The Udta Punjab album opens with the track, Chitta Ve. Shahid Kapur's character, Tommy Singh sings, "Oh Chitta Ve, Oh Chitta ve, kaiyaan nu hai khush kitta ve; hai mittha ve, hai mittha ve, kundi nashe wali khol ke dekh."
He is high at the time, the film’s music director Amit Trivedi shares about the scene where the song is set. He raps aggressively and later, sings cockily. "When I met Abhishek (Chaubey; the film’s director), he had a certain vision for Tommy Singh's character. The album also needed to have a trippy vibe. One that screams drugs and what it does to you. So it was challenging." And Trivedi isn't one to duck challenges. Since he debuted with Aamir (2008) and Dev D (2009), he has quickly earned the reputation of being what the Bollywood crowd refers to as 'hatke'. It’s perhaps why Chaubey and producer Anurag Kashyap would pick him for a film that examines Punjab’s struggle with heroin addiction. And he is a Phantom Films favourite.
Udta Punjab, says Trivedi, required him to acquaint himself with a genre he didn’t know. "Listening to electronic music was part of my research. It's a genre I hadn’t really paid attention to. Psy trance, heavier and darker, became my focus. That's influenced the way this music has turned out," he says.
So, if Chitta Ve is the 'rocking' song, Da Da Dassa, filmed on Alia Bhatt and sung by Kanika Kapoor, although beat-heavy is more controlled. "Yes, with Da Dassa, the feel is darker. It's about keeping the dance vibe in tact, but making it slower and heavier." But it’s Ikk Kudi, the slow song, and the Shahid Mallya rendered Hass Nach Le, that revealed the real Tommy Singh, says Trivedi. "Ikk Kudi is about what Tommy feels for a girl. He is now seeing the world in a different light, which is why it’s a bit slow." In Hass Nach Le, Singh is feeling the effects of withdrawal. "If he was all cocky and aggressive earlier, he is calmer now. And hence, making music for the first time when he is not under the effect of drugs. This is him," Trivedi explains. Vadiya, which he sings himself, is constructed like a pure electronic song, with an extended build up followed by a break down. “He’s high, and all is good. You know it’s all good, and that’s a trip in itself. So, the song is a bit loopy."
Although the album is EDM-inspired, Trivedi’s folk influences can't help but creep in. Like in Hass Nach Le. A refrain reminds you of the popular Punjabi wedding track, Oh jind mahi je chaliyon patiale. "Of course, folk music is factored in. When growing up, I woke up to bhajans, religious and folk music which my father played. My mother was a bhajan singer. There was never any film music [at home]!" recalls the Gujarati about growing up in Bandra. It was later as a college student, that Trivedi was introduced to international music, “you know, The Beatles and Pink Floyd. But I think my style is a mix of everything, or maybe nothing. It’s about creating something different for every movie."
The world sees his style as 'edgy'. "What does that mean? Good question… edgy means being on the edge? It’s never about what works, or asking is it a love song or an item number. That’s how most Bollywood albums are made. Ten thousand people are playing safe; I won’t. Who cares if it works, I will do what I have to." And suddenly, the thought of 'not working’ reminds him of Bombay Velvet. "There, I fell off the edge. But that’s the way it is. Or else, I’d be very bored."
Ironically, the music director says he is trying to stay off music. At least, the listening. "I am in a silent phase. I don’t listen to any music at all. I am suffering from ear fatigue, I think."