From being a mechanical engineering lecturer to a National Award winner for Best Non-Feature Film Music Direction, Dhrubajyoti Phukan has had quite a journey.
In an exclusive interview for Music Plus’s unique ‘Behind the Recordings’ series, which encompasses the journey and the struggles of sound engineers, designers and more, Dhrubajyoti Phukan shares his experiences of working in the music industry.
“Studies was always my plan B, a safety net just in case my music career fails,” said Phukan.
Along with Kalyan Baruah, guitarist and composer, Phukan became a part of a band that performed at college fests in his home state of Assam. This feat helped him get his first break as a session musician. Senior music director Partha Pratim Chowdhury, who gave him the break, ensured that Phukan learned everything about studio technicalities.
Phukan said, “I consider myself very lucky to have got my first opportunity under Partha Sir.”
While the Assamese music industry experienced a sudden boom, Zubeen Garg became the catalyst to transform the space.
Phukan expresses, “Zubeen is considered as God in Assam. His creativity and talent is insane. He along with Bhupen Hazarika are the greatest talents to have emerged out of Assam.”
Phukan has had numerous opportunities to work with legendary musicians, one of them being Bhupen Hazarika, playback singer, lyricist, musician, singer, poet and film-maker from Assam. Phukan worked with Hazarika on a telefilm and a movie. Phukan has enjoyed working with National award-winning Zubeen Garg, a multi-talented Assamese singer who composed and produced music, directed and produced films as well.
Phukan admits that Zubeen has been one of the favourite artists he had the opportunity to work with. He recalls an incident which involved music composer Pritam, Zubeen Da and himself.
“Zubeen had to catch an early morning flight and Pritam wanted him to dub for a song urgently. Though he agreed to dub for it at given time that day, he was held up due to some work and could only dub at 4am! Pritam was fuming with anger but still proceeded with the dubbing. Zubeen finished the dubbing in 2-3 takes and left for the airport. Pritam at first wasn’t really pleased with the delay in plans and was apprehensive about the result. But when I heard the song, it felt Godly. That rendition is very rare, if an artist is blessed by Almighty only then he can sing so well. Very rarely does a singer have the energy like Zubeen has,” said Phukan.
He added, “After listening to the song once again, Pritam too had the same reaction. That song went on become a popular number among reality show participants on various TV and live performances. That song was chart-topper ‘Jaane Kya Chahe Mann Bawra’ from the movie ‘Pyar Ke Side Effects’.
According to Phukan, another artist who came close to being talented as Zubeen is playback singer Shreya Ghoshal. Recently Phukan was dubbing a tough song for an upcoming movie with Shreya in which some ‘sargam’ parts in the song were harmonised. For a classically trained singer like Shreya this would have been very difficult because of the change in notations. Phukan recollects how Shreya overcome this difficulty.
Phukan adds, “Shreya was on a different level that day. Shreya immediately told me dada this is very difficult to sing but I will sing it as if they are lyrics. She mentally converted the ‘sargam’ parts into ‘lyrics’ and sang it in one take.” This song hasn’t been released yet and the next time you listen Shreya’s superhit song, you know how she managed to sing it.
In an industry where friendships can be difficult to sustain, Phukan particularly mentions his long-standing friendship with Pritam.
“I met Pritam for the first time at Geet Studio in Andheri East and that time he had some crazy ideas for an album which was recording. I was baffled when I heard about his ideas and asked for his views on it. They were great ideas but sadly that album was never released,” said Phukan.
The duo has given the Bollywood industry a lot of hit songs and their association has been successful especially when it comes to thinking out of the box. One such example is ‘ Pyar Karke Pachtaya’ from the movie ‘Pyar Ke Side Effects’ which was one of the first Bollywood songs to be recorded in the Hip Hop genre.
“My successful songs list is very small, most of my songs are flops as I tend to experiment a lot. I have divided my work into two categories – one for the sake of art and the other for the sake of commercial purposes. Commercially also you need to be artistic to be different from the rest and innovation is key to being hit,” remarked Phukan.
Recalling his most satisfying project to date, Phukan admits he is grateful to director Sanjay Gupta for the film ‘Kaante’. Sanjay Dutt, who played one of lead roles in the movie, after hearing the song ‘Jaane Kya Hoga Rama Re’, expressed his wish to sing the song for the movie. The song was sung by a different artist but Dutt felt that the song suited his voice and style.
Phukan adds, “Surprisingly, he sang it very well and hardly took two hours to dub it. Commercially, it was my most satisfying project. Sanjay Gupta supported us immensely even with the time and budget constraints. This helped to get the best out of me and rest will reflect in my work.”
During his interview with Music Plus, Phukan received a phone call from Sanjiv Srivastav which directed the conversation to Phukan’s most cherished memory – winning the National Award for Best Non-Feature Film Music Direction.
Sanjiv had travelled to Himachal Pradesh and shot a short film, ‘Panchakki’, on a shoestring budget. When Sanjiv asked Phukan to work on the background score for it, the sound engineer was overloaded with his ongoing and pending projects. So he began working on the short film only after a couple of months.
He added, “I recorded some folk songs over my phone. The singers, who were in Himachal Pradesh, sang over the phone and I recorded the voice. Later I mastered it and used those recordings as the background score for the entire movie. I finished the project in two days. We never thought that the film would win a National Award for it, forget winning we didn’t even know the procedure to nominate the movie for the National Award.”
Phukan feels they owe their win to ace filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra who guided them and insisted them to send the movie for nominations.
Who knew a mechanical engineering student from Assam was destined for great things in the Indian music industry. We bet humble man Phukan, too, didn’t think so.