This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Over a decade ago, a then-leading composer wryly stated that had he been working abroad, there would be islands among his assets because of the number of hit soundtracks he had given. By that yardstick, Pritam would probably have purchased a small country!
The indefatigable hit-spinner for 11 years now, Pritam has also added huge sums to the coffers of his films' business as well as the music labels. In short, in an era when we can quantify sums, from 2011 until today, Pritam has scored music for films that have made over 1500 crore, which is over one-fourth of the total theatrical business done by Hindi cinema in that phase!
Space here permits only his biggest musical hits to be mentioned – Dhoom (2004), Gangster (2006), Life In A…Metro, Jab We Met and Bhool Bhulaiya (2007), Race, Singh Is King and Kismat Konnection (2008), Tum Mile, Love Aaj Kal and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009) and Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai and Action Replay (2010).
After the 100 crore 'grosser' became the new benchmark, Pritam has spun out Ready (2011), Barfi! (2012), Race 2, R…Rajkumar, and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) and the 300 crore Dhoom:3. And now, with Shaadi Ke Side/Effects, Pritam has another musical winner coming up.
It takes weeks to nail Pritam for an hour-long sitting, but when we finally meet up, despite his always hectic schedule, he is completely, delightedly relaxed.
Last year was very good for you, proving yet again how bang-on you were, come your big b-o. hits, or Phata Poster Nikhla Hero or Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara. But why are you still not content with some of your music?
That is something for which I cannot really blame any filmmaker! When I compose a basic melody and start working on its final graph, a certain mental 'vision' of the finished final song, so to speak, is there in my head. And that keeps evolving as I reflect upon it. In many cases, after the song has been shot, which means that the filmmakers and everyone else are very happy with it, I like to work even more on the song that will be heard on the film's audio. I am constantly scrutinizing my own work and trying to reach that final concept I have in my head!
So, when this is not fully possible because of natural things like deadlines, I feel dissatisfied. I don't change the composition, but work only on the orchestration and production. And while I know that this is a personal preoccupation, and it is the intrinsic power of the song that actually makes it a hit, I have also found that most of my massive hits have been those in which all levels are satisfied, including my expectations, the film's execution and the way the song is filmed!
In the process, of course, I am probably losing a lot – I lose money in working even more on the song, I probably spend the kind of time that can make me do one more song or one more film, and I also lose out on family time too! But that's how I am made!
How many filmmakers give you that luxury in this world of fast music and work?
Anurag Basu, Ayan Mukerji and Dinesh Vijan are three of the people who I love working with, because when a director or creative producer is like-minded, music becomes a collaborative effort. Nothing but the best will do for them, and that's when the vibe is superb and work becomes enjoyable!
As a composer, I need that back-up, that support and that fuel for my energy. There is so much of idea exchange as they love and respect my integrity and passion. We even have fights that are for the better, in terms of results. We all know that whatever we are doing is for the good of the song and the film.
Of course, there are those few extreme cases where the filmmakers leave everything to me – and that too gives good results! (Smiles)
What about the break from work that you are supposed to be taking now?
I hope that I can really take a break to spend time with my family and by myself. I have finished work on Holiday with A.R. Murugadoss and have just one song left to do in Kabir Khan's Phantom. Anurag's Jagga Jasoos will be my next film. Though I have not been signing any new films now, I am too much of a workaholic to stay away for long from work. I can't live without it!
Your assistant tells me that every second film that matters is or was first offered to you, like Hasee To Phasee.
I think that with my approach to work and the way films and songs are made today, I can do only a maximum of four to six films a year. Actually, there is need for every composer to be busy with that much work – it will be great if all of them have good projects and do great music! Yes, when Hasee… came to me, I had too much work on hand.
You composed three songs for Yaariyan and were yet termed a "guest composer", when some others scored just one track in the film!
That was done at my request. I was to do the entire film earlier, but as it happened, I could not get the time needed to work on all the songs, and Bhushan (Kumar)-ji asked me if he could take them from others.
While probably contributing a 'guesstimated' 150 crore business to your four to five 2013 releases from your music that gave the films huge initials as well as sustaining power, you have also shown your versatility and have suddenly become a favourite for awards as well. What are your views on all these aspects?
I agree that music does contribute sizably to a film's opening and eventual business, but again, music is not everything. The director is really the most important. As for versatility, it is funny that people have woken up to the variety in my songs only now. Yes, Race 2, Yeh Jawaani…, Phata Poster…, Dhoom 3 and R…Rajkumar all released in a single year, but I have been true to my films throughout. In 2007, Life In A…Metro was all rock, Jab We Met had a Punjabi flavour and Bhool Bhulaiya had a different flavour as well as a Bengali song.
As for awards, I am cool about them. But I neither work for awards nor feel that they are more important than my music being loved instantly by the maximum people and still remembered years later.
We have talked about this before, but what happens when some really good song or music fails to get its due? We would like to ask this question afresh as you are now a veteran of over 100 films.
I think that over the years, I have come to realize that a good song or score eventually resurfaces at some point. Today, people do know of my songs in, say, an Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena or an Ankahee.
You have just delivered solid punches with your first entry, so to speak, into the domain of Karan Johar (Yeh Jawaani…), Prabhudheva (R…Rajkumar), Aamir Khan (Dhoom 3) and Farhan Akhtar (Shaadi Ke Side / Effects). Were you especially charged about proving something in these cases as they had never worked with you before?
No, I don't think that way. I composed what the films needed, whether it was the fully desi score of R…Rajkumar, for which Prabhu Dheva insisted that I do not put it anything Western, or what Rongita Nandy and Saket Choudhary wanted in Shaadi Ke Side/ Effects. I did not think that I have given Farhan anything so hatke to sing in 'Yahaan Wahaan', but he has raved about singing that song.
He stated that you have made him sing an essentially Indian kind of song, which is a first for him.
(Smiles) He did a good job, and the film needed that kind of a song.