Music directors Sachin Sanghvi and Jigar Suraiya, who call themselves Sachin-Jigar, got their lucky break in composing an 11-song soundtrack for Remo D’Souza’s F.A.L.T.U in 2011.

This was a few years before the one song-one composer trend caught on in Hindi cinema. Today, Sachin-Jigar are among the few big-name composers who consistently work on solo projects. But they don’t think they got lucky by arriving at the right time – “We are rather unlucky because we should have come 10 years before we did.”

Since F.A.L.T.U, Sachin-Jigar have consistently produced chart-busters. Their best soundtracks have come from unconventional Hindi films such as Shor In The City (2011), Go Goa Gone (2013) and Badlapur (2015). Before their composing career, the duo worked as arrangers for composers, including AR Rahman, Pritam, Anu Malik, Sandesh Shandilya, and Vishal-Shekhar.

Sachin-Jigar now have the professional stability to compose for no more than three films a year. In 2018, they have created music for Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, Gold and the upcoming horror comedy Stree. In 2017, they had 11 releases, including three Gujarati films. In 2019, they have Arjun Patiala, ABCD 3 and the Go Goa Gone sequel.

Most Hindi films offer little to no new situations for musical interludes. Even ‘Stree’ has three dance songs and one romantic song. Is it a challenge to stay fresh?
Jigar: That is our job. We know a romantic movie will have love songs, a comedy will have fun songs. We have to work our way through what we get to make new, fresh songs. In the simplest way, this is our job. If we can’t do this, we shouldn’t be working.

Milegi Milegi, Stree.

Your most interesting work has come with Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK and Remo D’Souza. How do they derive the best from you?
Sachin: Remo D’Souza, being a choreographer, has a great ear for different sub-genres of dance music, which is what we delivered in ABCD. He is a very musical director.

As for Raj and DK, they are all the time trying to break the clutter. They came to us for Shor in the City after Chaar Baj Gaye was a huge hit, and said, make us a great melody with just a piano and a tambourine. That became Saibo. After Piya O Re Piya [a romantic song from Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya] was a huge hit, they came asking for stoner music for a stoner film [Go Goa Gone]. From the outset, their concepts were wacky and they wanted music that did justice to them. How else could a song like Babaji Ki Booty have been made?

Babaji Ki Booty, Go Goa Gone (2011).

Speaking of ‘F.A.L.T.U’, how were two rank newcomers like you trusted with an 11-song soundtrack?
Jigar: We had arranged some songs for Vashu ji [Vashu Bhagnani] on a film which David Dhawan had directed. When Vashu ji was looking to launch his son, he wanted a fresh director and fresh composers who could give enough time to the project. That’s how Remo D’Souza and we came on board.

Remo sir has a way of picking up catchy music. He said, make me 10 songs you would never delete from your iPod. From that, two were retained. They showed a lot of trust in us, and I believe it was a crucial opportunity for us to prove ourselves.

How did you come up with ‘Chaar Baj Gaye’, which is probably the forerunner of the type of party song made famous by Honey Singh 2012 onwards?
Jigar: Before F.A.L.T.U, we were arranging music for others. We had nothing to lose if anything went wrong by trying something new. Earlier party songs would either be something Punjabi or disco music. We wanted to do a complete hip-hop song which is fully rapped [Hard Kaur was the singer]. Remo sir liked it. He is a hip-hop dancer himself. We didn’t expect it to be a super-hit. It was a risk that was rewarded.

Chaar Baj Gaye, F.A.L.T.U (2011).

So the quality of a soundtrack depends on the director at the end of the day?
Sachin: Like all relationships, the director-composer relationship works on trust. If Manmarziyaan’s music is good today, it is because Amit Trivedi and Anurag Kashyap trust each other enough to put thought into making a good album.

Which producer is ready to trust just one composer today? He collects hit songs from three-four people and assembles a soundtrack because he is trying to hard-sell the film instead of creating an album. Back in the day, directors like Mani Ratnam or Subhash Ghai were making music that would stay on the shelf. And back then, albums would sell in stores. The logic was that if the album is getting sold, people will come and watch the movie. Today, a producer thinks, I will get an item song, I will remix an old song, and the film is a hit.

The context, the process, the mindset of making music for films have changed today. The people involved will have to decide if they are making music to sell a film or they are making music that has longevity.

As background score composers, how do you score a scene where the acting or direction is just not working?
Jigar: When something is wrong in the scene, say, if the actor has had a bad day or the director didn’t get the right footage, the last two tools to fix the flaw are editing and background music. For us, we try to push the music further if the visuals lack something. Say, if a romantic scene isn’t working because there is no chemistry between the leads, we could add a prefix or a suffix to the scene which could have some lyrics from a song, and that’s how the scene is managed.

Raabta (2017), with background score by Sachin-Jigar.

Sachin, you were a big name in Gujarati music before coming to Hindi films. Despite singing a lovely tune like ‘Kho Diya’ from ‘Bhoomi’, we don’t hear you often in Hindi films, unlike Jigar.
Sachin: There is a difference between singing well and singing well for playback. Once upon a time, a robust voice like Kishore da’s and later, Kumar Sanu’s and KK’s were preferred. There were very manly voices. Now, the trend is to go for boyish voices like Justin Bieber’s or Eric Clapton’s. My voice doesn’t suit the times, I think.

For Kho Diya, our producer and us thought my voice on the scratch version worked, so we retained it. The popularity of that song and the Filmfare nomination have given me confidence. But ultimately, we don’t compose to sing ourselves. We choose our singers on the basis of who can execute our vision for a song in the best way possible.

Kho Diya, Bhoomi (2017).

‘Maana Ke Hum Yaar Nahin’ from ‘Meri Pyaar Bindu’ began as a ghazal, and ‘Chunar’ from ‘ABCD 2’ came from a Gujarati song. Please talk about your songs that began one way and became something else.
Sachin: We had to arrange Maana Ke Hum Yaar Nahin, originally a ghazal, as a popular song because if we represented it in its most authentic form, it wouldn’t have worked for the film. The original Maana Ke Hum Yaar Nahin, if sung by Jagjit Singh and arranged in his style, would appeal only to ghazal lovers.

But we want people to love it on the radio, and listen to it on their phone. Even Kho Diya is a semi classical song. lyrically or musically, but we made it sound contemporary. This is arranging, or making one tune sound different in each representation.

Maana Ke Hum Yaar Nahin, Meri Pyaari Bindu (2017).

The sarangi is used in many of your songs. Is it your favourite instrument?
Sachin: It’s just the heart-wrenching might of that instrument. We cannot help but use it. But we are not biased or anything.

Jigar: Sarangi, guitar, and flute.

Unlike the composers you worked with as arrangers, you do not have a recognisable sound yet. Is that a good or a bad thing?
For a while, Chaar Baj Gaye was our sound. Then, Saibo was our sound. ABCD or Go Goa Gone, the albums have a sound of their own. After Badlapur, we kept getting the same kinds of films, which we rejected. We don’t want to repeat ourselves. We want to continuously surprise people. A year later, you will find the gear and equipment in our room changed.

Your work has covered almost all kinds of films. Anything in particular you would want to work on?
A traditional Indian period film, like [Sanjay Leela] Bhansali sir’s.

Jigar: We want to work with newer and younger directors. Everyone making their first film, please come and meet us, because that is where the new stuff comes from.