Mithoon: My music is valued because I value it first
Mithoon's offerings may be few and far between, but his die-hard fans don't mind waiting. He tells lyricist Manoj Muntashir why
Manoj Muntashir complains that he often finds his social media inbox littered with pleas from Mithoon's female fans, seeking an interaction with him. He is set to prepare an invoice for the job to present to the composer, who does every bit to evade questions pertaining to his romantic interests, despite Muntashir's repeated attempts. Here's all that the duo discussed in an interaction at Muntashir's vibrant Andheri office in early March, before they departed with the promise of creating a music piece for the "emotional" ending of Tom Hanks' Cast Away.
Manoj: How did you save yourself from being entangled in this wave of re-creations?
Mithoon: I am always tempted to create original songs. Six years ago, I had recreated a song called Aye mere hum safar, which did well. But, I missed the happiness that one derives [while working on original compositions]. Even in the credits roll, [original composers] Anand Milind's name was placed before mine. So, it wasn't guilt [that bothered me]. But, there was no joy. Many people say composers are not celebrated enough. But they don't understand the joy we derive when a newspaper seller sings our song at a signal.
Manoj: There are few composers whose names are used by directors as a selling point. They are proud to say: 'Mithoon is composing for us.' But, people also complain that you take too long to finish a song. Do you feel insecure about not meeting deadlines?
Mithoon: Like they say, ignorance is bliss. I don't know much about [how a delay in meeting a deadline can affect me]. And I prefer that it remain that way. I want to be consumed by music. In the Bible, it is written that the lord made the world in six days. On day one, he said, 'Let there be light.' And yet, he made the sun and moon on day four. So, I interpret this as the lord referring to the light within us, that is brighter than sunlight.
Mithoon: What went behind the making of Teri mitti [Kesari], which, according to me, is the best written song?
Manoj: At times, all we need is a trigger. Sometimes, our directors and the people around us turn out to be blessings. They elevate us from being ordinary writers. Kesari's director Anurag Singh was responsible for it. The tune was already established by Arko. Anurag referenced Kaifi Azmi's words in Kar chale hum fida, and asked me that if it had to be represented in today's scenario, how would [I do it]. I kept that brief in mind. If a soldier is shot, and knows that he will die within the next 10 minutes, what will he think in the interim? Will he be sad, upset or happy? So, the song was written from that point of view. If you see [a soldier] dying, you'll notice him smiling. Death is a painful process. But that smile comes from the joy of dying for the country. More worthy than any award for me was when I got a call from Punj, from a soldier who was a zamindar. When people would ask him why he was becoming a soldier, and choosing a job with a R25,000 salary [despite being wealthy], he never had an answer. My song, he said, gave him the words he needed to do so.
Mithoon: [How important] is it for a musician to stay away from formulas and templates?
Manoj: There's absolutely nothing that I can say with as much certainty as I can this — setting a template implies death of music. We should be thankful that we don't have a formula. Every song has a journey, and if you begin to search for the roadmap that led to its making, [that isn't right]. None of the people who have made it big, have a roadmap. If you do, you'll be a one-film wonder. A good way to [approach your work] is to leave ego behind. Don't carry the weight of your laurels. Be the student you were when you started, each time you work on music.
Manoj: You received much acclaim for your song in Kabir Singh, which is Tujhe kitna chahne lage. There's something I noticed about it. If you study Kabir's character, who is aggressive and angry, it is tough to fathom how this spiritual song, which is all about surrendering, suits him. But that song helped the film tremendously. Many people have complaints against the character, and rightfully so. But what made Kabir relatable was his simplicity and vulnerability. And it is your song that gave us a peek into his heart, and made us see how weak in love he is. I don't think there's anyone who is as weak as a lover, just like there is no one who is stronger than him.
Mithoon: As much as I've never seen it that way, that's true.
Manoj: You don't have a social life. In fact, the people who love you will, for your own good, never invite you to a party.
Mithoon: As a teenager, I would feel everything that a man who is in love feels, but, that excitement would be to meet Pyareji [Pyarelal Sharma, of Laxmikanth-Pyarelal]. At 16, I was assisting my father [Naresh Sharma], who worked with orchestras for films. In the studio, every musician would have a different viewpoint, and as a young musician, I would want to hear each one, so that I could learn. But there was one voice that [mattered the most], and that was of Laxmikant-Pyarelal. He [Pyarelal Sharma] is my tayaji. But, I never [exploited that] relationship. I was passionate about learning from him. He is among the most passionate artistes that this industry has seen. He wouldn't tolerate mediocrity. I wanted to experience him in that form.
Manoj: You have few releases in a year, and keep your fans waiting for them. Is it a calculated move to keep them eagerly anticipating what's next?
Mithoon: The truth is that I celebrate and respect my music first. If I play something on the piano, and like it, I respect that bar [of music]. I won't simply tell my team to [work on] it and send it off to a client who is calling repeatedly for a song. My laptop is kept in my locker, because that's my wealth. I value it so much. For me, my music is a revelation. It must be kept on a pedestal. It is valued, because I value it first.
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