By Sulagna Chatterjee
A man who had a dream – a dream to create music that would touch souls. A man who had a dream – and the willpower to pursue it against all odds. We’re talking about music composer Rochak Kohli, the one who composed romantic masterpieces like Pani Da Rang and Rozana, along with inspiring songs like Zinda and Har Gully Mein Dhoni Hai. Rochak also recently composed for BankChor which released in the theaters last week. We spoke to his man who is filled with wisdom, talent, dedication and undying passion for music, and here’s all you need to know!
The India Diaries: Hailing from Chandigarh, a family filled with lawyers, when did you get the calling that music is where you want to be?
Rochak Kohli: The calling was already there throughout. I did law mainly to reassure my family and myself. In my surroundings, there was no one who was associated with performing arts. So, I wanted to keep a strong backup, just in case, things did not turn out the way I wanted them to. I believe that it’s always good to study and to learn great things while you are young and hence, law happened! I then got into radio mainly to understand how the industry functions. I was lucky to have gotten a job in Chandigarh itself. The corporate side of it made me very disciplined. And the creative side of the job made things fall into place. It’s always beneficial to have worked in an established place before you set out on your own.
The India Diaries: Tell us about your friendship with Ayushmann and the journey.
Rochak Kohli: Ayushmann and I have been friends since school. We used to dream of being in the industry together, he into acting and me into music. So, whenever we meet, even though it’s pretty rare these days because he’s busy with shoots and I’m busy with my work, we cherish those times when we both had big dreams. We never thought we’d be able to make it, but here we are! When you’re working together, your bonds grow even more, and that’s exactly what has happened.
The India Diaries: Your songs have a typical Punjabi touch to it which is the USP, of course. But, do you think they somehow restrict your target audience?
Rochak Kohli: I know it sounds clichéd but I believe that music has no language. I also feel that if I enjoy and love composing a song, that will reach the audience’s hearts too. My songs go through a very critical analysis before I produce it. It makes the whole purview of music very small if we narrow it down to genres. A good song is a good song! A kid might not understand the meaning of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ but he still loves it. My son, for example, who is four is tripping on Tamil music half the time, and sometimes he’s in love with French music. Music doesn’t have a limited target audience, it’s for every single person out there, whether they understand the literal meaning or not.
The India Diaries: Talking about Atrangi Yaari, how overwhelming a project was that? Considering that none other than Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar were to sing it?
Rochak Kohli: Frankly, I did not know that Amitabh Sir and Farhan Sir would be singing it. Firstly, getting a Vidhu Vinod Chopra project itself is a big deal. So, when Amitabh Sir listened to the track, he immediately said that he wanted to sing it. He flew down from Kolkata the same evening, and he recorded throughout the night. It was a learning that I can never forget. When a person of such stature puts in so much of effort into a simple song, it’s an overwhelming feeling. Plus, working with Farhan was amazing because he has always been my idol. Dil Chahta Hai changed the way we think about life and gave us a lot of perspectives. So, working with him – I could barely believe that it was happening.
The India Diaries: You’ve worked quite closely with Neeraj Pandey and Manoj Muntashir. How has the experience been?
Rochak Kohli: Neeraj Pandey is someone who knows his music really well. If it appeals to him, he’ll approve it in one go. But if it does not, we’ll have to keep trying. He like Har Gully Mein Dhoni Hai in the first take, but took us 6-7 versions of Rozana to crack it. Manoj Muntashir and I were at his office for almost three days till we cracked the tune! It’s always good to work with such directors because they challenge you to come out of your comfort zones and try out newer things.
Manoj and I are very good friends, and it’s amazing to see how much he knows about music. If I were to compare him to someone from the yesteryears, that would have to be Anand Bakshi. He has thorough knowledge about the commercial aspect of music too. He also doesn’t let the essence of music go. He is so well read in poetry and has shayaris on the tip of his tongue. Our music sessions last for a maximum of 30 minutes since we usually crack the song in just that much time.
The India Diaries: Tell us a bit about BankChor.
Rochak Kohli: BankChor as a project has been extremely satisfying. It lets you experiment with music. Y-Films is a very young team, and Aashish Patil and Bumpy are extremely quirky in their appeal. When I sent him the song “Tashreef”, he did not reply for over two weeks. I thought that maybe I had gotten the brief wrong, and I sent him an apology text. He immediately called up and said that he had been traveling, and wasn’t able to listen to the song. He told me that he loved the song! It’s always good to work with young, budding people. It’s fun to jam with them and to know that you’re making music for the young people.
The India Diaries: Where do you usually draw inspiration for your music from?
Rochak Kohli: Composing a track can either take 5 mins or 2 months. Music as a hobby and music as a profession is very different. There are pressures, and there are deadlines. It really depends on what mood I am in. Some understand some don’t, and I think it’s a challenge every day to compose something new. It’s also a different joy altogether because you’re living your dream. So, there’s that satisfaction at the end of the day. At times when your songs don’t get selected, it’s saddening, but it’s a process!
The India Diaries: Remixing and recreating old songs have become quite a trend right now, and it seems like the industry is overdoing it. What do you have to say about that?
Rochak Kohli: Personally, I don’t think it should become a trend. Whenever something becomes a trend, the novelty factor goes away from it. We need to be very careful while we’re recreating old songs because we’re dealing with the emotions of people who’ve heard the original ones. Songs are often connected to memories and we as composers should be very careful that we don’t mess around with that. It’s often a greater challenge than composing new songs. I think we should only recreate a few selected songs because otherwise, it gets too boring for the audience. That’s one of the reasons why the audience often criticizes the remixes instead of appreciating them.
The India Diaries: Everyone knows about Ayushmann and Tahira’s love story. Tell us something about your love story.
Rochak Kohli: Sukriti and I had been friends for a long time and we were a part of the same theater group. So, we did a lot of theater together. And our colleges were just a garden away from each other. So, we just had to cross a garden to meet. We dated for 7 years before we decided to get married, so we really made sure that we were getting into it. It has been 7 years of marriage now and it has been amazing.
The India Diaries: How is fatherhood treating you? How do you balance out work and family life?
Rochak Kohli: In a city like Mumbai, life is totally different. When a child is there, you’re very restricted because a child is a huge responsibility. Initially, it is hectic but it soon settles down. It surely is a great joy that everyone must experience. I really balance my work out because I want to spend more time with Eklavya. Earlier, working for longer hours gave me joy and now working for lesser hours and spending more time at home gives me joy. I’m also very fortunate that I get to see him growing up every day because once he grows up, it’s a different world altogether.
The India Diaries: What next for you? Digital space or Bollywood-centric?
Rochak Kohli: Bollywood certainly excites me because you get to work with newer artists and different people. Also, when your song is a part of a movie, it’s a different feeling altogether. In most of the countries around the world, Bollywood is one of the few industries which uses music in the movies. Digital, yes. It is the demand of the time. I’ve always wanted to move along with the time. Let’s see what happens!
The India Diaries: What message would you like to give to the upcoming artists out there?
Rochak Kohli: A lot of different people come to my studio, be it lyricists, musicians or programmers. I interact a lot with them, and hence the message I’d like to give is that be in the industry only when you’re very sure that you want to be here. Gone are those days when a producer would spot a good-looking guy at some random party and offer him a role in an upcoming movie. People read such stories and they often waste their time and money and get disappointed. Please be sure. Everything is just a click away. There are lots of resources available, please make use of them.
- Ayushmann in one word: Humble
- Your biggest strength/your support system: My family
- One singer you’d want to work with: AR Rahman
- If you had to change one thing about the industry: The royalty system.
- If you could relive a day: My first date with Sukriti