On a Solo Note

Music composer Lalit Pandit's Juhu studio is buzzing with activity lyricist Sameer, along with four others, is seated on a sofa, waiting to discuss a future project, while Sunidhi Chauhan is about to arrive. "Can we please do the interview tomorrow? Sunidhi's recording is in 15 minutes, and I have to be there," says a visibly-occupied Pandit. Fortunately, Chauhan arrives a little late allowing time for our conversation.

Seven years since he parted ways with his elder brother Jatin, Lalit is back with the Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Besharam, his first big-ticket movie as a solo composer.

"It was almost impossible to make a comeback. It's hard for people to accept that one half of a big, successful partnership is now working alone," says Lalit. The duo had over the years bagged top film awards for movies including Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Fanaa, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Abhinav Kashyap-directed Besharam is his first big assignment as a solo composer.

Besharam's soundtrack features once established playback voices that are fast running out of fashion in Bollywood. Sonu Niigaam, Abhijeet Bhattacharya and Chauhan are not just names in the credit list but also symbolise the ethos of Pandit's musical sensibilities. The compositions, unlike today, were driven by the charm and personality of the singers. "I don't think the importance of a singer has reduced. Today, you may hear less of Sonu Niigaam but he is still the best playback singer around," he says describing the film's music as "commercial and melodious". The film has given Lalit scope to try out different styles. "And then there are hip-hop, bhangra and pop for which I have made Daler Mehndi and Mika sing together," he says.

Jatin-Lalit established themselves in Bollywood with the gentle and hummable melodies of Pehla nasha from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992) even though Khiladi (1992) was their first release. "I make melodies, and there is really no substitute for it. Even an item song should have melody," he says. Pandit is also one of the few veteran composers who is working from the time of live recording: when singers and musicians performed together. But he never had a problem with the technological leap of digital recordings that took place over the years.

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