One of our favorite and well, my favorite OST’s if you read my 4 star review, so far this year, has been Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy’s aka SEL’s music for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s tale of the inspiring winning life of Milkha Singh starring Farhan Akhtar. With an eclectic and very cool mix of sounds, flavors, genres, notes and voices they have created a fabulous set of songs for the film. Fans loved the tracks just hearing them when the OST first released and could not wait to see how they played out on screen. As happens, many times, you can love a song just hearing it but once you see it in the film, you love it even more and that is true of BMB. In her 4.5 star movie review for us, Aashi Gahlot said, “Every song belongs to the moment it represents perfectly.” I was lucky to be able to catch Ehsaan and have an email chat about the music of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag! Check out his cool responses to our questions on the songs of BMB!
Tell us about what Mr. Mehra discussed with you about the music for this film.
Rakeysh met us and told us that he was making a film on the life of Milkha Singh – at the time no actor was finalized. We were very excited about working with Rakeysh and the icing on the cake was when we found out that Farhan was acting in the film.
Mr. Mehra said in our interview that a lot of it was done while he was cooking, and you all were riffing, is that true? Tell us about that.
Shankar and Rakeysh are the foodies there is a lot of discussion and consumption of different cuisine when we work together.
How was it to finally work with Mr. Mehra?
Rakeysh is an old friend, as you know. He lets creative energies flow and yet is very sure of what he wants for his film. We would let ideas completely take birth and grow until we discarded them – that is a respectful way of working the respect being for the creative work. The best creative energies happen in a relaxed situation. Even when we were running against the clock for the background score Rakeysh was amazingly relaxed and let us exercise our creativity instead of putting pressure and having to make do with something that was not up to the mark … that is the mark of a good director.
How did you all decide on what the sounds of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag would be?
We commonly decided that the music would be “earthy” there would be strong sounds of the North West frontier in terms of composition and talent. We would not be limited by the era the film is set in and would go very modern if necessary both for the songs and the background score. That amalgamation led to the eclectic and powerful music of the film.
The music is rooted, powerful, and pure just like Milkha Singh.
This is such an eclectic mix and new sounds so what inspired the songs and sounds of BMB?
It is always the script of a film that inspires the sound of a film. The director’s vision and free flow of creativity was what created this score. Milkha ‘s story is one of tragedy, adventure, victory and spiritual up lifting and that is the inspiration of the film.
Mr. Mehra said that he wanted each of you to bring your own thing to the music of BMB. So what is that, what would you say each of you bring and how does it combine to make great music?
Well we come from very different backgrounds in terms of our musical influences and one can literally hear that fusion in the score of BMB. The most important thing however, is to have a good song and a good melody. Once that is established then only can one bring ones influences into the production.
Tell us about working with the incredible Prasoon Joshi. Is it different to work with someone who has written the screenplay as well as the lyrics?
Prasoon is a poet of modern India. He is deeply rooted in the traditions of poetry yet he can move completely skyward with his writing. Having both these attributes makes him turn out very special words and phrases, which lend to good songwriting, story telling and poetry.
As you know I loved the album, let’s talk about each song!
‘Zinda': Tell us about the creation of this song, it’s meaning and how Siddharth Mahadevan came to do the killer vocals on the track.
Rakeysh had mentioned the words “Koyla Kala Hai” and that was the kick off point for the composition. We composed the hook with a strong stadium rock almost anthemic feel and then went onward to compose the rest of the song. Sid is a super singer whose influences come from all kinds of music be it death metal, Indian classical or pop etc. He was the first choice for the song and did more than complete justice to the song.
We also hear him on the Title track Rock Version: Tell us about creating that track and his vocals.
The rock version of the title song was an after thought we composed the Arif Lohar version first. Sid again was the choice for the song; he was the voice of Milkha in his sports avatar. The pitch and the key of the song is very high and Sid sang it with ease.
Yes, the Title Track with Arif Lohar: This is such a simple instrumentation with his amazing vocals, tell us about the track and working with the singer.
The approach to the title song is very non linear, it does not follow the form of regular song. The words are song almost like a bard singing about the attributes of Milkha. The words are of encouragement and hope and about the qualities a person would need to succeed not only in sport but in any aspect of life.
Now, I think you read my review so you know I was very confused about ‘Slow Motion Angreza’. Once I saw the video, I said Aahhh, I get it and completey understood it, but tell me about composing this song. It is so different.
This is the only song, which had a certain dating to it. It is set in Australia when Milkha went there to compete in the Commonwealth games. After a lot of research we figured that the two kinds of music very popular in Australia were rock n roll and country and western. We chose the latter and composed the song using the country / bluegrass style. It is set in a pub that Milkha visits while he is in Australia.
The incredible instrumentation and vocals of Daler Mehndi on ‘Gurbani’. Tell us about that track.
The background score for the scene was already done when Shankar and Rakeysh came up with the idea of using Gurbani on the scene in the film. It is moving and emotional and Daler delivered with exactly the feeling that the scene required
‘Maston Ka Jhund’, what inspired the sounds of this song?
The song has the sound of barracks and military camaraderie. It is a song that the cadets sing in the film at the end of a difficult day of training and fatigue. This song is like an “unwind song”, where the recruits let of steam at the end of tough day in the training camp.
One of my favorites is ‘Mera Yaar’ with Javed Bashir; tell us about the sound and the making of this song.
It was a funny situation we were sitting outside and Shankar was parodying some singer or the other (no one in particular) he was singing in this funny nasal voice. As soon as I heard the melody he sang I said, ‘Man lets make that into a song’. We rushed into the studio and put that idea down, poor Javed Bashir was eating his lunch, we pulled him into the studio and made him sing that melody. Rakeysh came and heard the song and freaked!!! Hence we had a new song, which was not planned for.
Then the song that makes me sigh with happiness ‘O Rangrez’. Talk to me about this wonderful song.
Rangrez was one of the early ideas we came up with. It’s almost classical sounding and a fairly simple melody, the choice of Javed Bashir and Shreya gave the song a fabulous contrast.
Which song is your favorite song?
I would say ‘Zinda’
Tell us your thoughts on Farhan Akhtar’s performance in the film.
Farhan is not Farhan in the film he is Milkha. From the sportsman to the tortured soul to the funny young man to the romantic he covers each base with ease. It’s not acting out the character its being the character.
What are you working on now?
Shaad Ali’s Kill Dill, Abhishekh Varman’s 2 States, Devika Bhagat’s 1X2, Subodh Bhave’s film Katyar Kaljat Ghusli (Marathi film).
What is next for SEL?
The next release is Nikhil Advani’s D Day.
How do you think Hindi film music has changed?
It’s global now and very trendy.
What do you think of Hindi film music today?
Like any kind of music style there is good music and bad music but overall it’s good.
Be sure to listen to this wonderful set of killer music by Shankar Ehsaan and Loy and then go see the movie and enjoy it all over again! Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is in theaters now!