It has been eight years since Amit Trivedi’s magnum opus, the 18-song soundtrack for Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D (2009), was released. Trivedi calls it his turning point and rightly so. Besides churning out unlikely super-hits, the soundtrack won the National Film Award for Best Music Direction. Trivedi also won the coveted Filmfare RD Burman Award for New Music Talent.

Since then, the 38-year-old composer and singer has produced a steady stream of radio hits. Trivedi has mostly composed for off-centre mainstream films backed by Kashyap’s production house, Phantom Films. Trivedi’s upcoming Hindi releases this year, Rukh and Secret Superstar, will both be released in October. In an interview, Trivedi spoke about his projects, creating blockbuster music and the relationship between a film’s box office fate and its soundtrack.

You have worked with Aamir Khan for the first time in ‘Secret Superstar’.
I loved every bit of working on the film. Aamir Khan is a delight to work with. He is such a mentor, so meticulous and particular. He guides everything and everybody. Everything happens with his approval. Every piece of music – background score or the songs – is keenly observed by him and then worked upon according to his suggestions.

Making of Main Kaun Hoon, Secret Superstar (2017).

You have also composed for ‘Rukh’.
Yes, I have composed three songs for Rukh. One is by Arijit Singh, one is Mohan [Kannan] and one by Karthik. Arijit and Karthik’s songs are two different versions of the same composition.

The song by Mohan, Khidki, has been performed on this new platform for upcoming musicians called Drishyam Play. There’s lots more to come on the platform including non-film songs. Earlier, we had Coke Studio but not anymore. Now, we have this.

Khidki, Rukh (2017).

You are also working on the Tamil and Kannada remakes of ‘Queen’. Is this a conscious decision to make regional film music?
Nothing like that. This year, I have two more Hindi releases, Secret Superstar and Rukh, but next year I will have a few Hindi releases. I will start working on the Queen remakes only in November.

Lalit Pandit recently said that with lip-sync songs on the wane, music does not catch on these days. Do you agree?
Actually lip-sync songs disappeared long before I entered the industry. I came with Aamir (2008) and Dev D. None of the songs there were lip-sync songs. Lip-sync songs come when there’s a party or a club situation or it’s a crucial sad or romantic moment. Otherwise, songs are used to push the narrative forward, say in the case of a montage scene.

How do you creatively satisfy your director while trying to make hit music for the producer?
It is a tough thing to do. Luckily, the films I have done have mostly had unique subjects. They don’t give me scope to create so-called hit songs. For example, Secret Superstar is about the life of a 15-year-old singer and songwriter. With this situation, creating blockbuster songs is tough.

Blockbuster songs are easy to make when there’s dancing, partying, romancing. Most of my films have had unconventional subjects like, say, Udta Punjab which was hardcore, content-driven. Sometimes, I get films like Shaandaar or Fitoor, there I can get to make blockbuster songs.

Gulaabo, Shaandaar (2015).

Producers are now hiring multiple composers to secure that one hit song.
Everybody is now available and out there for every film. And every film needs blockbuster songs. But that is not possible. We are in the business of creating music for cinema and cinema is about storytelling. For films like Judwaa 2, four-five composers can come in and churn blockbusters. Because it is just trying to entertain. Like Golmaal or Mubakaran. But if all films are like that, where’s the fun?

Have you consciously avoided such films?
I don’t know... I think I started with films like Aamir, Dev D and Udaan so I think I set a precedent. So now only certain kind of people call me.

Are big stars necessary to make the soundtrack a hit irrespective of the quality of the songs?
No. Songs can become hits without stars even today. There are also examples where stars are dancing on the screen, but the song doesn’t become a hit. But most of the times, good songs go in vain if stars are not featured. Ultimately, what will work, no one knows.

Is the soundtrack’s success or failure dependent on the response to the film? For example, the music of ‘Bombay Velvet’ went unnoticed and the film did not work too.
Yes, that’s true. But it’s not always that songs work because of the film or vice versa. So many times, songs are super-hits but the film flops. This year’s Jab Harry Met Sejal, for example. Mere Rashke Qamar was a huge hit but Baadshaho flopped.

On the flipside, there were no hit songs from Dangal or Baahubali, but both films broke records worldwide. a soundtrack’s success cannot predict a film’s fate. Films work on content. If audience likes it, great. It doesn’t matter if the songs are hits.

Sexy Baliye, Secret Superstar (2017).