Readers Write In #197: Vishal-Shekhar & Siddharth Anand – A combination that doesn’t get talked about much

Posted on May 30, 2020

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(by Raghav Ravichandran)

For somebody like me whose understanding of Hindi and generally the foray into Bollywood music happened in the early 2000’s there is one music composer duo, Vishal-Shekhar who have played a significant role in ensuring I became a big admirer of Bollywood Music and started following almost each Hindi album especially from 2005 onwards with a vigour and an expectation.

It goes without saying that this was my inlet into the world of Bollywood Movies as well. We obviously had AR Rahman who was shuffling between Kollywood and Bollywood and when he did compose in Hindi movies, he always manages to produce albums that became chartbusters and are pretty complex, and probably life changing experiences between 2000-2011 in Bollywood starting from ‘Lagaan’ to ‘Rockstar’.

This extends even to 2020, where many listeners tired of the current state of Bollywood music are requesting ARR to come back to Hindi music and he recently announced ‘Atrangi Re’ with Aanand L Rai that would see ARR back in Bollywood. People can have lot of expectations as their first movie together ‘Raanjhana’ was an exhilarating and fresh experience.

Apart from ARR, there came four prominent music composers who were extremely talented and gifted in their own right- Pritam, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Salim-Suleiman and Vishal-Shekhar. Later on, we had the introduction of Amit Trivedi who I have personally started admiring much more in the past few months as he produces some unconventional stuff like his work in ‘Dev D’ and ‘Bombay Velvet’ can pull off a simple yet heart-touching melody like ‘IkKudi’ from ‘Udta Punjab’.

Everyone who has been following their music to an extent can have their personal favourites- personally it will be Pritam for me as the voice that he considers his favourite singer, KK is the main reason I know and appreciate Hindi Music and the lyrics so much. It’s a voice that comes once in a generation and it truly has changed my life. So, the magic KK infused into Pritam Da’s compositions still lingers on. They made chartbusters that are so good that many playlists will be filled with their songs, but they never get appreciated or lauded enough.

That I feel is got to do with them just doing their thing and not coming out and constantly being in front of audiences. Their skill does the talking and they both have largely stayed away from the limelight and that’s one more reason I respect them and love their collaboration even more.

When you look at a career graph of a music director in Bollywood especially post 2000, they are at their creative best with couple of directors. That jodi transpires into some magical compositions that still continue to impress, inspire and make people emotional years after the album has released.

Among the most talked about Music Director- Film Director combinations would be ARR with AshuthoshGowariker(Lagaan, Swades, Jodhaa Akbar and MohejoDaro), ARR with Imtiaz Ali(Highway, Tamasha), Pritam- Anurag Basu(Gangster, Life In a Metro, Barfi, Jagga Jasoos) Pritam- Imtiaz Ali(Jab We Met, Love AajKal 1 and 2, Jab Harry Met Sejal) and SEL- Farhan Akhtar( Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya and Don, Don 2).

I would personally want to shed some light on creative partnership that I have really started to like and go back to often in recent times. This is a combination that has continuously produced some memorable tunes that would evoke lot of memories. It’s among my favourite Musical jodis in Bollywood. The combination I am talking about is Vishal & Shekhar along with Siddharth Anand.

They get talked about with less regard compared to other stellar collaborations mentioned because the movies that they have associated mainly have light-hearted and extremely easy on the eye. Their musicgets probably listened and enjoyed a lot  even now, but sadly the credit doesn’t come in as much as I personally feel it should.

They came together in the amazing ‘Salaam Namaste’. Everything was so good in that movie- Saif Ali Khan and PrietyZinta were at their peak, Javed Jaffrey was hilarious in his small role and the music was so fresh and is still something that many listeners go back to. Be it the catchy title track or among my most heard Vishal-Shekhar songs ‘My Dil Goes Mmm’. Full marks to Shaan and Gayatri Iyer for singing so well!

Vishal-Shekhar after that amped their quality with every future collaboration with Siddharth Anand. Some of the most repeat worthy and pleasant melodies in that decade came in albums like ‘Ta Ra Rum Pum’ and ‘Bachna Ae Haseeno’. ‘Hey Shona is probably in the top five songs sung by Shaan for me, it makes you feel calm and happy. And the same album had the fun and catchy title track and the energetic party number ‘Ab To Forever’ sung by KK that’s still a constant in party circles, discos etc.

If there is one song that took Ranbir Kapoor one level higher in terms of popularity and acceptance it has to be the immaculately well sung ‘Khuda Jaane’ where KK makes it sound so simple- a trademark of the singer! Shot on the beautiful locales of Venice, many forget that the music is still fresh and it’s not only about ‘Khuda Jaane’. The title track, ‘Aahista Aahista’ sung by Lucky Ali and Shreya Ghoshal and even ‘Lucky Boy’ effortlessly crooned by Sunidhi Chauhan are still trending songs. A solid album that became a chartbuster.

By this time, I was a quiet admirer of this combination as they had already produced tunes that was a big part of my childhood and my college days. But why this combination remains special personally and why I feel it should get more mention is after ‘AnjaanaAnjaani’ came out. Boy, what an album that was! In terms of complexity, impact and repeat value nothing could beat this complete package. It would rank as the best Vishal-Shekhar album for me till date!

People who appreciate superb music complimented by some outstanding singing should definitely give this album a proper hearing. It didn’t get it’s due for sure, and lot of it has to do with the subject of this movie- two people want to commit suicide and how they find meaning in life. It’s too harsh or bold to direct a movie with such a tricky plot and I must admit in terms of performances that Siddharth Anand derived from his actors ‘Anjaana Anjaani’ would rank as his best movie.  The movie tanked at the box office, but would personally rank it very highly.

This movie has a special place in my life as two of my closest friends have had life-altering experiences (the last movie they saw with their ex-girlfriends) happened to be this Ranbir Kapoor starrer. They connected with the movie at an all new level and me trying to support and help them get over their grief, fell in love with this complex and effective soundtrack!

Thujhe Bhula Diya’ and ‘Aas Paas Khuda’ deserved awards for the composition and singing. Fantastic stuff. For people who had any doubts whether Mohit Chauhan could pull of Rockstar I quietly knew in my mind that through ‘Thujhe Bhula Diya’ he proved his worth as a singer who can invoke deep emotions through his voice. And after that as they say rest is history.

Even the best collaborators see a slide in form or quality and for that happened to a large extent with ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘War’ where the music wasn’t that good, something felt missing. Maybe it’s the shoddy execution of the Hrithik Roshan- Katrina Kaif starrer which was almost a punch to my stomach for me as I couldn’t believe that the same team that gave us ‘Anjaana Anjaani’ could after a gap of four years come up with ‘Bang Bang’. ‘Tu  Meri’ and to an extent ‘Meherbaan’ are good songs but it requires the video to get through the song- which was not required for this combination up until ‘Bang Bang’.

It’s quiet often the case that once a music director gets acclaim or a film director attains a cult status, they move on to other composers in pursuit of excellence in order to offer the listeners a different perspective and maybe a different experience. In that regard, I really appreciate them standing together and continuing their journey together even now.

Lot of pleasant memories of my childhood and growing up days are associated with this unassuming Jodi. I have always enjoyed the music coming out of this creative pairing and I hope listeners revisit all these albums and can experience what I have and had experienced.

In between the unbelievable brilliance of AR Rahman to the freshness that SEL provided and the effortless ease at which Pritam was able to produce scintillating chartbusters largely propelled by KK to the unconventional brilliance of Amit Trivedi, Vishal & Shekhar get left behind.

Their compositions have been pretty easy on the ear and also have been really effective, repeat worthy and popular and something that could get spoken of and written about more.