How did two young music composers without a single Hindi film under their belt get to make music for a Rajkumar Hirani film?

They are Rohan Pradhan and Rohan Gokhale, better known as Rohan-Rohan, two of the most busiest composers in the Marathi film industry. Two years ago, a call from Hirani happened to them in the most unexpected way.

Ventilator [the 2016 Marathi film] was getting screened at MAMI [Mumbai Film Festival, 2016], and Raju sir [Hirani] was one of the judges,” Gokhale said. “He saw the film. Three days later, Rajesh Mapuskar [director of Ventilator] called us and told us that Raju sir wants the composers of Ventilator [Rohan-Rohan] to make music for Sanju. That was one of the biggest days of our life.”

Hirani’s Sanju, starring Ranbir Kapoor as Hindi film actor Sanjay Dutt, is one of the most awaited Hindi films of 2018. Hirani had previously roped in experienced music composers such as Anu Malik, Shantanu Moitra and Ajay-Atul for his films. This time, he has gambled on the fresh talent of Rohan-Rohan for two songs in the multi-composer soundtrack. Another import from Marathi cinema, Vikram Montrose, has composed a few songs. Meanwhile, AR Rahman has been credited as “guest composer” in the trailer. Sanju will be out on June 29.

Rohan-Rohan’s Main Badhiya Tu Bhi Badhiya was the first single from Sanju to be released. The song has been sung by Sonu Nigam and Sunidhi Chauhan, who manipulates her voice to produce an exaggerated Shamshad Begum-like twang. It is a fun, mischievous song, whose video revolves around Ranbir Kapoor’s histrionics.

Main Badhiya, Tu Bhi Badhiya, Sanju (2018).

“The primary situation was that Sanju is trying to prove to himself that he can lipsync to a song on screen,” Gokhale said. “Raju sir wanted a retro kind of a number that could have played in a bar or cafe in the 1980s. The song’s a bit experimental and could go wrong very easily. Raju sir wanted us to keep it light but not make it caricature-ish.”

The decision to get Chauhan to sing in a nasal manner, Pradhan added, was planned at the beginning of the recording.

Moitra, who has worked on five films with Hirani and his regular collaborator and producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, had told in an earlier interview about the tough taskmasters Hirani and Chopra can be. Was it just as taxing for Pradhan and Gokhale?

“It’s not a case of them rejecting a tune as much as it is something similar to, say, checking out ten locations for a recce and then deciding on one,” Pradhan explained. Both Gokhale and Pradhan agreed that one scene could be approached in several ways, and to find the right song takes its own sweet time.

Rohan Pradhan (left) and Rohan Gokhale.

Thirty-two-year-old Gokhale and 36-year-old Pradhan grew up in Nagpur and Mumbai respectively. Both come with different musical sensibilities.

Pradhan, who took singing lessons as a child, and later learned piano, jazz and blues, was fond of Indian film music (“Lata, Rafi, Kishore, Jagjit Singh”) as well as Indian classical music. “I wasn’t into Western culture as much,” Pradhan said. “Now, I am getting into it.”

Gokhale, meanwhile, grew up appreciating English rock music and, particularly, Hollywood soundtracks of composers like “James Horner, John Williams and Hans Zimmer”.

When asked about the contemporary composers and soundtracks Gokhale and Pradhan have liked, Pradhan mentioned “Rahman, Sachin-Jigar, Amit [Trivedi], Ajay-Atul...”, while Gokhale mentioned the scores of the television shows Stranger Things and Game of Thrones. The music for La La Land (2016), however, had their unanimous support.

The story of Gokhale and Pradhan coming together mirrors how Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani became a duo while working on Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi (1999). Both Rohans entered the Mumbai music industry, separately, through plays, advertising films and television serials. In 2014, Gokhale and Pradhan were assigned to make music for Keymon Ache, the first non-mythological animated show produced in India, which aired on the Nickelodeon India and Nickelodeon Sonic channels.

“While working on that, we saw that there’s a lot of sync and harmony and coherence in our ideas,” Gokhale said. “There was good give-and-take in our music and that’s how decided to work together. And we started our journey together with a single.”

Zindagi (2014) by Rohan-Rohan.

Since then, Rohan-Rohan have composed for advertising films, television serials including Big Boss Marathi, and Marathi films. Their first big break came with Mapuskar’s Ventilator. Initially, the duo did not expect the film to be “so big”. Neither did they know that Hindi movie star Priyanka Chopra [producer of Ventilator] would be involved. The duo got Chopra to sing the song Baba, another version of which was sung by Pradhan.

The Chopra version, obviously, grabbed the views on YouTube. Following Ventilator’s box-office success and multiple National Award wins, Rohan-Rohan became a name to reckon with. Earlier this year, their music was heard in Madhuri Dixit’s Marathi debut Bucket List.

Both Gokhale and Pradhan said that while in non-Bollywood cinema, songs are intrinsically tied to the story and screenplay, in Hindi films, songs are used as promotional tools, which results in almost every song being a dance number. “In Hindi films, it is more about getting the song first, and then creating the situation,” Pradhan said.

Rohan-Rohan’s upcoming releases include the Marathi films Bonus, directed by Saurabh Bhave, and 15th August, produced by Dixit. They also have a few Hindi projects in the pipeline. Life seems to have changed overwhelmingly for the composers following their work on Ventilator. “Well, of course, we have worked in a Raju Hirani film. Does it get bigger than that?” Pradhan said.

Tu Pari, Bucket List (2018).