Ankit Tiwari began his musical voyage at the tender age of five and has come a long way since then. While the Kanpur-born singer-composer understands change is constant, keeping the principle and powerful concepts of melody and rhythm intact in his songs remain his preliminary focus. At his candid best, the talented musician opens up about his compositions, movies and tenets of life. Excerpts from the interview:
It’s not easy finding a foothold in Bollywood, without connections… Do you agree?
Yes, it is difficult to enter the industry and create a name for yourself if you don’t have any connections in the industry, because people don’t know who you are, and it takes a while to create your identity. This is a problem everyone without connections is faced with. Having said that, it is also true that only a handful of people in the industry come with the privilege of a Bollywood surname. The rest make a name for themselves based on their own merit, talent and proficiency.
Your grandfather was one of your early tutors. He was the one who imparted rhythm training to you via the dholak and the tabla. How much of those teachings are relevant in today’s era of remixes, item numbers and rustic-yet-contemporary music?
Rhythm or taal occupies a very important place in Indian music. And the fundamental information and knowledge I received from my grandfather about music was crucial in shaping up my career. In fact, it was he who laid my foundation in music. At an early age, he taught me to articulate each rhythm correctly. If your basics are strong, you can actually pick almost anything. Also, no formal education can really make you a music composer; you have to learn all by yourself, through the many mistakes you make. You need to engage in a lot of R&D to understand the subject well. We are also in an era where technology, computers and music software play a crucial role. It is crucial for composers to be well-versed with the new techniques of making music. Initially, I didn’t know of any this, but when I started doing jingles, background scores and ad films, I got the opportunity to pick things up on the job.
How challenging has it been to maintain success after Sunn Raha Hai?
You set your own bar and then maintaining that bar becomes a challenge by itself. Your audience and listeners have the same kind of expectations from you, and it becomes difficult to fulfil that since you might not always be in a situation to deliver a similar hit. Sometimes, the banner too may not be all that big, at other times, the film’s story may not be all that great, so, it can get difficult.
How do you survive the competition in an already overcrowded space, where a new breed of singers are seen entering Bollywood every day?
My only mantra to survive amidst all the competition is hard work, dedication and talent. If you have these in you, and you are capable enough to learn from failures or roadblocks that come in your way to success, you will definitely see success. So, the young singers who are taking Bollywood by storm, need to realise they require talent and a strong skillset to survive in the industry.
Do you fear failure or competition?
If I think or concentrate on competition, concentrating on my work will get difficult. At times, even if I feel the competition, it is only because of the quality of work and the new kind of music that is appreciated by fans at large. Or else, I don’t feel any competition. There is still a lot to be learnt and delivered.
What do you feel about the trend where filmmakers sign on multiple composers for a single album?
What can I say… I myself found a place in the industry because of this. If Ankit Tiwari is a brand today, it is only because of Aashiqui 2 where I had that one song which got me name, fame and identity. I believe it’s all about putting faith in your work. So, even if I were given one song in the album, the dedication and effort would be similar to if I were given five of them.
How much time does a one-composer music album take? Are you helming a solo movie anytime soon?
A one-composer film depends on how much time the director spends with his composer, how much he experiments and for how long he wishes to work on the compositions. In my case, I take 15-20 days to complete one song. Tum Bin 2 is my first solo film, where I am composing all the songs as well as the background score. The work on that film began seven-eight months back and is still on. T-Series is the producer and Anubhav Sinha the director of the film. I don’t even remember how many sittings, music narrations and discussion sessions we have really had. He has a good ear for music and has spent a lot of time on the music of the film. So, it largely depends upon who the director of the film is. Like when I worked with Mohit (Suri) for songs like Sunn Rha Hai Na Tu and Galliyan (Ek Villain), even after the song was composed, we made a lot of changes. There are many drafts made of a song and it is not as if the first draft made is the one that reaches the audience. I remember I had made around 30-31 drafts of Galliyan, after the song was composed. That was Mohit’s style of working.
What is your recording style? How do you compose?
As a music director, music plays in my head 24/7… In the process, there are times I have arrived at the tune I want, without even realising it. Many a time, the composition comes from within, at other times, we compose according to the situation. Some times, the lyricist writes the song and we have to lend tune to it accordingly or I compose a tune first and then the lyricist writes the song. So, it works both ways.
How often do you seek inspiration while composing a tune?
I consciously avoid inspired works. If you start going in that direction where you need to find inspiration in others, chances are that your projects will start looking similar. The public will also relate your style of work to someone else’s style and creating your own niche will get difficult. You will never be known by your own distinct style of music and I have a problem with that. I never look up to someone while composing a song, I do how much ever I can do from within.
How has digital technology helped in providing assistance to composers and singers?
Your composition has to come from within, no machine or software can create music for you. Creating music is a man’s art. Machines can play your creations but songs have to be produced by you. However, composers need to be well-versed with the new-age technology and development. And I guess this is applicable in every profession today.
Among your contemporaries, who do you think is extremely versatile?
No one can deny the voice and versatility of Arijit (Singh). He is a close friend and the work he is doing is commendable.
Upcoming ventures you want to talk about…
I am thankful to the audience for appreciating my work in Rustom. Tum Bin 2 and Ajay Devgn’s Baadshaho, directed by Milan Luthria, are in the pipeline.