‘What’s this What Jhumka’: Pritam reveals all about RRKPK soundtrack | Bollywood


Pritam has collaborated with Karan Johar the producer a couple of times, in Kalank and Brahmastra Part One: Shiva. But he comes on board almost as a co-creator in the last two directorials of Karan, as music is integral to the narratives of both.

Pritam has designed the soundscape of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani
Pritam has designed the soundscape of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani

(Also Read: Alia Bhatt visited Shah Rukh Khan for a day to prep for Tum Kya Mile, reveals Vaibhavi Merchant)

In an exclusive interview, Pritam discussed designing the soundscape of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, paying ode to the music of the 1960s and ’90s, and his foolproof collaboration with Karan Johar, lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya and singer Arijit Singh. Edited excerpts:

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani are such tonally different albums. How different was the experience on each?

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Rocky Aur Rani can’t be compared. The basic premise of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is angst. It’s very high on emotion: musician, rocker, self-destructive. The vibe is only very different. Somehow, angst wala music always gives better scope for music. In India, everybody tends to like deep heartbroken songs. Rocky Aur Rani is a celebratory film. There’s no angst. The ethos is very familial. Rocky is innocent and vulnerable, but he’s extremely flamboyant. Shabana Azmi and Dharmendra’s characters love old Hindi music. So Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Rocky Aur Rani are north pole-south pole.

What was the initial brief from Karan for Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani?

Because the script is very heavily steeped in nostalgia, Karan wanted a ‘bharpoor’ sound. Tum Kya Mile could’ve been orchestrated as aaj ka (today’s) sound. But it’s a very classic sound. Every move in this movie was very calculated. Also, every song has two antaras (stanzas). I just changed the composition of the second antara, like it used to happen way back in the 1960s. There used to be three antaras then: mukhda, antara, chorus, antara 2. This used to be the format then. It got changed to two antaras with the same melody in the ‘90s. The song is squeezing, it’s getting smaller and smaller.


Wasn’t it a challenge to compose full songs? Did you fear whether they’d get accepted today or not?

What’s happened with time is that patience has faded. Karan shot all the songs in full, but while editing, he had to cut them down for length. The audio is still with two antaras. I still feel that the audio for Tum Kya Mile is too long. I feel its streaming numbers could’ve been higher had we kept the song with just one antara, which was the plan during the release. Frankly speaking, before the release, only one antara was supposed to be in the song, even in the audio. But I used to like the second antara a lot, when Shreya Ghoshal comes in. And I wasn’t getting a fullness of the song. Even Karan wasn’t getting that fullness. Then we went with the flow, against Saragama’s decision. I understand that once you’re hearing a short song, you go back and listen to it again. But when you’re hearing a long song, you’ve been totally fed. It’s like a thali, after which you feel bharpoor. So it could’ve been much more as far as streaming numbers are concerned. But if you’re recreating the ’90s flavour, it has to feel bharpoor.

Since songs are so integral to his films, you must’ve worked closely with Karan. What’s it about him that makes all the songs of all his movies stand out?

Karan is a dream to work with for any composer. Firstly, he’s so instinctive with melodies. So it’s a quick decision. Aisa kabhi nahi hai ki sochte hain, dekhte hain (it never happens that he mulls over a melody). It’s unbelievable. He’s very bang on sure that I want this. And 98% of the times, his instinct works. His instincts are like collectibles. His instinct should be preserved for posterity.

Secondly, the biggest advantage of Karan is that he doesn’t get married to the music. Of course, you’ve heard it so many times on set and on edit. A director is thus more married to the music than the composer. But if you go back to him with a new melody, he would listen to it as a fresh piece. It’s an uncanny talent. I don’t know how it’s possible. He judges the song freshly. He has the ear to say, “Whatever I’ve been hearing so far, this is better or maybe this is worse.” He has the incredible talent of listening to the melody as a third person. He doesn’t get used to the sound. I haven’t found any director who welcomes changes with such objectivity.

Thirdly, he has immense trust in the technician he’s working with. If he’s chosen a person to work with, he trusts your instincts so much. These are very unique talents.

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani allowed Karan to pay tribute to filmmakers like Yash Chopra and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Did it also allow you to pay homage to music composers you grew up listening to?

Of course, this whole film is a homage. When Karan narrated it, the medley, Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar, Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai, Aap Jaisa Koi and Aaja Meri Gaadi Mein Baith Ja were already in the script. When the film came to me for background score, I decided to not go the usual way. Since this movie already had a retro flavour, I wanted to make the soundscape from retro elements. I took samples from retro music and reimagined them with a groove. For example, Rani’s introduction is a Bengali rap but all the string parts are from Laxmikant Pyarelal’s Mera Naam and the “rani” bit is from Mere Sapno Ki Rani. With Rocky, the intro song is taken from Mast Baharon Ka Main Aashiq. Whenever he does something, there’s the sound of ‘Hoo Hoo!’ Somen’s theme is from Meri Pyaari Bindu.

Did Saregama’s onboarding help because then you didn’t have to worry about the rights of all these songs?

I think Karan strategically went to Saregama because these songs are a part of the script. For example, if someone makes RD Burman or SD Burman’s biopic, or if Anurag Basu makes the Kishore Kumar biopic later, they have to go to Saregama. It’ll be non-sense to not go to him because if you don’t use their songs, even in the background, then it’s half gone. If you make a biopic of Queen, how can you not have their songs in the film? Somebody told me I should’ve made an original song for the situation when Dharmendra gets up from the wheelchair, but every thing doesn’t need an original. Every script has its DNA. The entire script turns on its head when Dharmendra gets up. So you needed a song like Abhi Na Jao Chhod kar there.

Were you not tempted to include Dharmendra, Shabana Azmi and Jaya Bachchan’s old songs, since you had the luxury to?

No, I didn’t go by the actors. I went by the lyrics of the song. For example, Rocky does look like a Mast Baharon Ka Aashiq and Somen’s prem ki naiya beech bhawar mein gud gud gote khaye (sings).

How was the experience of recreating Dola Re Dola from Devdas?

I honestly think I didn’t do a good job of it. It’s the same beats, but just with two male singers. The real contribution to that song is by Ranveer Singh and Tota Roy Chowdhury. And by Jaya Bachchan, who gives those reaction shots. My contribution is zero, negative actually. The original Dola Re Dola is far better.

What’s it about the dream team of you, Amitabh Bhattacharya and Arijit Singh that makes magic from melodies?

Both Amitabh and Arijit have been my assistants. When Amitabh came to Mumbai in 1999 and wanted to be a singer, he reached out to me. My album had just come out and he thought I’m a Bengali so would help him out. From then to now, when we fight like husband and wife. He says he’s the wife because he sends long text messages and I reply with “ok.” Even on What Jhumka, I asked him what is this “What Jhumka.” Yes, a catchy term had to come there, like I did with And We Twist, which is followed by the instrumental naagin tune. But what is What Jhumka? (Laughs) Arijit was also my assistant. He used to sing scratches for me then and I used to shop him to filmmakers. At that time, no one saw it. But now, he’s come a long way. So maybe it’s just that our bond goes beyond just the ‘dream team’ tag. It’s personal. We’re very frank with each other. That fiction helps in creating something magical.


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