Santosh Mulekar

The art of the artist behind composing

Santosh Mulekar is a composer, music director and pianist who is taking his family legacy of music ahead. He started his career at a very young age. Initially, he started accompanying his father in his shows, who is an accordion player; his father identified the interest and taught him music and nurtured his dreams.  After working as a jingle composer, and composing for ad films and remixes, Santosh kick started his career in Bollywood as a programmer and arranger with Amar Haldipur and worked with some legend composers like Lakshmikant Pyarelal, Adhesh Shrivatsav, Pascal Eny, Sandeep Chauta, Ismail Darbar, etc. He has also composed music for films like Hridayanath (2012), Yeda’2013, I am Kalam’2010 and Ye Faasle’2011 to name a few. Ekk Albela 2016. Nostalgia hits here, his debut album, was produced and composed by him. As a live performing artist, Santosh played with many renowned musicians like Asha Bhonsle, Jagjit Singh, Shankar Mahadevan, and Kavita Krishnamurthy. He’s not only a shining star in Bollywood but also in the Marathi Film industry, doing some impeccable work.

For every music composer there is an inspiration, a muse, what was your inspiration?
As Musicians, we are always in the learning process throughout our lives, because music is like an ocean, its infinite. We take a sip and we feel like we’ve had everything but the more you drink, the more you crave. Your craving is never satisfied. It takes ages to learn music, we are students for life. So, the inspiration came from my teachers, many musicians like Mozart, Bach, John Williams, I listen to all them and it inspires me. They have done a lot in their lives and I am still learning.

Can you take us through your process of making a song, where and how do you start?
Okay, so what happens is, a director comes in and he tells the story, and it has a subject, so according to that story we start composing. Sometimes there’s a song hidden in the story and it comes from within, we have to do nothing, just read between the lines. If you’re in the process, when we listen to a story, our brain automatically starts learning and processing, what can be done with this story and today everything is electronic, so we can easily program a song and test it out.  we play it for the director and if they’re happy, we go ahead with it, with some improvements we get the final song. The story plays an important role, the subject is important.

Album music is different, we just make the music we want to and then we come with a story but in film music. We don’t have to compose music, it naturally comes to us, if you’re an artist you first learn the art then later, creativity comes to you. We just have to harness that blessing, it’s like god has already sown the seed we just have to nurture it.

Can you share an incident of any project which was personally challenging for you?
I believe almost every project is challenging cause when we compose some music and then the director comes in and they have a vision of what their songs going to be like, so they ask you to make a few adjustments here and there, then again producer has his inputs, so I feel like you have to satisfy everyone which is very difficult. We recently made a Marathi film, with Ajay Gogavle (Ajay-Atul) called Basta’ 2021, it released on ZEE we made a song for it, when the writer heard it, he gave some tips, then director heard it and said this is good but let’s do something different, then the second time we made something else he didn’t like it either, with the process we slowly came up with something, which resonated with the director’s storyline. It took around 10-11 days to compose the music. It took 2-3 months to make the song because we have to take care of other aspects as well. I’ll send you the link please watch the movie, Shankar Mahadevan has also sung for it.

It’s a process and it’ll always be like this, and we enjoy it because we get to experiment and try new things, which also enhances our creativity because we work on it and it is like mediation, we don’t need to meditate separately, you keep your work in mind and it’ll feel like meditation.

Out of all your previous projects, if I ask you to pick your favorite, which one would it be?
Around 4 years I did background score for this Marathi film, Katyar Kaljyat Ghusali’ 2015, and it had Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Shankar Ji suggested they have me do their Background score and that movie was a hit and after that other projects started coming in me.

artist of the month - santosh mulekarwhen you compose music, when you create a rhythm, how would you describe your pattern?
Sometimes when I sit to make music, I come up with nothing, like when I sit on my piano, don’t think about it and just start playing but for this, you need to learn music and it’s also really important that you listen to music. It’s 40% practice and 60% practice, you must listen to different kinds of music every day whatever genre you like, what I mean is whatever you listen you learn, everything is connected, music is done, it’s already made, Lord Krishna already made the music and all the ragas now what you have to do is, just compliment it and make a song. All ragas are already made, we just have to give it direction. So, what we do is *starts humming* and you feel like it is going somewhere and it feels good, we write it down and we start programming and it’s a process and you come up with a line. You improvise further and the song goes in its direction and then we try to find a situation to go along with it like a happy boy, going to school. You asking me all these questions is also creativity, now how these questions come up in your mind.

You have been working for so many years and with so many what’s the best advice you have ever received and from whom, that you have integrated with your principles.
I had a guru who was like a father figure to me, he didn’t ask me for a single penny from me, I just used to learn from me and he used to teach me, his name was Benny Satamkar, I have had many teachers there was Pallav Pandya, Ramona Bothwick, Tony Pinto sir, and anyone I can learn from is like a teacher to me, so I keep learning. Benny Satamkar once said that music is directly linked with nature and you first need to be a good human, you learn from it because you meet a different kind of people and you learn from it so he used to say be a good person you’ll automatically become a good person, and as you age you learn new things you go through ups and downs, it is very important, if you’re sad, there will come something out of it, unless you fail, you won’t learn. So just be a student forever and never stop learning cause once you stop you won’t be able to do anything.

As we are returning to normal after pandemic, what changes have you observed during this time in your fraternity?
It was a really difficult period for all of us as there was no work, I can program from home but I still couldn’t meet people, but again no we are back on track and the work has started coming, but one thing has become evident that one must not be dependent on others especially artists we all need to have something of our own. Because today the system has completely changed like people earlier used to go in the studio to work, and now you can work at home, so today you need to have a source of income, cause in 5 years I believe everything is gonna change. Because you’ll have to find your work, and the whole world is engrossed in audio and video streaming platforms like Spotify, so independent artists should put up their work online and enhance their skill. So that you can benefit from the internet, it is very essential, you need to strengthen yourself and establish yourself because in the future it’s gonna be really difficult.

How has your association been with Swar Aalap and Dinesh sir?
My experience has been amazing I’ve known him for years, he is a good artist and he has a lot of respect for all the artists, because I have observed how he has given all the musicians a platform to showcase their talent. After all, Musicians are not usually famous and they need to have their own identity, and it’s not easy to be a musician, it’s really important to learn music, and an artist puts in a lot of effort to master an instrument, and Dinesh Bhai is helping so many of us by getting us recognition, Swar Aalap is the best platform to come up for musicians and I am very grateful for him.

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Comments (4)

  • Ravindra kharat Reply

    Too good article… Absolute experience shared by Santosh dada… Nicely explained d differnce between film music and a song album… Very nice…
    Stay blessed Santodh dads…???

    18 April 2021 at 4:50 pm
  • Alkesh Ranga Reply

    Very Nice Keyboard playor, We played Together Some times, Very Talented Musician and Arranger Now, Keep it Up My Friend ,I also play Keyboard from Last 35 Yrs in Music and Film Industry, All The Best,

    19 April 2021 at 8:25 am
  • पंकज जैन Reply

    संतोष जी जैसे मंजे हुए प्रभावी कलाकार के बारे में इतना विस्तार से जानने का अवसर मिला । स्वर आलाप के अथक प्रयासों से ये प्रतिभाएं उभरकर पटल पर आ रही है जिसका लाभ आने वाली पीढ़ी को अवश्य लेना ही चाहिए

    संतोष जी जैसे महान कलाकार का आत्मीय अभिवादन

    19 April 2021 at 5:10 pm
  • Mukund Deshpande Reply

    वाह, क्या बात है

    20 April 2021 at 11:31 am

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