Aashayein is a song from the film Iqbal which I always listen to when I am going up on stage for a performance. It gives me the energy and motivation to perform.

Today on the show I had the pleasure of talking to the two music directors who created this amazing song and many many more super hit songs – Salim and Sulaiman Merchant. The thing that struck me about them first was their down to earth nature. They are so successful, yet so simple. Salim and sulaiman both said that they always concentrate on making good music and when composing a song they never think about how successful it will be. All they do is try to make great music and leave the rest for people to decide.

Salim and Sulaiman have certainly made India proud by composing music and co-producing a musical at the London palladium Beyond Bollywood. They said that every time they are in London they make it a point to watch some musical and they always dreamt of someday having their very own Indian musical staged in London — today their dream is coming true.

Beyond Bollywood is a combination of different cultures and dance forms from India — Punjabi folk music, ‘Gujarati folk music, Marathi lavani and many other different dance forms woven together to the strings of Bollywood music. They have also featured the Ganesha festival on the stage.

Sulaiman joked that they will soon be setting up a travel agency right outside the London Palladium because people watching the musical will certainly feel like going for a trip to India immediately after. Beyond Bollywood is story about a very sweet girl who is living in Munich where her mother has a small Art Theatre where she promotes kathak. But her mother dies and the father who is a drunkard wants to sell the theatre. So this girl travels to India to find a way to save her mother’s theatre. That’s when she falls in love and travels all over India and finds herself through different forms of music. Sulaiman said that it’s a beautiful journey of a girl discovering India in its purest traditional art form. In the 2nd half she goes back to Munich to save the theatre where she presents the show Beyond Bollywood to save her mother’s theatre.

When this girl goes to Mumbai she first gets introduced to Bollywood but that is not what she wants to present so she then decides to travel all over India. He said that the first song that they composed was ‘’Namaste India’’. Sulaiman said that the most common word a westerner would understand or identify with India is ‘’Namaste’’. He said that Namaste means that I bow down to the god in you. Just saying Namaste brings the desi culture to the musical.

Beyond Bollywood had a special feature in the Oliver awards and both Salim and Sulaiman said that was an amazing reaction from the audience. They started with the song ‘’Namaste India’’ and even ended with the same and when the song played in the end the audience was also singing along with them. It was incredible to see everyone sing ‘’Namaste India’’, there was no prejudice of any cast or culture, everyone sang along.

They said that they love giving live performances and it’s a beautiful way of bringing their music to the fans. This is the time to give back to the audiences. The feeling, the joy is unmatchable. Sulaiman said that they have worked in the studio for 15 years but they could witness the love that people have when they perform live. This love is their inspiration to make music.

Salim said that a few years ago he had taken a vacation to Morocco where he listened to so much Rhy and Arabic music at a festival there. At that time they had already made the song ‘’Mar Jawaan’’ but on coming back when he heard it again he felt that it would be good for the director Madhur Bhandarkar to get a good opening shot for the song.They said that they got to experiment a lot in making the music of Fashion.

 ‘’Ali Maula’’ from Kurbaan was initially made as a prayer. They did not want to put it in a film where it might not be portrayed correctly. However, when they were working on Kurbaan and they had completed a few songs, Karan Johar said that they needed a prayer song. That’s when they played Ali Maula for him and he insisted that such a beautiful song should be put in a movie so that it reaches the audiences. This was the first time Salim sang for a song in a movie. We also also spoke about ‘’Yeh Honsla’’ from the movie Dor. Salim mentioned that students often listen to this song during exam time and find it very soothing.

Salim said that he had had a few offers to act in films but knew that the business of acting was rather tough, especially to sustain the love and respect given by people. I think he would be great though! I really enjoyed talking to them and getting to know all the interesting stories behind the making of their songs.

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