Friends first, musical collaborators later—that’s composer-singer Amit Trivedi and lyricist-singer Amitabh Bhattacharya. A decade-long friendship resulted in Bhattacharya writing lyrics for—and sometimes singing—Trivedi’s compositions. Their partnership is not exclusive, and not without mutual critiques. The best of their teamwork is evident in the soundtracks of Dev.D, Udaan, I Am, Aisha, this week’s Ghanchakkar, and the forthcoming Lootera. The worst? Hear it from them. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Amitabh, you came to Mumbai to become a singer but got sidetracked into lyric writing.

Bhattacharya: I hold Amit responsible for that digression, but I always neglected singing. Amit practically grabbed me and got me into lyrics. His point was, if singing is supposed to happen it will happen eventually, but why give up something you are good at when opportunities are coming your way.

Trivedi: We had worked on a private album together and he was incredible. He was a great singer, but I found his lyrics more powerful than his singing. This talent was screaming out. So when I was doing my first film (Aamir, 2008) I was nervous because I was branching out into something new, so I thought I should call on a friend.

Are you critical of each other’s work?

Trivedi: Sometimes that happens. Usually, whatever he writes, I go ahead with it. The best part of a beautiful song is that it should say something powerful and hold you for 5 minutes. His thoughts are so powerful and he weaves them so well with his poetry, words and rhyme, and being a singer himself, the metre is perfect.

Bhattacharya: In the early days he was so okay with everything I used to write that I would challenge him and say, do you even look at what I write? He said I trust you, it sounds good to my ears so I go ahead with it. But sometimes what I have written does need a little tweaking. But Amit has done some great work with others such as Ishaqzaade, Kai Po Che and English Vinglish.

When a film fails, do you feel disappointed?

Bhattacharya: If we have done Aamir, Dev.D, Udaan, then we have also done Aiyyaa. Dreamum Wakeupum is so unusual for Amit.

Trivedi: I tried my hand at it, but when a film fails, you do feel bad, dejected, disappointed.

Bhattacharya: It is worse for him because he also does the background score, which takes so many hours over a year. The songs of Aiyyaa were popular. They got the eyeballs but after that the fate of the film is not in our hands.

Trivedi: I have always worked towards a film, the script and the director’s vision. I am a director’s guy. He can extract what he needs from me. Sometimes it may work and sometimes it may not.

Amit, how do you find new and interesting voices for each soundtrack?

Trivedi: We get lots of demos. When I am working on a song, whether Iktara or Pareshaan, I hear a particular voice in my head and luckily I came across these singers. I would hear a demo and I would be like this is exactly what I am looking for. I was at home and a jingle was playing on TV. That voice got my attention and I called Nikhil D’Souza in and the first note he hit was bang on. He became the voice of Sham in Aisha.

Bhattacharya: He is chased by singers because things have really changed for those he’s given a break to. Amit’s graph and choice of films has been different. So are his melodies and music. When my mind is too cluttered with other projects, I prefer to push the clutter aside and write his stuff at peace because his melodies are so different from everything else out there.

A still from Vikramaditya Motwane’s ‘Lootera’, for which the duo has composed
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