream waters and the next thing we knew was arranging music for the Roshans professionally and the thought organically hit home that we are on the same page as a congenial combination.

Jigar: I think Sachin covered the part as to how we met and synergised to become musical partners. But let me add another interesting dope here that suggests, we bonded more over food than music. At least that’s what I feel at heart (chuckles!). The other matching point is that hailing from similar backgrounds has really helped us forming this pair and we both wanted to toil hard over producing some amazing music.

Sachin, you hail from a suburban Mumbai, dominated by Gujarati community and your voice has been a rage for years during Navaratri celebration and garba dance. Can you recall those days and the musical impact that this association has left upon you?

Sachin: Yes, I feel great when I look back and think about those funfilled, joyous times. When I was a kid, people used to be amused by the fact that I did a lot of shows and even cut regional albums. You see, we always learn things quickly in our younger days and I picked up music the most as a child. I took to singing, keyboards, playing with a band and also imbibed the idea of how to address a large crowd on stage. Later, I used all that experience I could gather at a tender age in executing Sachin-Jigar shows on a professional platform.

Fact is, when you face an enormous audience, you get to tap its pulse and understand what is mass-friendly and popular and why is it so. When you are in the thick of business, trying to create infectious music, this experience really helps. It feels on a high as an artiste to just go all out there and express yourself open-heartedly in your mother tongue or any other language that you are comfortable in with no undue pressure whatsoever.

Many people don’t bother to remember the long stretch of struggle that goes behind climbing up the ladder of success. How do you react now when you two look back after reaching a secure pinnacle in the industry?

Jigar: Honestly, we are not staring backwards but ahead and preferably mapping the miles to go on from here. For the lack of time, we hardly can afford to dwell on our past and contemplate much. But yes, every time we find love and fame, it’s a ritual that we sit back and ponder over those bygone years. We love new challenges and take each assignment like the zeal of an excited fresher. We are hell-bent on taking this brand forward with all our might and enthusiasm.

Sachin: My take on this is that struggle toughens you like a hard solid rock and success can get slippery. So it is highly important to remember your hardships like a true conscientious reminder and keep yourself grounded, though I personally fathom, struggle never ends with one’s attained establishment and material status as it’s all about sustaining your brand and carrying it forward.

Would you like to recollect those long days of continuous fight and difficulty that have brought you thus far?

Sachin-Jigar: One incident we can clearly recall is that we had once owed a lot of money to our many creditors strewn around in the market. Our outstanding debts had piled up because of toying with multiple jobs to earn our living and run the kitchen fire. In a certain month, a couple of cheques had even bounced and the going got really very tough. Until one evening, both of us realised that we don’t have enough left in our wallets to feed ourselves sufficiently and that the electricity board had cut off our supply line, further adding to our woes. I remember Priya (Jigar’s wife) paying for our dinner that night and the three of us had a candle light arrangement on our studio terrace. See, we have set our sights on specific landmarks to be achieved along our journey-path and whenever we cross any such delightful moment in our career, we make it a point to take Priya out to an eatery and show her gratitude in return.

You used to assist established composers namely, Pritam, A.R. Rahman, Anu Malik, Nadeem-Shravan, Sandesh Shandilya, Vishal-Shekhar before charting out your own musical course independently. How was the experience like and how does music arrangement help an aspirant sharpen his skills?

Jigar: Our stint as arrangers will stay with us all our lives. To be able to assist these reputed tunesmiths at the peak of their careers and have a backseat view of what is happening around as well as witnessing how they go about their business is absolutely wonderful. It’s amazing how these gentlemen depict the same typical Bollywood situations in their own sweet ways. Every scorer approaches the song process differently. If one goes for the melody first, another goes for production, etc. I wanted to become Kumar Sanu while I was training to sing, until Roja (composed by Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman) happened and took me by storm. Somebody like Rahman sir, who has become an inspiration to an entire generation, is the simplest human being alive. In a particular song, he might want to play only four chords because he wants to drive home a message and doesn’t want to clog his listening. He has immense clarity and has given us a lot of perspective about how simple can be complicated and vice-versa.

Sachin: Each has its own unique style you see. If Rajubhai (eminent composer Rajesh Roshan) taught us how to differentiate between a normal tune and one that fits the character to the tee, then Pritamda showed us how to be ahead of the times. He treats us like his kids. There is a father figure inside him. He is our go to man. We always resort to him when we get stuck somewhere. He is our guiding light, you know. So, all in all, it’s been a very enriching experience till now.

Did you guys undergo any formal training? Do you think it’s necessary for every beginner, who wants to make it big in the musical field?

Sachin: Formal schooling is very important for every musician at any given level in my view. I was trained in classical vocals for 10 years and have also learnt the ropes of two-three types of the piano.

Jigar: I have taken tuitions on beating the tabla first followed with the reed instrument, piano. In today’s world, not only certified coaching is required but knowing both the desi classical as well as the western styles are highly imperative. People are born with natural vocal chords. But only a few good know how to exercise them as an ear-soothing artform and sing with a proper mix of right tunes, tone, rhythm, beat and straight from the heart too (smiles)! This super quality makes one stand out of the rest and enables him/her to emerge comfortable in terms of knowing what to do perfectly. You must tick off all the right boxes before taking a serious plunge, don’t you?

These days, mashups have become quite a trend. Do you think it’s only a good publicity tool for producers or a great opportunity for songmakers and singers to experiment with different flavours, structures and improvisations?

Jigar: Trends will always be there but nothing can replace a composer’s original body of works. It’s a fact that only when the music directors churn out a version melody, will someone be then able to conjure a mashup and gain from it. It only adds to the actual number’s popularity or say, the probable copies cash in on it. We have no issues with such technical fads, wherein the music label or the producer wants to sell and publicise the song more through other various avenues or channels available at their disposal, be it a romantic mashup or a complete album medley or an audio-series of remixed editions.

Nowadays, a film’s playlist also sometimes comprises an unplugged or a reprised copy of an already hit number from the album. What’s your take on this?

Sachin: It is mostly noticed that only a few movies demand such unprogrammed files. For instance, a particular love song may have a slow-n-sad version in the pipeline. These tracks do not always really make it in the proposed flick but are usually great add-ons to the audio album (after a pause)….since if there is a track which the music director or his team thinks can fast catch up with the listeners, it is then always fantastic to offer them with a new ring to it.

Which filmmaker you’ve worked with has a keen music sense according to you?

Jigar: Luckily, Remo sir (filmmaker Remo D’Souza) is a choreographer with sharp sense of rhythm beat and sounds in him. Plus, he is always surrounded by a bunch of young lads who lend an innovative touch to their compositions, play brand new and contemporary music that’s currently doing the rounds of the music circuit. This makes him ready to experiment with the unknown horizons in offbeat music. At the end of the day, rest assured that you give him any kind of song and he makes anybody dance on it. That’s the hallmark of a winner. No challenge can tower over him. He paves the path like a leader, breaking new grounds.

Sachin: I feel he is a master. He is self-reliant and amply sure of his place and position in the market. He is gutsy enough to dare and try out novel things. These are some of his most important assets. If you see our work with him, it has always been game-changing and trendsetting. It is always a great boost to get associated with him and he treats us like family that grows our bonding to be even more special.

Which singer has really impressed you with his/her vocal powers?

Jigar: I am a die-hard Sunidhi Chauhan fan. I feel she is a timeless singer like Ashaji. She is a very lovely person to work with and she knows her job extremely well. She is just amazing.

Sachin: I find K.K. superbly impeccable and a great guy to work with. He can be so off the grid all the time. He is a very easygoing person with an immensely powerful voice that makes anyone fall in love (grins)!

Any dream collaboration on the cards?

Sachin-Jigar: Well, there lots of dreams to fulfil from our wishlist but nothing has developed to be divulged yet.

What about your upcoming stage shows, given the fact that this is a festive season?

Sachin: It is always a special experience to perform live before our fans. Recently, we were jamming in Ahmedabad for a college event and it was good fun to watch the crowd going all out, taking over the gig and finally started singing with us. This kind of an uninhibited exchange of vibes no doubt reinvigorates our spirit and refreshes our mood. To tell you frankly, at that point of time, we felt as if we were among the audiences and the students were performing for us.

Jigar: We always look forward to stage shows as you get a better notion of your fans’ likes and dislikes. Our shows are all about entertaining our fans as we interact with them sans any strings attached. Our primary aim is to provide them with super amusement and we hope to continue this routine every time we do a public concert. We are really looking forward to this festive season and have already started touring with our dates blocked on the itinerary.

What are your forthcoming film projects?

We are presently coordinating over a line-up of four films. But we can only speak about Parmanu as of now. We are genuinely very proud of this album and the story itself is quite interesting to drive its music way higher. Others are too premature to talk about. Overall, the music graph of 2017 has been rather gratifying for us. We have had six Hindi releases so far and two Gujarati.

Gradually, music stores are shutting down and giving way to online shops. How do you find this transition from physical to digital music space?

Sachin: I badly miss the CDs and cassettes collection these days. It’s like a deep sore void left behind. I miss going to the music stands and buying my CDs after fiddling with a sample or two and listening to them. I used to tune in to music so much that I would almost burn the head of my CD player.

Jigar: I guess, more emphasis should be laid upon purchasing original, quality music, irrespective of the form it is accessible in. As long as we are buying pure, untampered music, it doesn’t matter whether we are importing soft stuff from the internet or grabbing hard copies like CDs, etc.

Composition wise, what are the essential ingredients that you think make your music stand out from the crowd — I mean the USP of your music?

Sachin: The key USP of our music is that we try and keep it honest and never like to boast about our arrangement abilities or the knowledge we acquired as pupils of music.

Jigar: I would like to add by saying that we don’t attempt at something just for the heck of it and this I suppose has kept us strong in this business. If anyone of us feels confident about a particular song, we simply tend to go ahead with it and in the end realize that it was a spot on decision.

You have also given music direction for plays, television and jingles. How different is it from film music, considering that all are different mediums?

Jigar: Every medium has its own dynamics you see. Theatre is where our passion is and it has taught us in heaps and helped us grow as music directors. Television gave us stability and money but there is very little room for innovation, while jingles are very creative as you have to say a lot in a condensed capsule in very little time. It becomes exceedingly difficult even for ad makers at times to meet the odd demands that put the project at stake. The asking rate is always piercing through the roof in this realm. Still I find our ad industry chasing infinite excellence day in day out and flourishing at a brilliant pace.

You kind of strike a fine balance between soulful music and pulsating numbers. Comment.

Sachin: In Bollywood, it is mandatory to cover everything and anything. For versatility is a key feature here. Every script has its own expectation and if it calls for soulful music, you have to deliver that. While the pulsating dance numbers give your album the fizz and opening it needs. So depending on the script and sequence, we must serve up what is necessarily required.

Has a foot-tapping dance/club track become more compulsory than ever before? 

We beg to differ on this. See, change is a constant factor in the showbiz industry. There was a time when everyone wanted item numbers on a spree. Then came club songs, whereas, love ballads have always been in vogue and no matter what, the genre will glow eternally like a glorious jewel in the composer’s crown. They are like immortal creations with timeless appeal.