It's two hours before the show's supposed to begin.
Bad jokes about Indian punctuality aside, it's probably the worst time to call a musician.
Between sound checks, getting their costume freak on and making sure the touch-up guys are satisfied, there's probably a lot going on.
Especially if you're going to call them over the phone (with no prior introduction) and say, "Hey, fancy doing a longish interview now?"
Twitter would have been abuzz with #epicfail tweets if that recording had ever got out.
Except, this is Shekhar Ravjiani we're talking about. You've got to be at least that cool if you've composed the title track of Chennai Express and Vishal Dadlani is your partner in arms.
He picked up, said "Sure thing" and the rest, as they say, probably won't make history, but still made for a super-fun chat.
For someone who “just happened” to enter the music industry by chance, Shekhar Ravjiani is doing exceedingly well. From Dus and Jhaankar Beats to pop culture blockbusters like Dostana, Ra One and Chennai Express, it's an impressive body of work that Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar have notched up in 17 years. But the sheer magnitude of his achievements doesn't permeate his manner or show in his voice, as Shekhar comes across as a simple and sensitive man. Speaking just before his
concert at IIT-Madras’ Saarang, he opened up about his musical and non-musical pursuits, his upcoming acting debut and why he doesn't want to sing more often.
Excerpts from a quick chat:
Let's go back in time. What were you like in school?
(Laughs) You won’t believe it, but I was a very shy and reserved kid — an introvert, in other words.
Really! So are you the same now?
No. Definitely not. (laughs) Talking about music, was becoming a musician a childhood dream? No. I come from a business family and had no idea that I will grow up to be a musician. Music just happened with the flow. I actually didn’t know anyone from the film industry or the music fraternity. Music was just a hobby. But, one day a friend of mine came over and told me that he was working with a production house and asked me if I would like to do something. I said I would love to try it, and that’s how it started.
You rarely sing, which is quite strange considering how much people love songs like Jogi Mahi and Tumse hi Tumse. What's the logic?
Thank you so much. (laughs) Well, I don’t know, I personally feel that it’s better in a way. I don’t want to sing regularly. There are a couple of songs which might suit me, and a couple of others which I feel I can’t do justice to. So I sing less, but hopefully I sing songs that people would have on their ipods all the time. I want to make it special, every time i do sing. The Hanuman Chalisa I did lately did really well, it crossed 1.6 million views on Facebook and was launched by Amitabh Bachchan.
You are making your debut as an actor in Neerja. How did this come about?
Okay, you’re the first person I’m talking to about Neerja!Director Ram Madhvani is somebody I’ve worked with in advertising for the past 15 years and he’s also one of the finest ad directors I have ever met. So, when he asked me to be a part of his debut film, I said 'if it had been a school play I would have even agreed to be a tree'. My role is a very special kind of appearance, a very effective one. It’s just an extension of what I do. I’m doing a lot of singles now, a lot of Bollywood music, I have my own production house and when this role was offered, I thought it’s another extension of experiencing something unique and special which I haven’t done before.
Have any more offers come your way. Would you take them too if they pique your creativity?
I have been getting offers for the past 10 years, but I didn’t take up anything because I didn’t want to do something wrong and make a fool of myself by choosing the wrong project. So I chose something which is small and special. Neerja is a very interesting and beautiful film and I wanted to be a part of it.
Tell us about your publishing firm.
I actually started working on a music-meets-books publishing company because it's offbeat. It’s like a unique combination of music meets books and books meet music.
So every time a song comes out, a book comes along with it. I’m working on a book at the moment, so hopefully in the next 4-5 months I should be able to bring it out.
What do you think of the independent music scene in India?
It is getting better and better every single day and I’m really happy about it. Lot of new bands and artists are getting popular. I just hope and pray that every single artist who wants to do their own thing is able to get their music out, especially now that you have platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud to promote them. I hope it gets bigger and better. It can’t obviously reach the levels of Bollywood, but I hope that one day independent music gets into that space.
2015 has been a rare slow year. Why haven't you scored any music for Bollywood films?
Yes! We were busy writing. This year we have Sultan, Aditya Chopra’s Befikre, Fan, Akira and a film called Banjo. So I think this year and in 2017 there will be a lot of releases.
You and Vishal performed at IIT-Madras once already. Is performing for a younger audience different from the usual crowd?
Not much. That’s because 90-95 per cent of the crowd that comes in is the youth, who sing along with us and give us that energy on stage.
You were in Chennai, the land of the Mozart of Madras. Did you get to meet A R Rahman?
I bumped into him once and the first thing he said was “I love Om Shanti Om”. It meant a lot, coming from the man who changed the face of music in India. Really cool man, fantastic sense of humour and I think every single musician in the country gets inspired by what he does and looks forward to what he comes up with.
What is working with Shah Rukh Khan like?
Oh, Shah Rukh’s energy is something else. He gives a lot of love and respect while you’re working with him. He’s jammed a couple of times in the studio. He’s a very respectful human being. And that man doesn’t sleep, he works non-stop. It’s inspiring to see a man of his calibre, in spite of being a superstar, still putting in that kind of effort.