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“Creativity always happens on a clean slate”

Mohit Chauhan talks to Titas Chowdhury about his latest tracks from Notebook and RAW – Romeo Akbar Walter, his childhood and more

Mohit Chauhan, who started his career with his band Silk Route, has created a niche for himself. There’s been no looking back for the singer after he became an overnight musical sensation in Bollywood with Tum se hi from the Imtiaz Ali directed Jab We Met. Today, Chauhan has become the numero uno choice for music directors when it comes to intense ballads.

Chauhan, who grew up in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, reminisces, “I consider myself very lucky that I did my schooling and college in Himachal. I have lived there for most of my life. My growing-up years were spent in the lap of nature, amidst forests and orchards. It is very peaceful there.”

He thanks his roots for his songs and his craft. “For creative people like painters, musicians and scriptwriters, the beauty and solitude of nature are therapeutic. Spending time in the midst of nature will fuel your art and thought processes. Woh jo junoon hai mere sangeet mein woh issi ke wajah se jhalak aati hai.”

The singer recently gave us two ballads, Safar from Notebook and Jee len de from RAW – Romeo Akbar Walter. He says, “I got a call from the music director of Notebook, Vishal Mishra, who told me about the film and sent me the song. I loved it as it brought me a lot of peace. It is a lovely composition. Safar has been written by Kaushal Kishore. Both of them are young talents and they have been doing some great work.

“This is the first time I collaborated with them and I had a great time doing that. After the song released, people told me that I have added yet another feather to my discography. This is a travel song. Songs like these bring you a lot of sukoon whenever you are travelling, maybe in the mountains in your car. We are getting a lot of compliments for the composition and the lyrics. We are very happy. I am also grateful to Salman Khan sir and the other producers. I have heard that he listens to each song and then selects them,” smiles Chauhan.

Jee len de is composed by Raj (Aashoo) and written by Shabbir (Ahmed). They are such talented people. It is a very emotional song with very little music. It has a passionate and Sufi kind of feel. It is a beautiful track that is picturised on John Abraham and Mouni Roy,” he adds.

Chauhan expresses his admiration for young music composers. “We have had some great music directors in our films in the past. But the young generation of composers is doing some great work. I am fortunate that I am getting the opportunity to work with them. It has been 18-19 years since I have been singing in films and I have worked with almost every composer in the industry. I respect young talent and I am very impressed with their skills.”

He continues, “The songs that I have sung in Notebook and RAW are not rehashed versions of old melodies. They are both original tracks. When you watch them on the screen, they will tug at your heartstrings. I am really happy to be part of these songs. I have sung a song called Kyun dil mera for a film called Paharganj. That is again a lovely song. I am really happy to be working with these new kids on the block.”

Back in the day, Chauhan became a favourite with the young generation through songs composed by his band. Making non-film, independent music is a joy for him. “For film music, there are restrictions in the sense that you have to compose, write and sing according to what the characters are feeling or going through at a certain point in time. When I was growing up and in college, I listened to a lot of film music, Western bands and ghazals. These singers used to draw music from their life experiences through creative processes without putting in too much drama. The reason to make music was yourself. It was this factor that led to the formation of my band, Silk Route, which composed Dooba dooba for Boondein. In 2009, I composed a solo album called Fitoor.”

He elaborates, “Non-film music gives you the freedom to express yourself and it is not language-bound. You get to listen to a lot of new kind of creative works through independent music. I started my journey in Bollywood through my own music. People got to know me through my albums. They got acquainted with my voice and my style of singing through them. If they like your style, they will want to use it in their films. It is a great thing to have film music and independent music coexist. I appreciate people who write their own songs. That is a reflection of the thirst to create something.”

Recreations are ruling the Hindi music scene today but Chauhan is not the greatest supporter of the trend. “I had received a couple of offers to lend my voice to recreations, but I was not very interested. When I was studying, I used to listen to music directors from the past such as RD Burman, Salil Chowdhury, Naushad, Anand Bakshi and Laxmikant-Pyarelal, in order to understand music arrangements. They have taken several songs to a completely different level. Taking those songs from that level to something higher is very difficult in terms of singing and arrangements because they are already perfect songs. Creativity always happens on a clean slate. It is like a plant that you have to water every day for it to grow. Recreations do not help convey the impact of an original,” the vocalist believes.

A star stage performer, Chauhan sheds light on his tripartite concert that was staged at an altitude of 17,000 feet on the border posts of Sikkim in December last year. “We did three concerts for the Indian Army in Sherathang and Kupup and for the SSB, in areas of West Sikkim and South Sikkim like Yuksom. We did the finale concert in the army headquarters in Gangtok. It was the first time that the bands of the Indian Army and the SSB had come together. They performed with me on stage. They played Sadda haq, Pee loon and Tum se hi. It was an amazing 15-16 day trip. Something I am very proud of is that I did the concert absolutely free of cost. It was my way of giving something to our army.”

He adds, “We intend to make this series across the Himalayas, the marshes and the deserts. By God’s grace, I will be able to cover all the difficult forward posts of the armed forces and will convey my salaam to them through my songs.”

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