It was not a slow transition. Bollywood music, suddenly, went from something we enjoyed with headphones on to the hot property of every dance floor. Cutting across demographics, the desi crowd to the too-cool-for-Hindi-music, everybody wants to Tamma Tamma. This is the current army of music composers that is changing the grammar of Hindi film music, one party hit at a time.
The undisputed face of Bhangra Pop and Bollywood Dance Music (BDM) in the country right now, Badshah’s work may leave you cold when you’re sober, but every desi needs him post midnight on weekends. The age old like-him-hate-him-cannot-ignore-him sits perfectly with this man. He’s everywhere; even prissy clubs that avoid Bollywood music because *cough* pleb *cough* play his music later in the proceedings, because everybody wants to groove to it. What is it about Badshah’s music that’s making it so hot? To begin with, he understands the utility of music very well. His scores are set to an audio formula that is both catchy and hummable, with drops that are perfectly timed, and a groove that is club-ready. It’s the kind of music that everybody wants to turn a party up with. He marries the best of EDM (minus the repetitiveness) with the drama of Hindi cinema. Thus, you get a cocktail of thumpa-thumpa with all the nautanki that makes for a fun party.
Badshah started off with Punjabi hip hop, but with DJ Waley Babu (the video hit a million views on YouTube in under 30 hours) and Selfie Le Le Re – and the sudden fade out of Yo Yo Honey Singh – everybody wanted him. Yes, the industry is fad-oriented, but he delivered. Collaborating with top singers and composers, composing for regional films and working with international stars like The Vamps, his discography is enviable. The best part is that when you include dance music as a part of a soundtrack, you don’t have to spend money on getting the hit tracks remixed for radio and nightlife consumption. That’s smart marketing.
What also makes him popular is that he has been able to expand beyond music. Unlike most music composers, he is instantly recognizable. He is friends with top actors and producers, and has been able to take himself out of the pind and make himself accessible and metropolitan, something that most Punjabi pop stars are unable to do. It’s difficult to ignore his personal style and his love for luxe bombers and Balenciaga Triple S. Badshah has been able to create a brand for himself and is a representation of the new-money desi that most of his consumers are aspiring to be. They want to grind to Hindi music while wearing Versace, and he’s leading the chorus.
He’s the man behind the biggest remix hits of last year – you might hate Bagchi’s music in public, but Dilbar is your jam by night, right? While Bagchi has been composing original music since his debut with Tanu Weds Manu Returns, his remakes have catapulted him to fame – and brought brickbats. Despite the criticism, you cannot deny the fact that they have been massive hits. It takes gumption to take some of the most enduring Hindi film songs and make them club-ready, and both Humma Humma and Tamma Tamma (we see what happened there) are still playing on the radio, as are Dilbar and Hawa Hawai 2.0. Both of Simmba’s hits, Aankh Maarey and Tere Bin were produced by him – even though Karan Johar made a micro-appearance in Aankh Maarey, whining about “ek aur remix!”, he has understood the potential of Bagchi too – as much as 12 remixes are already lined up for this year, as of now. His originals have been hits, too. Bareilly Ki Barfi, Tumhari Sulu and Badhaai Ho had kickass OSTs – and we’re still humming Bolna, from Kapoor And Sons.
With quirky sounds and interesting OSTs, Sachdev is one of Bollywood’s youngest guns, ready to fire winners. Sachdev is relatively new to Bollywood, though he has worked in Hollywood for quite a while now. The music composer first rose to prominence in the country when he worked on the 2017 film Phillauri, which starred Anushka Sharma and Diljit Dosanjh in the lead roles. Following that, he composed the title track for the black comedy Kaalakaandi, and followed that up with chartbusters like Pappi Le Loon, Bas Gira De Raja and Aa Jao Na from the blockbuster hit Veere Di Wedding. He’s also worked with one of the biggest sound engineers in the world, Grammy Award winner Tony Maserati. This year, he drove everyone wild with the Uri: The Surgical Strike OST, especially Challa, proving that he can shoulder a complete OST in the age of multi-composer albums, and deliver a smashing hit.
2016 was Amaal’s breakthrough year, with melodies in films like Kapoor and Sons, Baaghi, MS Dhoni and Baar Baar Dekho. Amaal works heavily with lilting melodies and ballads, moving away from the current trend in the industry, but his recent works have been critically acclaimed too, especially in films like Chef, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya. He can definitely knock dance tracks out of the park, as he proved with Kar Gayi Chull and Aashiq Surrender Hua.
While Ajay-Atul have been working in Hindi films for a while now (they have worked on films like Singham, PK and Agneepath), they received national acclaim and fandom with Sairat. When Karan Johar roped them in to re-create the soundtrack for Sairat’s remake, Dhadak, Ajay-Atul had truly arrived. Zingaat will definitely be one of this generation’s favourite tracks to let their hair down to. Their new-found popularity in Bollywood brought in a bunch of high-profile projects, especially Thugs of Hindostan and Zero. Ajay-Atul produce slices of old school romantic ballads fused with millennial yuppy that make them favourites with every demographic. Zero’s Mere Naam Tu is a perfect example of that amalgamation. This year, they are creating the sounds for Hrithik Roshan’s Super 30 and Ashutosh Gowariker’s Panipat.
Remember Pani Da Rang, from Vicky Donor? That was composed by Kohli. After a slow couple of years, Kohli turned it up a few notches from 2016 onwards. He has composed hits for MS Dhoni, Wazir, Qarib Qarib Singlle, Aiyaary, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Batti Gul Meter Chalu and Badhaai Ho. He kicked this year off with Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (every wedding played Gud Naal Ishq Mitha this year), and made it very clear that from romantic ditties to remixed mehendi tracks, he can do anything.
Darshan Raval is undoubtedly India’s biggest breakout music star. It started with him putting out covers of popular Bollywood songs on YouTube. That got him into the reality singing show, India’s Raw Star in 2014, and though he didn’t win the show, he soon went on to sing Jab Tum Chaho for Salman Khan’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. Along with being an Instagram celebrity, this 24-year old’s singles like Tere Siva, Yeh Baarish and Nayan Se have raked in over 45 million views on YouTube alone. This year, Raval sung the title track for Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga and he was also the voice behind last year’s Dandiya hit, Chogada and it would be safe to say that’s the only thing people took away from Loveyatri. With over 2.5 million followers on Instagram and around 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube, this young gun is one to watch.