‘It’s not always about making money’

Shekhar Ravjiani, recently released his third single, a rendition of the Hanuman chalisa. His interest in singles stems from his passion for both composing and singing. He chats up with Soumita Sengupta, about the scenario of singles in India and his forthcoming projects

Coming out with a single is not a popular trend in India. What made you do it?
The idea of doing a single came to me two-and-a-half years ago. I asked myself, when was the last time I composed a song for myself? I realised it was before I got into this industry. Music to me is an expression similar to how a painter paints to soothe his inner artiste. I believe every artiste at one point has to do something creative for himself.

A painter does a lot of work, which he is commissioned to do and there are certain things he does for himself. All my singles are like my personal paintings. It’s not planned. It happens in the course of time with me not knowing what I am going to do. In the coming years the scene will change. A revolution of sorts - be it in films or music has already started to happen.

How did the idea of Hanuman chalisa come about?
The Hanuman chalisa has been an integral part of my life. It was my late grandmother’s wish to see me compose a version of the epic prayer. This version is more soothing and peaceful. When the song started to sound the way I wanted it to, I decided to do a little more research on Lord Hanuman.

I went to a bookstore and started reading all the books available on Lord Hanuman. Out of that there was one pocket size book which caught my attention. I got in touch with a publication company called Vedic Cosmos. I identified myself to them and told them about this idea. Next, they were at my office in an hour’s time. They loved the idea of compiling a special edition of Hanuman chalisa with the single, not to give away with the single but as a special book which is a part of the single. We also launched an app which you can download on iOS and android phones, whereby you can listen to the Hanuman chalisa. Many people even read the Hanuman chalisa while commuting.

You make singles for your passion for music. One of your singles was in Marathi and one in Telugu. Why did you choose to sing in other regional languages?
It gives me a thrill. I learnt the entire Tamil lyrics and Marathi is a language that I know. In fact when Riteish Deshmukh and I and were doing live shows in Latur, the crowd started cheering for Saavli and we kept playing Saavli on loop. The audience connected with my song. Butterfly in Tamil also happened by chance. Singing in a new language is challenging but the most beautiful part is experiencing those familiar emotions through unfamiliar words.

The sale of private music albums in India is poor. How do you convince a music company to release your single?
Today, YouTube is a big platform for musicians as well as for music lovers. Recently, Shreya (Ghoshal) released her ghazal album. Music companies don’t come forward because music channels don’t play them. So the income becomes zero which is sad.

How did you manage to convince Zee to come on board for Hanuman chalisa?
It’s not always about making money. Zee, as a company came on board with as much passion. I have an old association with them. I stepped into this industry via Zee. I was a contestant on a reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa then. Later I judged the same reality show. After hearing the song, they instantly agreed to be part of it. This is not a money making project for me. None of my singles are. And whatever little money came from these singles I have donated to charity.

Bollywood is witnessing a lot of new composers. Is the scenario changing with multiple composers in a film? Do you take it as threat?
Today is the best time for a musician. You will stand out if you’re talented. Look at Ek Villain, one opening song made the film such a huge commercial hit. So music has always played integral part in our cinema and today you have many options. I don’t take it as a threat. My fans love me and always keep asking me what I am coming up with next. This concept of multiple composers has existed in Hollywood since long and it’s good that it’s finally working in India too as we have some of the best talent.

What’s next?

We have two most awaited films of the year coming up. Shah Rukh Khan’s Happy New Year and Hrithik Roshan’s Bang Bang. Both are totally different in terms of music. We have created something new. I also own a production house called 100 Frames where we produce ad films and I also compose jingles.
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