Director-composer Vishal Bhardwaj says he always dreamt of owning a record label dedicated to non-film music and Gulzar’s “Dhoop Aane Do”, a poem about hope amid the coronavirus pandemic, helped him realise it.
Bhardwaj loved the poem and during a walk he started thinking of lending a tune to those words. He eventually sent the composition to the veteran poet-lyricist.
“He heard it and said ‘it is very beautiful’. I had made some musical changes and because of that, he readjusted his lyrics. He asked me ‘Why don’t you record it?'” the director told PTI in a Zoom interview.
Bhardwaj, 54, said he liked the idea, but as someone who has always been averse to songs that mark a tragic event, he was hesitant.
“Whenever some tragedy happens in our society, many songs come out. I really dislike it though there have been some great songs like ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’ by Lata ji during the Indo-China War. What happens is that a lot of trash also comes out to exploit the emotion of the tragedy,” he said.
This is why, the director said, he had resisted such offers in the past, but “Dhoop Aane Do” seemed “heartfelt and internal”.
“I told Gulzar sahab about my apprehension. He said, ‘You are overthinking. Just record it for me’. When the song was recorded, I also started feeling nice about it. There was something unusual about it. Then came the question of releasing it,” he said.
“For a long time, I had this dream of owning a record label, so I decided this is the song I should open my label with. I feel it is a great phase for my music. I want to explore more music in me now,” he added.
“Dhoop Aane Do” brings back the winning trio of Bhardwaj as composer, Gulzar as lyricist and singer Rekha Bhardwaj, who is also the director’s wife.
They have collaborated on many hit songs in the past, most famous ones being “Namak” in Bhardwaj’s 2006 directorial “Omkara” and “Darling” from “7 Khoon Maaf” in 2011.
The director, who started his journey as a composer and received acclaim with Gulzar’s 1996 film “Maachis”, said under his eponymous label, he aims to release one song a month and explore all the possibilities that the restrictive format of cinema does not allow him.
“Film music is very rich in our country, it is a part of our culture but there is one problem, it does not give space to any other kind of genre or music like classical, thumri or ghazal. It can restrict you.
“I have been a musician for a long time and I wanted to do songs that could not be measured by likes and dislikes. They are composed just for fun and are complete in the emotion they want to convey.”
Bhardwaj, who is best known for his modern-day adaptations of Shakespearian tragedies ‘Macbeth’ as “Maqbool” in 2003, ‘Othello’ as “Omkara” and ‘Hamlet’ as “Haider” in 2014, said unlike movies, which require a huge budget, creating a song is not that challenging financially.
“It is a non-commercial platform for me where I can express the texture of my being or the call of my soul. I needed an outlet to express myself where I record a song from my own money, make a video and if that money does not come back, it does not matter. God has given me enough for my music. I can take that much loss. This label is to explore the inner soul of my music,” he said.
Bhardwaj, also a poet, hopes to tie his words into music eventually. There are poems by Gulzar and thumri-based songs that the Hindi cinema veteran wrote for Rekha Bhardwaj in the offing.
“There are so many songs that are waiting for their turn for years now. There are Sufi songs of Rekha, some thumri songs that Gulzar sahab wrote for her. I want to record music with my favourite singers like Rashid Khan ji, Arijit Singh, Sukhwinder Singh and Sunidhi Chauhan,” he said.
With the pandemic making it difficult for people to venture out of their homes, Bhardwaj said the process of recording the song was “challenging but satisfying”.
He had to re-learn all the software, record the voice, sing and then coordinate with other musicians, he added.
“It was a lot of coordination, but we have managed a song despite distance.” Asked what was Gulzar’s reaction after the song released on July 6 on the label’s YouTube channel, Bhardwaj said the lyricist reminded him about his initial hesitation.
“Now that people like it, he keeps telling me ‘Kitna achcha gaana bana hai aur tum taiyyaar nahin the’ (It’s turned out to be such a beautiful song and you were not even ready),” he said.