A musical mind

A musical mind

Eternal tunes

Versatile: Sukhwinder Singh

Years later, in 1998, Chal chhaiyya chhaiyya (Dil Se…) happened; Sukhwinder had arrived in Hindi cinema. “I wasn’t trained in music,” he says. “If I can hit the highest notes effortlessly, it is because I practiced naad, which is a form of meditation, and also aumkar (recitation of aum). Today, my riyaaz remains unconventional — I go to Juhu Beach; listen to music; and practice it.”

But Sukhwinder’s tryst with fame wasn’t easy. “I was sent to study in London by my parents. I even released an album there called Munda Southall Da,” he says. “I came down to Mumbai with a very clear idea of where I wanted to go — to Parasmani, the bungalow of the late Laxmikant-(Pyarelal)ji. Laxmiji was very impressed when he heard me sing for three hours. He was shocked when I told him that I did not want a break but just wanted to observe them at work and learn singing and composing from them. When Maine rab se tujhe maang liya from Karma (1986) was being recorded, Pyare bhai asked me to sing a few lines for the faqir featured in the song. That was my debut song,” reminisces Singh.

Eventually, Sukhwinder sang several songs for Laxmikant-Pyarelal, many of them proving to be hits like Teri nigaah pe (Yateem), Aaja sanam (Khilaaf), his first solo, Deewane tere naam ke as well as Ilu ilu, Saudagar sauda kar (Saudagar) and Aaja aaja (Rajkumar), among others. In those days, any singer mentored by Laxmikant-Pyarelal would be lapped up by others and so was Singh. He sang for Anand-Milind, Bappi Lahiri, Raamlaxman, Anu Malik, Nadeem-Shravan and Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen. But despite all the work, Singh couldn’t make it big. “I blame myself for I never ran after anyone and was not easily accessible,” he admits. “I was very young and I had a lot to learn. I went back to London, learnt more about music and came back. I got to score a small film called Sarhad (1994) in which Asha (Bhosle)ji’s Macchi ban jaaongi became popular. And then, I met Rahman.”

Sukhwinder Singh first met A R Rahman when he was called to sing Chal chhaiyya chhaiyya to Chennai. “A musician in Mumbai had recommended me,” he recalls. Even as Sukhwinder Singh’s career skyrocketed with Dil Se…, Rahman came to know that he also wrote poetry, and thus, the title-track of Daud (which was released before Dil Se…) and Nasha hi nasha for Thakshak were born. After this, as a singer, Sukhwinder gave multiple hits for Rahman — Taal, Lagaan, Meenaxi — A Tale Of 3 Cities, Mangal Pandey — The Rising and of course, the Oscar-winning Jai ho from Slumdog Millionaire.

“Rahman always states that when we work together it’s like two composers working on a song,” says Sukhwinder. “This is because Rahman knows a lot of folk music from the north, especially Rajasthan, because of his affinity to the Ajmer Sharif Dargah and also because I love Carnatic music and I am highly influenced by it,” remarks Sukhwinder. “I have learnt from Lata (Mangeshkar) didi that when we, singers, are rendering songs for films, we have to give our inputs so that the song, no matter who the composer is, must sound naturally like our own.”

Even as a composer, Singh has done well. Besides composing for some films like Black And White, his solo compositions in films like Kurukshetra, Daag-The Fire and Monsoon Wedding among others, have been big hits. Twenty five years after he started out, the singer is still top of the charts, be it Ishqiya, Omkara, Veer, Dabangg or the recent Singham. He has just released an album dedicated to Shirdi Sai Baba titled Sai Ram.

Singh believes, “We artistes don’t create; a power above does it for us!”

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