Mamata Banerjee to Mahesh Bhatt — Jeet Gannguli’s fan base is getting as eclectic as his music. After ruling the Tolly chartbusters for years, Jeet Gannguli is now poised to be the flavour of Bollywood. A t2 chat on what’s keeping him busy and why.
You’ve scored for Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. How did the connection with producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali happen?
It was around three-four years ago when Bela’s (Bhansali Sehgal) husband Deepak, who was the head of Fox Television, was making a serial called Meri Awaaz Ko Mil Gayi Roshni for which he wanted me to do the music. We used to have musical sittings in their house when Bela heard me and asked if I would be interested in doing the music if she ever made a film.
Sanjay had dropped in at one of the sessions, he said he liked my style of music. I would often drop by Sanjay’s house or their office and he would listen to my songs... the Bengali songs. He liked Jhiri jhiri from Chirodini... Tumi Je Aamar and wanted to use it in his film. At that time, they had thought of casting Adnan Sami opposite Farah Khan. Finally, when Boman (Irani) came into the picture and the script was readied a year ago, we sat down with the music and started recording.
What kind of a brief did Bhansali have for you?
Among the few directors who are extremely passionate about music, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is one. His mother is very musical too. She would give me tips.... And Sanjay has this beautiful way of describing a situation that helps a singer emote a song perfectly. For both him and Bhattsaab, music is the soul of their films.
Yes, you’ve scored for Raaz 3 and are also composing for Aashiqui 2 after Blood Money. How did you become a favourite of the Bhatts?
Probably because my songs for Blood Money worked so well. The connection happened when Mukeshji (Bhatt) called Monida (Mahendra Soni) one day and heard my song Oh my love from Amanush which was Monida’s caller tune. He wanted to meet me, so I met him in Bombay and played my songs. (Mahesh) Bhattsaab was in the next room. He came out and hugged me. They wondered where in Bombay I was hiding! Now they love me like a son and they want me to do Aashiqui 2 as well. I was taken aback because Aashiqui was a super duper hit, music-wise. But they have asked me to do something in my style, not a Nadeem-Shravan repeat. Their only demand is nice melodies. The Aashiqui 2 story is about a musician’s life, so music will be significant. I’m trying to come up with some romantic strains. I also want to use new voices and have started auditions for that.
So, were you really “hiding” in Mumbai or waiting for Bollywood to come to you?
I’ve been living in Bombay for a long time but I’ve never felt the need to approach Hindi filmmakers. Frankly, if I had wanted I could have gone around playing my songs and looking for work, but I’m just very happy and content working for Bengali films. I can’t work under pressure. I prefer keeping myself away from the rat race.
Monida and Shrikantda are very close to me. I can’t do anything without taking them into confidence.... They have been asking me to get into Bollywood for a long time. They keep telling me to go meet directors like Karan Johar.... But Tollywood will always be priority. The excitement and love I get when I am on stage and the way people scream out for Bhojo Gourango or Poran jaay joliya is unparalleled! It doesn’t compare with the fanfare in Bombay.
Do you feel you haven’t been taken seriously by middle-path or multiplex cinema?
I’ve done Jackpot and Thana Theke Ashchi in the past and Ekla Akash and Bapi Bari Jaa recently, which might help things once they release. Let’s see.... I want to do more of these films. Just like I created a Bhojo Gourango and Paglu, I also did a Durey durey megh jachhe and Bhola jayna. I have a stock of compositions that I know would work well in parallel cinema but for that I need to be approached. I’ve told Shrikantda to give me films in those genres so that I can show what else I have to offer. I’m very keen on working with new directors who will help me explore new sounds.
And you’ve earned the nickname of Hit Gannguli!
Darun laage! (Laughs) On Facebook and Twitter, my fans have started calling me Hitda and after the songs of Paglu and 100 % Love did well, they’re also calling me Superhitda these days! People are crazy.... (Laughs) During a show in Malda, a bunch of fans arrived at the circuit house at two in the night with khol and harmonium, singing a parody of my songs! I would never get such warmth anywhere else.
Does that add to the pressure to churn out hits regularly?
Yes, there’s always that pressure to create good music... there’s also joy in it. When I go for these stage shows and see people’s excitement, it works like inspiration for my next film. But for me the storyline is most important. I don’t try to go beyond the situation for which the music is meant.
The constant to and fro between Calcutta and Mumbai took a toll on your health...
Yes, I was in hospital in January-February. I have to keep shuttling between Bombay and Calcutta. There was a time when my day would start with a 5am flight to Calcutta, attending back-to-back music sittings with directors here, rushing to shows in Murshidabad or Malda, catching the early morning flight back to Bombay, heading straight to the studio and getting done with the recording before getting home at midnight.... That’s been my routine since 2004. So now I’ve promised myself a break with my wife to Munnar very soon, something that’s been on my to do-list for the past four years.
Mamata Banerjee came to see you in the nursing home. Is she a fan too?
Didi likes my music, especially the ones in Bangal bhasha, like Poran jaay and Dhaaker taaley. When I met her for the first time, she sang me some songs that she had written and composed during her college days. I was quite impressed with her musical talent! She came to see me the very first day I was admitted into the nursing home and exclaimed: ‘Eki Jeet-er haatey guitar nei!’ When I refused intravenous treatment, she did her Didigiri and instructed the doctors to go ahead.... I have composed some songs for the youth and recently spoke to Didi about writing the lyrics. If it works out, this will be my first non-film album.
You’ve been singing a lot lately…
Producers and directors like the passion I bring to a song. I think this happened after Bhojo Gourango and Poran jaay joliya clicked. Now directors and producers want me to design songs where I can fit my voice in. So yes, I enjoy singing but I’m a music director first and will only sing if it’s necessary.
What kind of music does Jeet unwind with?
My songs are a strict no-no! I listen to chants and instrumental world music by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Kenny G, Richard Clayderman.... Also, Jagjit Singh and Rashid Khan. I call them my head-cleaners!