“I am a perfectionist” , says Sohail Sen

Sohail Sen speaks to Sujata Majumdar about his world of music and forthcoming projects.

Talented music director and soulful singer Sohail Sen’s compositions from the new film Happy Bhaag Jayegi are creating ripples among music lovers all over the world. The songs have gone viral on digital media as well. Sohail, son of Sameer Sen (of music director duo Dilip Sen- Sameer Sen fame) has given multiple hits in films like ‘What’s Your Rashee’, ‘Khelenge Hum Jee Jaan Se’, ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’, ‘Ek Tha Tiger’, ‘House Full 3’ and ‘Gunday’.

Q: Tell us something about your growing up with music.

A: I hail from a musical family.  There was an atmosphere of music at home. Ours was a joint family where my grandfather, father and uncles were into music direction. I would wake up listening to their riyaaz every morning. Interestingly, we are the only family since last 4 generations into music direction. I am the 4th generation. I started learning piano since I was 8 years old. I also learnt tabla from a very young age.

Q:  Share some memories with us regarding your journey as a Music Director. When did you take up Playback Singing along with Music Direction?

A: Before ‘What’s Your Rashee’ I had worked in a film called ‘Sirf’. It was known in the industry that I was talented and hardworking. Yet, in the initial stages it was difficult to get work.  Whoever knew my dad would come and listen to my work and appreciate. Renowned Lyricist Sameer Anjaan used to listen to my tunes and always advised me to use them only for the right films. This way one day through my dad’s contact, Ashutosh Gowarikar came to listen to my compositions and was very impressed.  That was how I became the solo composer for ‘What’s Your Rashee’. When I was doing ‘What’s Your Rashee’ I first realized that I could be a singer.

Director Ashutosh Gowarikar was generous enough to discover the potential in me and offer me to sing. He heard my voice in the scratches and asked me to sing the final recordings as well. Same thing happened while ‘Khelenge Hum Jee Jaan Se’ where I was again asked to sing almost all songs. However, my first love has always been composing. After that when I did music for ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’… I felt for each song there has to be a different singer.  All songs became superhits. By God’s grace whatever movies I have done till now had versatile qualities. ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’ was a north based story, ‘Khelenge Jee Jaan Se’ was Calcutta based where I used baul sangeet etc in my music, while ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ was more of world music. E.g. the song laapata was Latin based, banjara was based on Irish folk. The film ‘Gunday’ had different types of songs including the record breaking ‘Tune Maari Entriyaan’. The song ‘Taang Uthaake’ from ‘Houseful 3’ was fun based.

Q: How did you get the offer of ‘Happy Bhaag Jayegi’? Tell something about your music in the film.

A: Producer Anand L Rai and Director Mudassar Aziz director once came to the studio and heard my compositions. We had a jam-up session. They told me about the script and offered me do the entire music of the film. For me it was a win-win situation. ‘Happy Bhaag Jayegi’ is about Amritsar, Chandigarh and Lahore. So it was fun to experiment with music of these regions. The songs are versatile, be it ‘Aashiq Tera’, ‘Zara si dosti’, ‘Jugni’ or ‘Gabru’. Anand L Rai has been a guiding force throughout.  Great director and writer Mudassar Aziz has written all the songs. He has excellent sense of Urdu and has written the songs according to the language of the regions being focused in the songs.

Q:  Tell us something about Sameer Senji as your father and mentor.

A: My Dad has been a successful music director of Bollywood. However, it really takes a big heart to sacrifice one’s own career for his son’s career. My dad thought he had achieved what he had to. Now it was time to focus his energies on his son. I salute him for that. Although he has stopped composing, he continues to do numerous percussion stuff and lots of events also. He is always there as a guiding force. He tries to accompany me in my recordings. He completed 45 years in this industry and the knowledge he has gained in these years is immense. I make him listen to all my tunes and try to follow his suggestions. Rhythm arrangement of ‘Happy Bhaag Jayegi’ is done by dad. Rhythm arrangement of the song ‘Taang Uthake’ (‘Houseful 3’) is also done by him. He is also the lyricist of ‘Taang Uthake’.

Q: What are your forthcoming projects?

A: I am a perfectionist. I take up one project at a time and work on it. I start the second work only after completing the first work. My next project is a film by a Ronnie Screwwala. The film is still untitled. It is directed by Anand Tiwari. This film is based on a very fresh and young subject. My music is also at par with the subject. Now that independent music scene and digital media is gaining popularity, I have planned to reproduce my hit compositions from all my films by singing them in my own voice. I have collaborated with Yash Raaj Fims (YRF) regarding the same. I would feature in the music videos as well.

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