“Rajiv Rai and I are working together on a new film” – Composer Viju Shah on 25 years of Gupt – Planet Bollywood
From ‘Tridev’ (1989) till ‘Asambhav’ (2004), Viju Shah composed the music for all the films directed by Rajiv Rai. While their collaboration resulted in several popular albums, the music of ‘Gupt: The Hidden Truth’ remains special to all those who grew up on Hindi film music in the ‘90s. As the film completes 25 years of its release today, the maverick composer shares the process of putting together the soundtrack for the film.
It is often said that incorporating songs in a thriller is difficult. However, most of the films that Rajiv Rai and you have worked together on have been thrillers. ‘Gupt: The Hidden Truth’ was a murder mystery. Was it easy to mark down situations in the script where songs can be used?
Rajiv has always given a lot of importance to music in all his films. Whether he made a thriller like ‘Mohra’ or a romantic drama like ‘Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat’, he was sure about how songs would be used in the films. With ‘Gupt’, he was trying his hands at making a gripping murder mystery. I had had elaborate discussions with him on the music of the film before working on the tunes. He wanted elements of trance and garage music in the songs. Since there was one hero and two heroines in the film, it wasn’t difficult to find situations for songs.
Which was your favourite song from the album?
I had two favourite songs, ‘Mere Sanam’ and ‘Mushkil Bada Yeh Pyaar Hai’. While the entire music team did their best, Rajeev deserves a lot of credit for picturising the songs very well. ‘Mere Khwaabon Mein’ was shot in Jaisalmer, Manali and several other beautiful locations. All the songs were shot very imaginatively. All the three lead actors, Bobby Deol, Kajol and Manisha Koirala, performed very well in the songs.
The title track ‘Gupt Gupt’ was sung by Kavitha Krishnamurthy and was very popular as well. ‘Gupt’ is quite an unusual word to create a title song around.
Honestly, when Rajeev first told me that the title of the film will be ‘Gupt’, I was a little apprehensive. I shared my reservations around the title with him. He told me that he had registered the title and if he feels it’s not working out, he will change it. We did go through some challenging situations while putting together the title track. Rajiv was very particular about ‘gupt’ being used a couple of times in the song. Initially, Anand Bakshi saab was also wondering how to weave a title track around Gupt but soon, we managed to crack it. One unique thing about the track is that it did not have an antara. Rajiv wanted to use the song at multiple junctures in the narrative. That’s why I created a short version and extended version of it.
You worked with Anand Bakshi on a bunch of films throughout your career. How was the experience of working with him?
Working with Bakshi ji was always an honour. From seeing him as a child coming to our house for music sittings with dad and then, working with him as a composer was a surreal experience. I was fortunate to have got the opportunity to work with him on multiple films. His body of work shows what a genius he was. There are some songs which he wrote first and I composed later. For ‘Gupt’, however, Rajiv and I would first finalize a tune and then, would go to him. He would always wait for that one line or thought to come to him and then, he would finish the song in a jiffy. Apart from work, I would have a lot of discussions with Bakshi ji about his work. I would ask him to share the stories behind his songs and he would enrich me with his experiences.
‘Gupt’ is known to be a very innovative soundtrack. As a composer, what do you think, was new about it?
Rajiv has always liked electronic music. He is very adaptive to new sounds. We spent a lot of time on the arrangements of the songs. There is a particular electronic piece that comes in the prelude of ‘Mere Khwaabon Mein Tu’. I was humming it randomly when Rajiv happened to hear it. He suggested that we should use it in the sing. I improvised upon it, sampled it on my keyboard and made it a part of the track. We did a lot of experimentation during the course of putting together the soundtrack for the film.
Following the massive success of the soundtrack, Tips had released a standalone remix album of the film. It featured remixes of each and every song from the film. Were you happy with this step?
I had no issues with it. Music labels would, naturally, want to earn as much as they can from a successful album. Rajiv was out of the country at that time and had asked me to supervise that album. I was just there to ensure that they did not remix the tracks in a way that their essence got lost. The remixes were done pretty nicely.
‘Gupt’ fetched you the Filmfare Award for Best Background Score. How was the process of creating the score for the film?
Rajiv wanted each of the three leads to have their own theme track. Along with this, we created a few other theme tracks before working properly on the background score. It took me around 20-25 days to complete the background score. Just like the songs, Rajiv was clear about what he wanted from the background music. We had many discussions and arguments during this process but finally, both of us were happy with the way it shaped up.
Can we expect Rajiv Rai and you to collaborate on a film in the near future?
Yes! Rajiv and I are working on a new film. We have finalized one song for it which will be recorded soon. At the moment, we are not sure as to how many songs it will have. I will be also doing its background score.
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