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A million voices

Updated on: 08 April,2024 07:05 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Sonia Lulla |

Capturing aggression, excitement, tension, and sorrow in a span of seven minutes, Maidaan producer Nakul Abhyankar on what goes behind composing for a sports-based offering

A million voices

Nakul Abhyankar

Ajay Devgn-led Maidaan brings producer and singer Nakul Abhyankar back in studio with AR Rahman, with whom he collaborated on the making of the song, Team India hai hum. Abhyankar, who also produced part of the score, discusses the maestro’s working style, and crafting emotionally rousing music for a sports offering.

Edited excerpts from the interview.

What was your discussion with AR Rahman on this number? 
When he told me that he wanted me to produce it, he said he wanted a ‘dancy’ number, but one that didn’t sound like a dance track. He wanted it to be inspirational; something along the lines of what Michael Jackson would do. We jammed together and arrived at an idea that we used for the mukhda. The tune was already made; I simply added a groove. We wanted the vibe of the stadium to be replicated—the stomps and claps. He liked it, and subsequently asked me to sing a few lines. Sir eventually ended up retaining my voice.

Ajay Devgn in Maidaan
Ajay Devgn in Maidaan

Considering the number of sports movies that have been created, how did you both intend to retain an element of novelty? 
One thing that Rahman sir does beautifully is read the situation and create an [appropriate] musical idea. There can’t be a better anthem [than this one]; it’s straightforward and singable. That’s why, we liked the hook. We added many voices to it so that it could seem like people [in a] stadium were singing it. We knew we wanted to create that vibe, and then translate it into
a song with a nice groove and bass.

Rahman sir’s music is original. And [he succeeds because] he doesn’t think twice before killing his own idea, if a better one comes up. His mind is constantly thinking about how to make a song better, and then better again. For this situation itself, while I do not know how many tunes he had made, I certainly heard more than one. He kept coming up with better ideas.

For [the song], he retained the signature line, [that is] ‘Team India’. And made so many iterations. Ultimately, this was the one that got his and everybody else’s attention. Also, [he doesn’t wait for] someone to turn something down and ask him to deliver something better. He does that himself. He’ll compose something, listen to it, and simply try something new if he doesn’t think it’s good. That’s how he keeps evolving. 

AR Rahman
AR Rahman

Few people get the chance to also render a song that they produce. How does that put you at an advantage?
It does in many ways. Apart from the fact that singing a song you really know well is more enjoyable, there’s another thing to consider—because I’m in touch with the composer from the beginning, I know exactly how the song should sound, and the emotions it should evoke. So, if I know how I must sing it, I will also be able to tweak the production as per that rendition. I’ll know what elements must be put into the production to not harm the voice. When all these different aspects are under your control, it’s a big advantage, and you can make the piece, as a whole, sound better. 

When it comes to producing the score for a sports-based film, what aspects of composition become prominent?
I’ve produced some scores, especially those of the climax scene. Making a heart-thumping climax scene is special because so many musical elements are involved. There’s a match unfolding, and at the onset, India continues to lose. It’s a bouquet of emotions—aggression, excitement, tension, and then sorrow. You know you’ve hit rock bottom, then, something clicks, and you pick yourself up and achieve what [you desire]. All these emotions must be packed into seven minutes. In order to keep so many musical palettes alive in such a short window, one must think carefully. We couldn’t simply use melodies because that becomes boring. Also, people’s attention is on the scene, not the music. So, our music should empower the experience they’re having while watching the match. It’s a delicate situation.

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