By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Mumbai, Sep 22 (IANS) Singer Sonu Nigam, for whom music is the only high, says Bollywood does not provide him enough challenges.
"I don't think the film industry is able to provide me many opportunities. I have to create my own challenges. The challenge of working on a particular 'harkat' or 'alaap' in a classical song is missing.
"I am therefore working on a semi-classical album. I might as well do something I believe in and something I'd be proud of 40 years from now," Sonu told IANS.
Last year, Sonu lost out most of the popular awards to current singing sensation Himesh Reshammiya.
"I don't mind Himesh getting all the awards. But it's an insult to nominate 'Paheli' and 'Aashiq Banaya Aapne' in the same genre for popular awards."
Sonu is equally unhappy with the latest fad in Bollywood of hiring Pakistani singers: "If there's an infiltration we as artists need to tighten our seat belts."
Q: You've become quite a youth icon among singing aspirants.
A: I hadn't noticed this development until two-three years ago when Shaan told me that many of the songs that contestants sang on "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa" were mine. I've begun to realise that good work always touches people's hearts.
As a singer I'm far away from the goal of perfection I've set for myself and maybe I'll never get there. But no harm in trying. I'm just 33 right now. And I hope to improve for at least 10 more years.
Q: Are you getting enough challenges as a singer?
A: I don't think the film industry is able to provide me many opportunities. I have to create my own challenges. This year I will have some great songs in Nikhil Advani's "Salaam-e-Ishq", J.P. Dutta's "Umrao Jaan" and Farhan Akhtar's "Don". I wish Umrao were a man, so I could sing all the songs.
Q: Have you sung "Khai ke paan Banaras wala" in "Don"?
A: I wish I had. As a child I used to dance on that song. By the time I asked Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy they had already signed Udit Narayan-ji. With his north Indian background, he's the right person.
Q: You've quite an impressive list of films.
A: Yes. But the challenge is missing - the challenge I encounter when I sing a classical song and have to work on a particular 'harkat' or 'alaap'. Films won't provide me songs like that. All tracks today are deejay-designed. I can't expect to get something like 'Man mohana bade jhoothe'. And private albums are dead.
The furthest I could go with a non-film pop album was "Chanda Ki Doli" where I showed some classical creativity. I've therefore decided to come out with a semi-classical album. I might as well do something I believe in and something I'd be proud of 40 years from now. The music for my album will be by Deepak Pandit. He is Jagjit Singh's immensely talented violinist.
Q: What do you feel about Himesh Reshammiya's sudden success as a singer?
A: It's easy to criticise someone for singing through his nose. Times are changing. Different voices are coming and being accepted. With Himesh at least a distinctive voice from within the country has found acceptance.
Q: What do you think of all the singers who have come from Pakistan?
A: A few were good. But most of them were strictly okay. Who wants these voices in a country which has heard Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi?
Q: Are you happy with the state of film music in this country?
A: Although I had raga-based songs in "Parineeta" and "Paheli", the songs didn't get any recognition. I don't mind Himesh getting all the awards. But it's an insult to nominate "Paheli" and "Aashiq Banaya Aapne" in the same genre for popular awards.
The genres in film music are expanding. So I can't be competing with Himesh for the popular awards because we represent two different genres in "Aashiq Banaya Aapne" and "Paheli".
The songs from "Zaher", "Aashiq Banaya Aapne", "Aksar" belong to the same genre. The genres have to be separated or our singers will stop doing 'riyaaz'. They'll wonder why they need to work on their voices when they can get awards for simple songs.
Q: Do you think "Aashiq banaya" is easy to sing?
A: Very easy.
Q: Mahesh Bhatt started the trend of bringing Pakistani music in Bollywood.
A: Everyone has the right to do their own thing. But if there's an infiltration artists need to tighten their seat belts. Pakistan has a different flavour and colour of music.
Q: Where do you intend to go as a playback singer?
A: I'm doing too many things at the same time. I love the feeling of being in demand everywhere. I'm not passionate about anything except music. My work is my only high. I love going to judge "Indian Idol". Then I come home catch a flight for a concert and return to work on my classical album. But I miss the glory of playback singing. I wish we had one good music company that could respect a good artist. Nowadays, it's more about putting up with singers out of defiance rather than conviction.
Q: Would you call yourself happily married?
A: Well I am married. One can be happily married. Marriage is a very small part of life. And I'm saying that in front of my wife. There's a lot more to life.