He has a rich legacy of memorable songs behind him. Composer Uttam Singh, who gave us hits like Le gai le gai (Dil Toh Pagal Hai, DTPH; 1997) and Main nikla gaddi leke (Gadar – Ek Prem Katha, 2001) has been missing from the Bollywood music circuit for nearly seven years. Now he is making a comeback of sorts with the Kangana Ranaut-starrer, Rajjo. In this candid chat, he talks about the state of Hindi film music and why he left for so long.
What kept you busy in the last seven years? Why the hiatus?
Work comes and goes. It doesn't affect me if I don't have work. I am a musician and my continuous endeavour is to learn. When I didn’t have any film projects in hand, I was working on bettering my skills. I also composed music for some Punjabi serials.
What’s your take on contemporary Bollywood music?
I joined the industry in 1962 and have been here for over 50 years. Back then, it was known as the Bombay film industry and everything about it used to be real and creative. When it became Bollywood, it became a copy of Hollywood. Though we are making commercially successful films, Bollywood music has lost its creativity. Urdu used to be an important part of film music, but that has now disappeared. If today's music is great, why do people still hum old songs? Though people used to copy a bit even then, most of the work used to be original, including the lyrics. Nowadays, everything is copied.
Tell us about the music of Rajjo.
I have used only live instruments while recording the music and I’m happy with the way it sounds. In the present era of jazz, blues and rock, I have composed a song that’s based on raag Ahir Bhairav.
Among all the tracks you have composed, which ones are your all-time favourites?
I had a great time composing the music for DTPH. It has a special place in my heart as it gave me an identity in the industry. Ghodi jaisi chaal and Are re are-- are my favourite songs from the film. Besides these numbers, Mere pyar ki umar (Waaris; 1988), Udja kale kawan (Gadar; 2001) and Hath choote bhi toh (Pinjar; 2003) are also my favourites.
You also shared a close bond with Jagjit Singh. Tell us about your association.
He was like a brother. We recorded Chitthi na koi sandes (Dushman, 1998) three times as he wasn't happy. He was a committed singer, that's why he came to my house at 2 am to record it.