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The men behind Tauba tauba!

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
April 28, 2005 14:44 IST
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Malaika Arora Khan and Shah Rukh Khan in KaalWhen not actually inside their studio composing music, they are thinking music.

This is what brothers Salim and Sulaiman Merchant answer, when asked to describe themselves in a line.

"Composing music is a process and is in our mind all the time," says Salim, 30. "You never know when the right chord will strike in your mind and give you creative satisfaction. We practically breathe music," adds Sulaiman, 34.

Special: Showcasing Kaal

Though the duo have been working in the industry for nearly a decade and scoring background music for many films, their big break is the Karan Johar-Shah Rukh Khan production, Kaal.

Their major work includes Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot and Ab Tak Chappan, and Kunal Kohli's Hum Tum and Sanjay Gadhvi's Dhoom, for which they scored the background music.

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Speaking about Kaal, Salim says, "Soham (Shah, the film's director) wanted us to come up with a track as the theme for Kaal, and we agreed. We did that. When Karan Johar and he listened to it, they liked it very much. Karan immediately told us that we should do the film."

"It was one of the finest moments of our lives," recalls Sulaiman.

After accepting work for Dharma Productions, the duo realised that there were huge expectations from them. They had to match the blockbuster benchmarks set by Dharma's earlier films, like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Kal Ho Naa Ho.

There was also a challenge ahead because this was the first time Dharma Productions was making a thriller.

"The challenge was huge and we were happier because the offer came from Karan himself. He trusted us completely. He liked our final work, as did Shah Rukh, who never intervened in the creative aspect," adds Sulaiman.

The songs Tauba Tauba and Nyasa Nyasa are already soaring up the music charts.

What inspires them to make music is another question answered in unison: "We are always charged up about music. It is in our blood," says Salim.

Sulaiman puts in, "Both of us practically live in our Juhu studio for 14 hours a day at least. We are always surrounded by music and that is what inspires us all the time."

The journey to Bollywood began when the duo were working on an advertisement jingle. Director Sanjay Gupta, who was working on a film's music in the adjacent room of the studio, couldn't help but overhear their music every time the door opened and shut. He was impressed, and curious to find out more about them.

"He liked our music so much that he offered us work in his film Hamesha. We scored the background music and Anu Malik was the composer. The song Neela dupatta peela suit became a big hit in 1996, and we never looked back since," says Sulaiman.

Both of them talk on the same lines when they discuss music, but when it comes to other aspects of life they are very different. Sulaiman has a laid-back attitude whereas Salim is an early riser.

Lara Dutta and Esha Deol in Kaal"It is just that if I like green, he will like blue," jokes Salim.

"It is only in music that we trust and agree with each other completely. We agree 99 percent of the time on music; there are rare disagreements. We have inherited music from our father," informs Sulaiman.

Their father Sadruddin Merchant was in Chennai composing music for South Indian films and decided to move to Mumbai in the early 1960s. However, destiny led him elsewhere as one fine day he decided that he would no longer compose music and instead became a businessman, manufacturing musical instruments.

Says Sulaiman, "I was born in 1970 and Salim was born in 1974. We have seen musical instruments around us from childhood. We grew up with music. Our dad never taught us music but provided good tutors to teach us. So we learnt the ropes from our childhood and were focused on what we would do when we grow up."

He started a little late, compared to Salim, and he is a good drummer whereas the latter is excellent with the piano.

Sulaiman completed his graduation, but Salim didn't even bother to attend college. "I was very focussed and, from the age of 15, I started playing all kinds of instruments," informs Salim.

He adds, "Our dad imported all kinds of new musical instruments, and always kept us updated on what kind of instruments are selling in the market. He gave us the best when it came to music but never recommended our name to any of the leading music directors as he felt we should find our own way."

Asked which of the duo is the marketing man and pitches for work, prompt comes the answer. Says Sulaiman, "One thing we cannot do is market ourselves. We never go to producers and ask for work."

Adds Salim, "We know we are good. If people want to work with us, they will come to us. Why go and pitch for work? It is coming to us anyway."

The duo become very critical if you state that some senior music directors allege that the new generation of musicians reply too much on technology.

"You see, music is something in which you have to be updated," says Salim.

"If you don't use machines and don't know what is happening in music technology, you will get outdated," Sulaiman continues.

Salim concludes, "Music is all about learning and accepting new things. We are always ready to learn new things. Anyway, you also need brains to understand what to compose and what not to compose from machines. It is not an easy job. There is lot of thinking behind it."

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf