Composer Amaal Mallik and his younger brother, singer Armaan Malik, grew up watching their grandfather Sardar Malik, father Daboo Malik and uncle Anu Malik make music. Mallik did not want to be influenced by their styles, so he decided to create his own distinct sound. Mallik assisted music directors Pritam, Salim-Sulaiman, Amar Mohile and Sandeep Chowta when he was only 15, and he later trained in Western classical music. The hard work has finally paid off. After creating hit tunes for multi-composer soundtracks, including Roy and Kapoor & Sons, Mallik went solo for the Salman Khan starrer Jai Ho in 2014. The glory that Mallik has been waiting for has finally arrived with Neeraj Pandey’s biopic MS Dhoni – The Untold Story. The 25-year-old talent discusses his years of waiting at the crease and his dream run with

What has the response been to your first solo film soundtrack ‘MS Dhoni – The Untold Story’?
Everyone from the film industry has sent me congratulatory messages. When a film does well, the music gets a little more mileage. Romantic films always have an edge in our country over subject-based films. It is an honour to see on iTunes that of the top 10 songs right now, four are from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and four from Dhoni. Sharing the space with Pritam’s music, whose songs I am in love with, is a tremendous feeling.

Have you been getting new offers as a solo composer after the film’s success?
I was never called for solo projects before, so yes, that might change now. My first three songs in Jai Ho did not click even though it was a Salman Khan starrer. The experience made me work harder and focus on all my songs. I think it was a blessing in disguise. In the short span since then, I have composed some 40-45 songs and am happy with them.

‘Jab Tak’ from ‘MS Dhoni – The Untold Story’ (2016).

What was the experience of composing for ‘MS Dhoni – The Untold Story’?
The film’s director, Neeraj Pandey, gave me full liberty to do what I wanted. I composed some 27 songs for the film. He knew some songs could be super hits, but he did not take them as they did not fit the story. I remember reading the entire script before I began composing for the film. This has never happened before. No one has involved me in the filmmaking process as much as he did.

There were research, discussions, and feedback from cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni on the words to use in the lyrics, so special care had to be taken to reflect his thoughts and the language he is comfortable with. My lyricist, Manoj Muntashir, and I would imagine that we were Dhoni and use words like “sanki” (demented) and “budbak baadal” (crazy cloud). These words reflect the speech patterns of Ranchi, where Dhoni grew up.

Would you still consider doing multi-composer soundtracks?
I was and still am a part of the multi-composer trend. I have done Kapoor & Sons, which was a superhit album, as was Baar Baar Dekho. The flipside is that Kapoor & Sons turned out to be a great film and Baar Baar Dekho was not a success, but I still feel that Baar Baar Dekho had a more varied music album. Perhaps after Dhoni, the perception will change about what I am capable of, but that won’t stop the offers for multi-composer soundtracks.

‘Sooraj Dooba Hai’ from ‘Roy’ (2015).

How did you react to the failure of your first three songs in ‘Jai Ho’?
I sat at home. I did not go around looking for work. I did not try to use my famous surname or family connections to bag projects. [T-Series head] Bhushan Kumar believed in me and gave me a break with Roy. When I got the opportunity, I wanted to introduce the electronic dance music sound in a big way, and Sooraj Dooba Hai happened, which became a huge hit.

Does the success of a song like ‘Sooraj Dooba Hai’ overshadow your other efforts, especially when filmmakers want you to repeat the same style?
Yes, I have had to turn down six big films because they wanted me to make a version of the song. I don’t want to churn out the same thing.

How important are lyrics in your songs?
My grandfather used to say, “The tune is the crown on the head of the music composer, but the jewel on it is crafted by the lyricist”.

Sooraj Dooba Hai is not just a party song. If you look at how it is written by the lyricist Kumaar, you will understand that it has deep meaning. In the lyrics, “Matalbi ho ja zara matlabi, duniya ki sunta hai kyun, khud ki bhi sun le kabhi” [Be selfish, don’t listen to the world, listen to yourself], there is a thought, a philosophy that is not just about putting words together to compose a hit number. The message also resonated with the youth, who loved the track.

The lyricists I have worked with, Manoj Muntashir, Kumaar, Rashmi-Virag, they are all very particular about the thought coming through rather than just fitting words to a tune. Kumaar is a rebellious writer, he will write something unique. Manoj is someone who will get into the script. In Dhoni, he used the language commonly spoken in Ranchi. Rashmi-Virag are good with ballads.

Do you also sing your own compositions?
I sang O Khuda [Hero, 2015] but am not too keen on using my own voice. It was a lip-sync song in which my voice suited Sooraj Pancholi’s character in the film. Salman [Khan, who produced Hero] and I felt my voice was correct in terms of the age and maturity of the character. We tried a couple of voices, but he insisted on retaining my voice. In the upcoming film Badrinath Ki Dulhania, I have recorded some songs in my voice, but once we see how they are going to be filmed, we will take a call if the voice suits the character. Music composers should sing their own songs only if their voice suits the character.

What about your brother, Armaan Malik? Does he get first preference for playback?
Armaan is a good singer, but he is not the first choice for many of my songs. It is easy for him to say that he should be given first preference, but he does not do so. I know when I need his voice, like in Jab Tak, for which I felt he was right. If I wanted to promote only my brother, why would I give Arijit Singh a song in Dhoni?

Do you feel that today’s popular songs don’t have recall value, unlike older songs?
Earlier, there was honesty in how music directors worked. They would not enter the recording studio without first getting their riyaaz right.

What has changed? Don’t composers work equally hard today?
Today we have become complacent, sitting in one small room with the computer in front of us and producing music without the assistance of real musicians playing instruments. If a tune does not sound right, we instantly come up with another. I feel it is our own dishonesty as musicians that our songs do not have a lasting impact.

‘Kar Gayi Chull’ from ‘Kapoor & Sons’ (2016).