She returns to City Beautiful after 25 years and gushes at its ‘increasing’ greenery. “Every time I come here, I feel the city has become greener. It’s one of the prettiest, most organised and beautiful cities I have ever been to. The last time I came here was 25 years ago, to perform with singer Manna Dey,” smiles Kavita.
It is hard not to instantly recognise Kavita’s vocal chords at work when one hears hits of the ’80s and ’90s including Hawa Hawai (Mr India, 1987), Kuch Na Kaho (1942 – A Love Story; 1994), Tu Hi Re (Bombay, 1995) and Aaj Main Upar (Khamoshi, 1996). Trained in Indian classical singing, Kavita is the recipient of a Padma Shri (1996) and four Filmfare awards for best playback singing.
In city, playback singer Kavita Krishnamurthy deliberates on what’s missing in Hindi film music. Rajnish Katyal/HT
The singer was in Chandigarh to perform for the Kavita Krishnamurthy Bollywood Musical Night (organised by Chandigarh Tourism and CITCO in celebration of World Tourism Week 2013 that ends on September 30), and talked about why she is seldom heard in the current playback circuit. “I continue to remain a musician who believes in experimenting with music. But, if you ask me what I feel about the present scenario of Hindi film music, I believe the scenario has changed for me,” she says.
“Songs such as Hawa Hawai, Aaj Main Upar and Tu Hi Re are missing and so are music composers like Manna Dey, RD Burman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Hemant Kumar, all of whom I loved working with. It is not that I have stopped singing for Bollywood, in fact I sung for recent movies including Rockstar and Devdas. But, now there are more semi-western songs and item numbers dominating the scene. Singing western songs is a little alien to my nature,” adds Kavita.
Talking about the good old days, Kavita recalls how she got her big break. “When I started singing, Lata [Mangeshkar] ji was going strong. So, at times I would be called on the sets to dub songs that she would be singing. Tumse Milkar Na Jane (Pyaar Jhukta Nahi, 1985) was one such song. Then, once I was called to dub for Asha [Bhosle] ji, for the song Hawa Hawai. But, at the last moment my version was kept.”
Was there any insecurity then, with most stalwarts of singing actively pursuing their careers? “No, that wasn’t the case. However, when most romantic numbers used to be given to Alka [Yagnik] and I only got difficult classical numbers to sing, I wondered if I wasn’t able to sing romantic songs. But, with Kuch Na Kaho from the film 1942 — A Love Story and Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast (Mohra, 1994), I proved my versatility,” she says.
Which brings her back to what she misses in present-day Hindi film music. “I miss good lyrics the most. Today, there are plenty of hook and punch lines in the songs, but nothing touches my heart. There is no dearth of talent in terms of music composers, including the likes of Shankar Eshaan Loy, Pritam and Vishal Shekhar. But, as a singer, I feel the connect with the mukhda and antra is missing. Old is gold,” observes Kavita.
In that case, does she endorse banning songs that have vulgar lyrics?
“No, the alternative is to promote good music. TV channels, which play cheap item numbers most of the time because they sell better, should bring in change by playing quality music. As an artist, it is my social responsibility to uplift the standards and ethics of music. Artists still want to do good work, but unfortunately, that is not being sold. A sense of commitment towards giving good music is also missing,” winds up Kavita, who is currently working on a Hindi album (that releases next year) and a devotional album.