Shreyas Kulkarni

From working in sales to scoring music for CRED’s IPL campaign, meet Karan Malhotra

He went from quitting his job to study jazz for a year to eating salami sandwiches with Daler Mehndi and having the pop legend sing his composition.

“My 'chacha' used to be a huge Guns N' Roses (American rock band) fan. He would listen to them in the morning and I would headbang with him…,” said Karan Malhotra, as he explained to us how his love for music was fostered in his childhood… Today, he is a music composer and one of his latest works is for CRED’s ‘Not everyone gets it’ campaign.

Music was always a part of Malhotra’s life. Be it forcing his parents to buy him a guitar to studying music and instrument when he was seven or eight years old to being part of a band called 'Gravy Train' and doing lots of “travel and gigs alongside work…”

It was only in March 2014, exactly four years after he joined the sales department at Radio Mirchi, that Malhotra decided to take music seriously. He quit his job and studied jazz music for a year, and while at it, “jobs started coming in.”

One of his first jobs was for the now-defunct comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB). It’s where he met its co-founder Tanmay Bhat who, by the way, is the creative director of CRED’s Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign.

“You do a couple of jobs, and somebody gets to know you and recommends you to somebody else,” remarked Malhotra, when we asked him on how he lands gigs. It’s the same process that led him from AIB to media entertainment company Only Much Louder (OML) for 'Pushpavalli' and other shows.

Karan Malhotra
Karan Malhotra

Today, Malhotra’s portfolio includes the likes of Dice Media’s ‘What The Folks’, Disney India’s ‘Girl In The City’, Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Pushpavalli’, ad films for the likes of Pepperfry and a few feature movies…

Speaking about how he approaches each project, Malhotra told us that he treats each differently because every script is different and the vibe of every show is different… “‘Girl In The City’, for example, had a typical fun light-hearted vibe.”

As per the composer, with education and experience, you figure out about the kinds of sounds, and as you keep scoring, you get better and better. “Now, when a show comes to me, it’s easier for me to do it than a year or two ago; to understand the vibe, what the director is looking for… the director is describing his feelings for the show and you have to translate that into music… that process gets easier with time…”

He adds that with experience, “you also get better and become more than just a musician scoring the show, you bring in creative inputs as well…”

On the Govinda CRED spot, he remarks that the team thought the "'Aayenge, aaygene...' line was funny so they went with something like that… even in the Madhuri one, where she does Mora, Saiyaa, Piya… actually it was Tanmay’s idea and that made it funnier so I added it to the music."

It was AIB’s Bhat and former colleagues Puneet Chadha, Nupur Pai and Devaiah Bopanna, who were the creative brains behind the CRED campaign. Bhat brought in Malhotra to score music for the five ads, featuring Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Alka Yagnik and Udit Narayan, Govinda, and Daler Mehndi.

Said Malhotra, “What happened with Daler was magical…” He explained to us that because Mehndi’s ad was supposed to be the last one (in the end, Govinda’s spot was the last), the idea was to do something new and different… they (the team) said, make a love song. “Imagine Daler singing a love song” was the brief.

Mehndi heard Malhotra explain the song (he sang it to Mehndi) to him. The legendary pop star told the composer, “Karanji, bahut hi badhiya track hai,” to which Malhotra responded, “Thank you, sir, app gayenge toh aur bhi chaar chaand lag jayenge.” Mehndi was visiting Delhi and that’s where the recording happened.

Malhotra reminisced the experience of visiting Mehndi’s home, where the pop star served salami sandwiches and tea, and the two spent the entire evening chatting… There was a moment when Mehndi sang the song and Malhotra thought, “Main Daler Mehndi ke ghar pe sandwich khaane ke baad... ab woh mera gaana ga rahe hai… maaza aa gaya, that was the moment for me…”

“With the headphones on and him singing... his voice is so deep, I won’t forget the voice. That’s when I knew how the song will sound like… It was beautiful.”

On the tracks he composed for the other ads, Malhotra said, “I composed the tracks and made them (the actors) hear it…" When we asked if he has a home setup, he nodded and added that nowadays, every composer has a set up at home. Ten or 15 years ago, production houses would hire studios for days and days. Now, the composer finishes the track, does everything and then if you need to record something extra, you go to a studio.

Malhotra told us he is grateful for the campaign. “If you’re part of a successful campaign, it’s very satisfying…” For him, it’s just a process where you get up and follow the process and want your campaign to be successful… these are regular highs of work… “It’s the everyday work that brings you one big success…”