Chak De India was a milestone’
In an interview with Isha Roy, Bollywood composer Salim Merchant speaks about his Chak de India moment and his future plans, which include collaboration with international artists
Emmy-nominated musicians Salim Merchant and Sulaiman Merchant were inspired by their father, Sadruddin Merchant, who was a composer in the Hindi film industry. They have composed music for major Bollywood productions including Chak De India and Aaja Nachle among other blockbusters. The duo emerged as internationally recognised talents with the song Africa, you are a star during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Excerpts from an interview with Salim:
You hail from a musically talented family. Tell us how you both developed your career as composers and what would you say was your first major break?
I was learning piano and my brother was learning to play the tabla and drums, and we realised that we had something great going on. My dad was really supportive because he came from a musical background. He always coached us and so that was half the battle won. The first movie that really got us on the map was Bhoot, followed by Kaal. Chak De India was a big milestone, along with Aaja Nachle. Apart from the Bollywood stuff, we did some television in the U.S. [for] which we received an Emmy nomination. We also performed at the FIFA World Cup Opening Ceremony, which was a big moment.
What has been your most fulfilling project or experience to date?
The most satisfying composition to date was Chak De India. The song almost became the sports anthem of the country, especially after India won the Cricket World Cup. It was no longer our song but the country’s song. That gave us a lot of pride and it was a great moment. In terms of performances, the FIFA opening ceremony really tops it all, with 90,000 people in the audience and millions of people watching us live around the world. It was the biggest thrill.
You and your brother have received many awards and accolades for your work in various films and projects. What do you consider the most prestigious among them?
I can’t pinpoint one award. Every time I won an award, I was thrilled. It’s a very human thing to keep growing. The awards get bigger and bigger. Actually I will say that my stint as a judge on Indian Idol has been the most satisfying experience because of the way I reached out to people. Everybody had heard my music at that time but seeing me on Idol made my connection to people stronger. I could feel the love in people’s eyes, as I went from city to city. That really humbles me. An award is always gratifying but to get the love from human beings, from people who love your music and love you for who you are is priceless.
You have collaborated with some of the greatest musical geniuses from India and abroad. Whom would you like to work with in the future?
Recently we worked with Lady Gaga on her album Born This Way, and that was something I never expected. It gave us a lot of mileage, and a lot of people read about us, and really liked our work on that album, and we received great reviews. I am very inspired by Seal and would love to do something with him. Collaborating with him has been on my mind for a long time and apart from that, I want to do some collaboration with some orchestras. Our forthcoming U.S tour is actually with an 8-piece symphony orchestra from Houston, and I would like to continue working with orchestras, and make that a goal in the future.
You have been a judge on Indian Idol and X Factor. What are your thoughts on these reality shows in terms of producing lasting talent?
I think it’s a great platform. Back in the day, there was no medium for young artists to show their talent, especially from small cities and villages. It’s a great thing that talent comes from all around the country and represents itself, and we find many great singers who are very talented and that’s very special. It’s very meaningful for the viewers and the artists.
Why do you think Bollywood music is so popular in the West, and where do you see it heading in the next five years?
I think Bollywood music is going to be considered popular music [worldwide] and [it’s] just a matter of time before it really becomes known in the international scene. I think that Indian artists will collaborate with other big pop singers from around the world very soon. As India is getting more and more urbanised, the world is becoming a smaller place for everyone here in India. A lot of producers out there want this kind of sound, and a lot of good music is coming out of here that are internationally loved.
Tell us about the work you are doing for Heroine and what some of your upcoming projects for 2012 are?
I am really proud of the work I have done for Heroine. Apart from that, there are a couple more releases coming out. There is one movie called Rabba Mein Kya Karoon. I am excited about working on new projects and different stories.