No pain no gain
Remember the heart-warming track 'Tere Sang Yara' from Rustom and the sensuous 'Aaj phir tum pe pyaar aaya hai' from Hate Story 2? These songs were directed by none other than ArkoPravo Mukherjee. A gold medallist in MBBS and a self-taught musician, Arko made his debut in Bollywood as a music director and lyricist with Jism 2 in 2012. He then went on to work with numerous directors and singers in films like Yaariyan, Hate Story 2, Tamanchey, Jazbaa and many more. However, he sang his first song 'Saathi Rey' from Kapoor & Sons in 2016 and then 'Dariya' from Baar Baar Dekho – leaving you spellbound with the depth in his voice and the lyrics. In an exclusive interview he talks about his journey from being a medical student to a music director, lyricist, singer and how he became the first Indian to make it to Billboard charts and much more...
How did your journey begin?
I studied medicine in Calcutta, I am from an academic family and I passed out in 2008. I was a gold medallist from my university and then I decided to leave medicine and I came to Bombay by the end of 2008. For three years I couldn't get anything substantial and then I met Bhatt sir and Pooja and by the end of 2011 they gave me my debut film, that is, Jism 2.
How did it happen?You were a medical student and suddenly you turned to music…
(Cuts in) Not suddenly, it was always there. Nobody from my family was in music so, no one really knew that it could be a career. It was just a hobby. But, by the time I was in college, I used to write a lot of songs, mainly in English. So, at one point of time I gathered the courage to leave medicine and pursue music. I always wanted to do it but, you see, it's all about the courage to convince yourself that you are capable of going against all odds.
It's not easy to leave everything but music is my beating heart. Even if I wasa doctor, I would probably make music every night, alone at home and feel bad that I can't make it a career. So, music is like a part of me, I can't live without it. As they say, no pain no gain, right?
How much did you have to struggle to reach where you are today?
Struggle is a very wide and vague word. Even successful people struggle. For example, a superstar director who has just made 300 crores, struggles to make sure the next one is better. Struggle is a constant of our life, it is to make sure the next thing is better. It took me 3-4 years to get where I am today. That period was really tough – explaining people that I can do it but I always had support from my family, brother…lover.
How did you land Jism 2 as a lyricist and a music composer?
I got an appointment with Bhatt sir and I went to meet him. I reached late and he was busy with a meeting so I was asked to leave a CD. But after much request, he gave me 10 minutes to listen to two of my songs and that meeting lasted for 1.5 hours. He listened to those two songs repeatedly and then he called Pooja and told her, 'we found our new singer for Jism 2.' Bhatt sir is very intuitive, he doesn't take too much time, and he doesn't ponder much when something really touches him. I think that day luckily my songs touched him and I got the film.
Do you think these countless singing reality shows help people with no means at all to make it big?
Of course it does. It helps them get recognised because everybody watches TV. Some of them become playback singers and almost all of them get to travel and do shows, irrespective of numerous singing reality shows. Not everybody can convert it into success but there are a lot of people who have. It is not easy, you need everything, fromhard work to patience, talent, persistent, determination, focus and you need luck too.
Tell us a bit about your upcoming projects..
I have my first non-film single coming out this year in June. Also, a few Bollywood songs are lined up which includes my first horror film called Dobaara, a remake of Hollywood film Oculus. Releasing on June 2, Dobaara is about a haunted mirror, starring Huma Qureshi, Adil Hussain and Saqib Saleem.
Then I have Bareilly ki Barfi with Ayushmaan Khuranna and Kriti Sanon and after that I have Anubhav Sinha's next film with Suraj Pancholi leading it. I also have one film with T-series. So, there are 3-4 films coming up in the next three months. And currently I am working on my English catalogue which will come out slowly.
I released one song called 'Mira' and it entered the Billboard chart in April. I sang it, composed it, wrote it and produced it. So, fortunately, I became the first Indian singer/songwriter to make it to Billboard charts which is basically an American chart. It's about how much a song is played in clubs and in North America. So, 'Mira' was there for three weeks. And now I am going back to Los Angeles, to discuss more opportunities about my English catalogue for publishing, recording and all this, while working in Bombay too.
Any fond memory of when you were composing or singing?
All of them are fond memories, half my songs are about girls I know, so basically, most of them are fond memories about childhood, friends, my ex-lovers, my school days; it's all about memories. But there is one memory that I still recall and smile. I find it a bit funny. I have a song called 'Dariya' which I sang and composed for Karan Johar's film, Baar Baar Dekho. Now, there was no plan – I reached the studio and it started raining like crazy. We were just standing outside and watching the rain and I just made that song in half-an-hour. That was the quickest that I ever did a song. It just happened.
Before Kapoor & sons' 'Saathi rey,' you were only a music director and lyricist. How did you get the opportunity to sing in Karan Johar's film?
Because when Karan sir heard 'Dariya' and 'Saathi Rey,' he said that you should sing your songs, no one else should sing them. He really insisted that I should sing.
Any particular singer or music director you want to work with and why?
There are so many. I believe in collaboration and I have plenty songs on which I want to work with Michele Bolton, josh stone, Daddy Yankee or Sean Paul. So, it depends on the genre of my song. I want to work with so many people, anybody who is talented…
(Cuts in) A R Rahman maybe?
A R Rahman is enough. He doesn't need me. If he ever calls me to sing a song, I would try but I don't think he would ever call me. I don't have such high ambitions. I take it as it comes. But I am a huge fan of A R Rahman. My favourite album is 'Bombay.'
But don't you think that classical music is getting lost somewhere?
No, classical music has its own shows. All over the world it has it has its own niche audience. So everything has its own place. In Bollywood music also, we use a lot of ragas. I don't think music should be restricted, it should be about how you feel. Moreover, I don't think music has any genre, there is just good music and not so good music.
One incident that you would like to share to inspire people
I have gone through hundreds of incidents where they call me and tell me that there'll be a meeting, it might help you and every time it did not work. Everything requires perseverance, you should not lose hope. If you are an outsider and you are good, then it's all about consistently trying. It's a difficult industry and even superstars have to keep performing.