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Mohit Chauhan On Masakali 2.0: Can Understand What Rahman Sir Is Feeling, I've Experienced It Too

Mohit Chauhan, left, and A. R. Rahman perform at the 2017 International Indian Film Academy Festival's IIFA Rocks at MetLife Stadium on Saturday, July 15, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Image: AP)

Mohit Chauhan, left, and A. R. Rahman perform at the 2017 International Indian Film Academy Festival's IIFA Rocks at MetLife Stadium on Saturday, July 15, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Image: AP)

Mohit Chauhan, who sang the original Masakali, said that it's unjustified to recreate an old song without even consulting its original creator.

Bearing in mind the attitude and energy of Delhi 6's Masakali, it is difficult to imagine anyone else singing it better than Mohit Chauhan. The way he filled every note with his rich and textured voice was really satisfying. It may not be as much his song as it is AR Rahman's, but his vocals played a major part in making Masakali what it is today.

It is therefore understandable that there is a huge disappointment over its recreation by Tanishk Bagchi.

"I haven't really seen the song. I just heard the snippet of it. I know that Rahman sir is very upset," Chauhan told us.

Shortly after Bagchi's recreated version titled Masakali 2.0 dropped online, Rahman tweeted a link of the original song and wrote, “No short cuts, properly commissioned, sleepless nights, writes and re-writes. Over 200 musicians, 365 days of creative brainstorming with the aim to produce music that can last generations.”

Masakali's lyricist Prasoon Joshi also expressed his displeasure and called for protecting "the sanctity of original music and poetry."

Chauhan said that it's unjustified to recreate an old song without even consulting its original creator.

"I know Rahman sir has tweeted about it and even Prasoon sir showed his disapproval. I believe that music is something which connects with the soul. An artiste creates music out of thin air. Masakali didn't exist before Rahman sir composed it. Suddenly out of thin air, he composes the song and Prasoon sir writes it, and then I was fortunate enough to sing it. And, suddenly it takes life and becomes what it is. So, if somebody wants to take that song and make something else out of it, then the original creator of that particular piece of music needs to be consulted or permission must be taken from that person," Chauhan said.

Chauhan believes that the ultimate ownership of the song should be with the creator of the song because it is their baby before anyone else's.

"It's like a patent; you come up with a scientific idea and you patent it for life. Because it was your idea in the first place, people should pay for that and take permission for that. Basically it's your thing. Today in this world, an idea is the biggest thing. I think the ownership of music or art is important and should remain with its creator. Otherwise how do you maintain exclusivity? I think it's a piggyback riding. But having said that, I believe there are many musicians who are very, very original and want to make good music but that needs to be pushed more. Original stuff should be coming out more rather than riding piggyback on old songs which are already successful," the singer said.

He further said that singers cannot bring about a change alone and the entire music industry, along with the big labels, need to step up.

"I think the whole system needs to come together on this issue. One most important thing is that the people who write about music bring this issue to the public. Secondly, you can insert a clause in your contract and many people are doing it now.

"I recently sang some songs for films before the lockdown was imposed and I got to speak to a couple of young music directors who told me that they are now refusing to work with people who are asking them to give over the ownership of their songs. They want to put in a contract that music labels cannot recreate, change, cut and paste or remove the vocals and have somebody else sing it 10 years from now or tamper with their creation in anyway without taking the permission," he said.

Chauhan, who began his musical career with indie band Silk Route, said he's also been facing something similar for the longest time.

"I started my career with Dooba Dooba when I was with Silk Route. It was a super successful song and I even sing it today in my concerts. Now, I have heard like 30-40 versions of Dooba Dooba. And, people have turned it into Valentine's version of Dooba Dooba, disco version of Dooba Dooba, dance party version of Dooba Dooba and what not. Nobody writes to me or tells me that we are recreating your song. I get to hear it from somewhere.

"In my last solo album Fitoor, there is a song called Mai Ni Meriye, I adapted that song from a very ancient folk tune which is very different. But I adapted it and I made it my own and I recorded it. After me, 20 people have sung that song with videos as if it's their song. And, kahin pe chota sa likha hua hota hai that originally sung by Mohit Chauhan. But it's my song. What about asking me and taking permission? So, I can understand what Rahman sir is feeling now. They have also changed the lyrics in new Masakali. I think only 10-20% lyrics from the original song have been retained. They should not even call it Masakali. These kind of tracks need to be called out. Also, the industry needs to sort of put pressure to stop these kinds of things," he added.

From traditional heartbreak ballads like Tujhe Bhula Diya and Saiyaara to high-performing contemporary rock numbers such as Sadda Haq and Jo Bhi Main, the 54-year-old singer's best songs are a grab bag of different styles. The one thing that ties them all together is the consistent strength of his vocal performances.

However, Chauhan emphasised on the importance of breaking the monopoly of film music and giving push to more independent artistes instead.

"There was a time when a lot of music directors were making really melodious music and compositions. In the recent times, those kind of melodies have been off and on. But now people are finally speaking against this trend and are fed up with Hindi film music scene, so much so that a whole lot of them have now started listening to non-film music. And, I really hope that people really come out and show their support to these songs and music companies promote more original music. But these songs should not sound like filmy songs; for instance, Dooba Dooba, Boondein or Lucky Ali songs have their own romance and beauty. I hope people push that kind of music which is beautiful and rooted, and yet it has something new in it."

When asked if there's enough support for independent music from the industry and music companies, Chauhan said, "I think more is required. Good artistes should be promoted from all over India. We have some great music talent in north east. It should not be all very filmy. It should have all different kinds of flavours being pushed."