Whenever Salman Khan’s blue-eyed boys put their instincts together, Bollywood chartbusters come rolling out
Anand Holla (MUMBAI MIRROR; February 19, 2012)
With his face plunged into his still resonating guitar, 18-year-old Wajid Khan was oblivious to the mild ruckus that had erupted in the recording session. As the 150-odd fellow musicians fell silent, Wajid heard music director Shravan, sitting next to Nadeem on the console, ask, “Maine poochha, kisne galat guitar bajaaya?” As one of the guitarists pointed at Wajid, an irate Shravan pulled him up. “It wasn’t me sir,” Wajid protested. An unrelenting Shravan asked him to stop arguing, as he had “lots left to learn”.
Feeling an impulse to soar, Wajid wasn’t ready to creep. Averting pointed stares, in one motion he stood up, packed his guitar and stormed out of the studio. That walk-out became what the brothers call their “trigger point” to team up. Sajid, 39, says, “I’ve been very protective of Wajid. That night, he was upset. After consoling him, I asked him, ‘How about we become music directors?’ It was as if God was listening in for we soon got our break.”
Their script to success isn’t devoid of a diligently planned musical upbringing. Growing up in a musical family meant soaking in taals and raagas round the clock. “Our father, Ustad Sharafat Ali Khan an ace tabla player of the Kirana gharana, would practice for hours at our Grant Road home. Also, he would be busy playing for ghazals, qawwalis, classical or film recordings,” Wajid says. While Sajid took up the tabla, Wajid, who dreamt of being a cricketer, immersed himself in guitar after his father gifted him one in class six.
“Back then, I would think that our father behaved like Hitler,” says Sajid. “He wouldn’t let us play too much or go out. His rule was: No practice, no lunch. I have seen Wajid practice all night, with his guitar muted with a cloth. I had to start playing tabla in the wee hours of the morning. If my father woke up and didn’t hear me play, I would be in for trouble. For three years, when he was in college, Wajid would go abroad to perform in ghazal or film music shows. Today, when we have achieved so much, we realise how all that has helped us.”
From going on a two-year tour across the country’s mazhars and dargahs to learn about Sufi music to learning Maharashtrian and North Indian folk music, Sajid-Wajid have trained their ears and instincts in versatility. Their father’s heart operation and serendipity had it that the duo would soon dive into music direction. “We first got to do an album that never saw the light of day. But thanks to that opportunity, we could show our work to people. At the turn of 1996, Sohail Khan approached us to score for Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya and we took off.”
Sajid’s excessively colourful attire faithfully mirrors his over-the-top, filmi-flavoured personality, while Wajid, two years younger, is more subdued. “Music can’t be learnt. You either have it in you or you don’t,” he says. Playing Punjabi dhol on a loop on their music-making software, the two are icing the tracks for their upcoming Housefull 2 and Tezz.
Their songs emerge from jamming sessions at home or studio. Usually, Wajid crafts the compositions, while Sajid masters the arrangements. “Situations decide the rhythm. I ask Sajid-bhai how should the song’s feel be because he is the best rhythm guy I know. He has a spectacular sense of music.” The admiration is mutual as Sajid says his younger brother is “equivalent to 10 composers”. “Wajid is very passionate. Melodies just flow through him. As a brother, I have always kept an eye out for him. I ensure he doesn’t befriend corrupt people who may poison his mind because success can get into anybody’s heads.”
Calling themselves “the best of friends”, they think for a moment when asked how they sort out creative differences. Given their fine rapport, amicably one would think?
“Actually, I start beating the s*** out of him,” Sajid cracks up. “Bade bhaaiyon ka yehi kaam hota hai yaar,” Wajid sighs. “We don’t extend fights,” says Sajid. “We speak out then and there, and finish it. We tell each other if something sounds wrong. We know that if either finds something amiss, it’s certainly worth looking into. Many a time, I’ve tried composing, but Wajid says it sounds terrible. I laugh it off. Though our thinking is different, we are always open to ideas and opinions.”
The arrangement has spawned many a chartbuster. “Take Hudd Hudd Dabangg for instance,” says Sajid. “Wajid brought out the melody, soul and hummability in the number, while I incorporated the aggression and scale. We were jamming, improvising and adding to each other’s impulses and at one point, locked it. That’s where we brothers meet.” Wajid credits his brother for the catchphrase: “Hudd Hudd Dabangg was a chant that Sajid came up with. His logic was, ‘Ek mard aadmi aisa hi kuch kahega’.”
Of course, Salman ‘Dabangg’ Khan himself, the duo’s “godfather and mentor”, is an emotive issue that draws out bucketfuls of flattering adjectives. “Salman bhai believed in us when nobody did. Bollywood loves to operate in camps; no one wants to look outside. Salman broke that. From Mujhse Shaadi Karoge, Partner, Veer, Wanted to Dabangg, he has given us more than any composer could ask for.”
Of the many memories of Salman’s largesse, Sajid’s recalls this one with fondness. “He had invited us to a party because Partner’s music had done exceedingly well. When the door opened, our eyes met. From a distance, he blinked once, indicating us to come up to him. I saw something very different in his eyes — they were like a father’s or an elder brother’s. He hugged us and whispered, ‘Thank you very much’. The guy who believes in you…you have made him proud. That was a really big award for us.”