A young man, came in quietly into the Indian music scene and then within a short frame of time quite literally stormed and rocked Bollywood. Recently, he has impressed everyone to a point where directors and producers alike have sat up and taken notice. Meet Sanchit Balhara, a music composer for Indian films and now lately best known for composing the score of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 2015 epic historical film, Bajirao Mastani!

Winning the Zee Cine Awards and Mirchi Music Awards as Background Music Composer for Bajirao Mastani, he has also been nominated for the same in the Star Screen Awards and Filmfare Awards and the forthcoming Global Indian Music Awards. Earlier in 2013, he did two films as music composer and three films as arranger and music producer/programmer in 2014. One of the films, Ram-Leela, which he produced the score for, was again directed by one of the most popular directors of Indian Cinema, Mr. Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The film went on to become the third highest grossing Bollywood film of 2013.

A quick rewind to 2001… The period when Sanchit and his older brother Ankit lived with their parents’ right opposite our place at Panchkula. We bumped into each other often… The families bonded and I was affectionately called ‘Didi’ by them. First as seniors in the same school that my children went to and later as college going adults, the brothers always sported either a musical instrument or a squash/tennis racquet slung on their shoulders as they zipped off on their bikes. The lilting sound of music would travel across to our place and soon the tunes became familiar.

It came as no surprise when the boys set out to make their mark in the Indian film industry with Ankit taking up acting and singing and Sanchit composing music. Sons of the most popular Haryanvi singer cum actor, Bhal Singh Balhara and Mukta Chaudhary who in her hey days was adjudged the best athlete of Haryana for five consecutive years, the boys had it in their genes and blood. “We always had a musical environment in our family; we still do,” says Sanchit proudly. Apart from being a very popular singer/actor/director of Haryanvi movies, his father also served as a government officer with the government of Haryana. He retired last year from his government job as the Additional Director (Public Relations and Cultural Affairs, Haryana). His mother is a homemaker. Without their support, Sanchit tells me that he could not have achieved what he has or come this distance.

Sanchit is very candid when he says, “If there were any profession other than music that I would have pursued, it would have been tennis. I used to play lawn tennis with the utmost passion. I guess my sports genes come from my mother, who was an amazing athlete in her youth. During my college days, I represented my college to win many medals at university and state level championships. Tennis still continues to be one of my favourite sports.”

When Sanchit was born, his parents made sure that the first sound he ever heard was that of music. They wanted him to have a good musical ear. Their genes and maybe that first sound of music had such an effect on him that he was always drawn towards music ever since he can recall. He remembers that as a kid, he used his badminton rackets as dummy guitars and strummed them along the guitar music playing on the stereo. But his first ever experience with the piano, he recalls, goes back to 1995 when his parents gifted him a Casio keyboard. He was 7 years old and was not able to do much with it for about an hour or so. But right after that, the notes he was playing started making some tune not just to his ears but to his family as well. Extremely excited, they came and stood next to him to see him playing that very tune again and again. He played it, not perfectly, but good enough for them to figure out which song it was. That was the day when he discovered his bond with music.

And since then, on all of his following birthdays, he would get a musical instrument as a gift. More than anything else musical instruments would hold his rapt attention. Sanchit would spend most of his time understanding, studying and of course playing them. The best memories that he has from his school days are of the times when he used to rehearse and practice in the school’s music band.

Even today, the time he spends composing music is the most satisfying. It doesn’t seem like he is practicing something or working hard… On the contrary, it just feels like he is enjoying his time. Very early in his life Sanchit had made up his mind that he would only pursue a career which he would enjoy doing. His passion for music was the primary reason for him to pursue it as a profession.

In many ways composing is a mystery – there is no one formula that can be followed which will then produce a great piece of music. However, Sanchit believes that there are certain principles and patterns which are worth noting and learning, and these can lead to writing music which works, and maybe even along the way create something truly great. It’s all about specialized instrumental techniques, electronic and computer music, composing, song writing, compositional techniques and musical styles. You need the right mind-set to become a composer it goes without saying of course.

It’s all about being taught, working hard at becoming good at it, using a blend of techniques, formulas, schemes, models and getting your rewards and fun out of it. In layman terms: Musical composition is the process of making or forming a piece of music by combining the parts, or elements of music.

Sanchit likes to create music out of his past experiences – his understanding of music theory, what he’s studied and listened to, what he would like to hear himself maybe. So it really is all about putting together the different elements of music. He did his music training from the Trinity College, London, and the Point Blank College, London from where he learnt Music Production and Sound Engineering. His initial schooling was in Hansraj Public School, Panchkula. Then he completed his BA from DAV College, Chandigarh and his Masters diploma in Journalism from Punjab University and a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from Kurukshetra University. He believes that hard work and learning are a never ending process. He has always worked hard on his skills to enhance them and refine his craft; and says that he will still continue to do so. The more he practices the more he learns. Sanchit couldn’t really give me a time frame on exactly how many hours he practiced as he says it takes him into another world and he loses all track of time. So he just practices away as proper practice prevents poor performance and that’s the only key to success he insists.

While growing up in Chandigarh he had always listened to various styles of music; be it Indian classical or Indian folk or European classical or any other style of world music. When he went to London to study music, all that music came in very handy. And after completing his education, when he decided to move back to India to pursue his career in Indian films, his first thought was that blending world music with Indian folk and classical could be an exciting approach for Indian films’ music. He saw a lot of scope in the Indian film industry and a huge potential in Indian music.

Thus came the big move to Mumbai. He started sending his samples to the music composers who were already working in the industry. That’s when he got associated with Mr. Monty Sharma and worked on projects like Ram-Leela. Sanchit explains in detail, “While working on Ram-Leela, I had a great opportunity to meet the utterly passionate and the best director of our times, Mr. Sanjay Leela Bhansali. But it was only in 2015 that I approached him with my music regarding Bajirao Mastani. Considering the perfectionist he is, it goes without saying that I had to pass a lot of tests before he finally signed me for the film. I can’t thank him enough for believing in me and giving me such a big break. Since he’s got an extraordinary musical sense, he brought the best out of me. It took a lot of hard work and his inputs, for me to produce the score of Bajirao Mastani. I completely enjoyed the journey as it was nothing short of an enlightening experience for me. I got so much to learn from him. He, simply, is a genius.”

Sanchit feels very content and fortunate to have worked on probably one of the biggest films of Indian Cinema ever. Now that the film has been a success and his music is getting recognition, it’s an inexplicable feeling for him. He is extremely grateful for this chance where he spent all his energy and gave it his best shot. He hopes to take his music to the International market and open new doors of opportunities. Here’s wishing him the very best!