"My magic wand was always in my hand, but I didn't know where to wave it. I kept a low profile and didn't compose much for Bollywood films because I wanted to work on myself and keep abreast with the changing music scene over the last few years," says Anu Malik, who after seeing success in the '90s receded into the background.
The turning point, the veteran composer points out, was Aditya Chopra's Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015). "When Moh Moh Ke Dhaage released, people wondered, 'Are, yeh gaana Anu Malik ne kaise bana diya?' They conveniently forgot the music of Refugee (2000), Asoka (2001), Virasat (1997) and Border (1997). So, I thought it's time for people to recall the music I have made in the last 40 years of my career."
His latest composition, Prem Mein Tohre, from Vidya Balan-starrer Begum Jaan, has turned into a sweeping hit. The song has garnered over four million views online in 10 days. The number also marks the comeback of legendary singer Asha Bhosle to playback after four years. Anu admits convincing the 83-year-required persistence. "After I signed the film, I got sick and was in the ICU. Ashaji came to meet me.
She had tears in her eyes when she saw me. After she left, I told my wife I wanted to work with her again. I felt she was perfect for Prem Mein Tohre. Later, I called up Ashaji and requested her, but she was hesitant. After much cajoling, she said, 'Kab aur kahan aaun?'," recalls the composer, adding that she liked the tune when she heard it.
"She came to my home studio and when I played the song, she said, 'Anu, yeh gaana kab record karne waala hai tu?' I said, 'Whenever you say.' She said, 'Abhi kar lein? Yeh mera comeback hone waala hai.' We met after a week and recorded the song in about four hours. She was so excited, she seemed like a child singing her first song. She is happy that the number is doing well," says Anu, who took just eight months to score the film's soundtrack. Other singers for the film include Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghoshal.
Anu says he didn't see the project come his way. "Once, I got 15 missed calls from Mukesh Bhatt. When I spoke to him, he said Srijit (Mukherji; director of Begum Jaan) wanted to speak to me. He offered me the film," says Malik, calling the project "challenging".
"Having 1947 as the film's backdrop was a bit of a problem, but the theme of women's power drove me. This has been the toughest project I have worked on in 40 years. Before coming on board, I had put forth two conditions — I wanted to compose the entire soundtrack and didn't want to see the original film (it's a remake of the Bengali film Rajkahini). I wanted the music to be fresh."