The voice behind the wildly popular songs Munna Rap and Raakh from Mirzapur, Anand Bhaskar is an Indian playback singer, music producer and composer who is well-known for his soulful music. After leaving behind a high-profile corporate job, Anand set out to pursue his dream in the music world. His debut as a playback singer in Bollywood with Get Ready to Fight Again from Tiger Shroff’s blockbuster Baaghi 2 was followed by a playback performance in the song ‘Shaabaashiyaan’ in Misson Mangal and composing songs for Mirzapur (seasons 01 and 02) which received widespread recognition. Since then, Anand has come a long way from forming a band, Anand Bhaskar Collective, known for their unique sound and loyal fanbase, to composing the score of Amazon mini TVs film Gray, web series Masoom on Hotstar and Dr. Arora on SonyLIV in addition to composing songs on Netflix’s Bombay Begums’ OST. From a brand new album in the works with ABC and scores and songs for new web series and films, Anand Bhaskar is on the brink of stardom and creating a wave in the Indian music industry.
1. What has been an essential part of your creative process when working on the original background score for Imtiaz Ali’s web series Dr. Arora?
A – The opportunity to work on a project as unique and fresh as Dr. Arora was inspiration enough to ensure that all our ideas right from the drawing board were produced using non-traditional methods. My co-composer Ajay Jayanthi and I decided that the story and visuals were rustic enough in their presentation, so elevating the essence of that story with contrasting music was essential. Traditionally when you see a small town on the screen, you end up hearing complementary music that is local to that area. We decided to write the entire score using modern elements while also embracing traditional music components, and this approach led to what you hear on the score. This was something that Imtiaz, Sajid and Archit immediately resonated with and we realised that maintaining that contrast musically was the essential core that we needed to stick to.
2. Among working on music for films, OTT series, albums and advertisements, which have you found to be the most rewarding, and why?
A – I’ve always maintained that every project that I compose music for has its own rewards. I treat every project like a school. For example, when I was just writing songs, I found it hard to score 30-second and 1-minute long films for ads because I had never done that. However, scoring ad films helps you learn how to punctuate a visual with music. This helped me in understanding how film scoring works. So I feel that the learnings are the rewards of each project. However, I do gravitate towards OTT projects a bit more because we have a lot more freedom to experiment and imbue the music we write with our own musical influences as opposed to writing music that’s more manufactured than organically written for commercial success.
3. Music is getting ample recognition in the OTT/digital space? Comment on the future of music in OTT which is way different from films.
A – Music is only NOW getting recognition in the OTT space, that too after the big players started commissioning already reputed artists to write music for their projects. Prior to this music was just a support function and wasn’t given a lot of attention, at least in the OTT space, because our country is a song-driven culture. Even now, background score composers don’t get the recognition they deserve because, you can still take the songs out of the equation and make the show, but you can never make a show without a good background score unless that’s the original intent of the producers. However, I do feel that music in the OTT space will reach a level of great recognition, to the point that we will now see a culture of releasing OSTs that will not only consist of songs but also important instrumental themes that are extremely imperative to the existence and evolution of the story of the said project. OTT audiences have steadily shown an increasing interest in instrumental themes from shows, which means that albums don’t need to necessarily have JUST songs, the entire soundtrack can now be released for public consumption. The old-school worldview of making everything we consume in the form of films and shows, only about songs is dying and I am absolutely thankful for this entire paradigm shift.
4. Which project of your own would you want audiences to watch or listen to first?
A – I would love for audiences to go watch ‘Masoom’ on Hotstar and ‘Dr. Arora’ on SonyLIV. I am very proud of those scores and I feel like we’ve created something fresh and consistently stayed off the beaten path. We’ve used musically contrasting themes to highlight key elements of these stories and I think I’d love it if more and more people watched these shows.
5. Is there anybody you idolise and look up to in the industry, as a music composer?
A- I definitely look up to A.R. Rahman and Amit Trivedi. These two have always stuck to their guns and the result is there for all to see.
6. What is your dream? Do you wish that every movie must have an Anand Bhaskar song?
A – My dream is to build a world where people actually gave a damn about people other than just the SINGER of the song. Like I said, our culture is about songs and the singer that sang that song. A large majority of the audience doesn’t care about who composed the song or who wrote the lyrics. They’re only concerned about who sang the song, not realising that the singer is just one aspect of a song. There’s a LOT more that goes on in a song than just the singer’s performance. I don’t wish for every movie to have a song by me, I’d rather work on films that tell important stories, whether commercial or not. As long as they are important stories, I’d like to help them evolve with my music. And I purposely stay away from projects where I’m not writing the entire music. I stay away from projects that work with multiple composers, it just doesn’t make sense to me. Every project has a unique musical identity and it doesn’t make sense to have too many cooks spoiling the broth. I also eventually want to establish a record label and maybe get into teaching youngsters about the music business and the art of composing and arranging. I want to build a better educational infrastructure for kids who want to become professional musicians.
7. Is there a recent soundtrack or album you’ve been listening to that you enjoy and would recommend to fans?
A – I’ve been listening to the Stranger Things, Ozark and Arcane soundtracks. The sheer range of sounds and ideas these three albums offer make them a must-listen for everybody.
8. From the conference room to life on stage? How has been your journey so far?
A – This life I have as a professional musician is because of the corporate life I had. It gave me a sense of exactly what I DID NOT want and it trained me for the business aspects of the music industry. So the journey from a corporate job to a full time creative one has been very rewarding. I report to myself and that makes me excel at what I do. I get to focus on so many other aspects of my creativity now. My journey started as a singer for hire, even though it was only a stepping stone in my journey to become a professional composer. I’ve sung for over a 1000 commercials, two film songs and almost three albums worth of independent songs. Somewhere along the line I understood the importance of learning music production, audio engineering and music mixing principles. So in 2018 I started devoting myself to learning everything I possibly can about these skills and ended up producing a lot of my own music, a lot of which is out now in the public domain.
9. What makes you a better artist?
A – I feel I become better every time I refuse to settle for something for the sake of convenience. And this applies heavily to my music. My goal is to always make a song sticky enough for my listeners. So a lot of times I’ve completely deleted everything I’ve made for a song and start from scratch. I am not afraid of investing myself in something to the point that it sounds so good that I am convinced that it’s going to be liked by everybody. I think it’s this lack of fear that makes me become better every day. That aside, the other thing that makes me a better version of myself is my hunger to do everything. When people asked me in the beginning “What do you want to do in music?”, I would say “EVERYTHING!”. I want to sing, compose, play multiple instruments, perform live, tour the world. I want to have everything that the world of music can possibly offer me, and for that I work EXTREMELY hard. And this makes me a better artist.
10. Tell us about your upcoming projects.
A – I am working on the score of a film titled ‘Thai Massage’ with my friend and bandmate Ajay Jayanthi. This is a film produced by Window Seat Films, directed by Mangesh Hadawale and presented by Imtiaz Ali. That aside, I’m also working on the songs from Mirzapur Season 03, 2 shows and another film that I can’t talk about right now. In the independent space, I am writing what I call ‘my solo album’ that is an expression of my creativity in the pop/electronic space. I am also working on my band Anand Bhaskar Collective’s third album. So my audience can expect a lot of music in the near future.
11. Any advice for aspiring singers who want to make it big in the Indian music industry?
A – My advice to ALL singers is to learn music production and not JUST focus on being ‘singers’. Our musical culture makes people gravitate towards just ONE skill and it’s very debilitating in the long run. I want anybody who can sing or play something to learn ALL aspects of music production, arrangement and distribution. It’s extremely important to be a jack of all trades now. I would also highly recommend singers to stop aping popular voices in Bollywood and work on their own voice, their own singing style and their own ORIGINAL music. While you can continue to pitch yourself as a vocalist to composers, nothing is stopping you from releasing and distributing your original music. It’s something you can build while you start getting opportunities in commercial projects. As musicians, we have to think of a career in music just like a job. We need to build our repertoire of skills to make sure that we get ‘promotions’ just like we get them in corporate jobs.
12. Any new tracks/singles coming up by Anand Bhaskar Collective?
A – Anand Bhaskar Collective’s next single ‘Dholaa’ is a collaboration with the amazing Mame Khan. It’s still under production, but we’ll be releasing it very soon.