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They have been composing stirring scores for Bollywood for over a decade now and yet when it comes to maintaining a silence in the musical score they are the masters of it. We are talking of Salim-Sulaiman, the brother duo who have recently rocked the scene with their first full-fledged commercial feature film Kaal whose soundtrack is simply rocking! We decided to catch the duo for a chat at their newly done up studio in Mumbai, which has been designed by Andy Munro while Bergess Italia was the architect. Here's how it went…

How did music happen with you guys?
Sulaiman: We seem to have learnt the art of creating lilting melodies in the cradle itself (Laughs). Our father is a musician himself and also deals in marketing musical instruments. This made the base for our passion towards music.
Salim: We started as musicians playing for ads. At that time Sulaiman was 21 and I was 18. People in the ad world used to look at us with a weird attitude. But slowly we started creating jingles and playing it to agencies who began appreciating our work. That's how we became composers.

So you didn't learn music formally?
Sulaiman: Salim has studied classical piano at the Trinity College in London and I had learnt the drums. I also learnt music under Ustad Allah Rakha Khan. So a blend of western and Indian always comes by in our music.

When was the first time you guys decided to take up music as a profession?
Salim: It was in 1993 when we decided to come together and present ourselves as a duo. We did albums for people like Shweta Shetty, Jasmine and Style Bhai. These albums were of international class and we got good response for the same. Then in between film work started happening and we kind of shifted focus, though not intentionally, from albums. However we did produce a few songs like for Viva we did a song called Jago Zara and for Aasma we did Chandu Ke Chacha, which was hugely acclaimed. Besides that we continued arranging albums too.

Did movies happen by chance or was it a planned move?
Sulaiman: Playing for Bollywood happened just by chance. We were recording a small piece for an award function when Sanjay Gupta heard the music we were playing. That very moment he offered us his new film Hamesha starring Kajol and Saif Ali Khan. Along with the background score we also did the songs in the film including the famous Hamesha theme tune, which is still used in several serials and ads.

So Bollywood happened by chance but you guys accepted it as the obvious next step in your career?
Salim: We were scared to step into Bollywood as we were musicians and had just done a few albums. We didn't want to get into the mediocre zone of Bollywood. But we had to progress in life and move ahead so we agreed to do the film. The very fact that we received a nomination for best background for the film Hamesha at the Screen Awards that year gave us the confidence to do a lot of stuff. Thereafter we got going with a lot of films and ultimately got slotted as background composers.

Don't you feel let down when people slot you as background composers?
Sulaiman: Composing background score is a specialist job. In fact sometimes its even more challenging than creating songs. Having worked on films with a wide range of genres today we can say that we have developed an understanding of cinema so much so that we even know to score and when to leave silence depending on the performance.
Salim: The fact that all our films have been appreciated for our work as background composers slot us in a different category, which we are proud of. Be it Darna Mana Hai or Bhoot, Ab Tak Chappan or Qayamat, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi or the soon to be released Matrubhoomi and last year's biggest hits Hum Tum and Dhoom, our background work has not only been appreciated by the critics but also by the common masses. That's our recognition.

You can read the rest of our feature on Salim-Sulaiman in the May 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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