Singer Adnan Sami lifts the curtain on his ambitious plans, in a sa re ga ma pa with Roshmila Bhattacharya.
You made a public appearance at the music release of Tahaan after a very long time.
I had to...even though the doctor had told me to take it easy after being discharged from hospital. My absence from the music launch of 1920 had sparked speculations that I’d had a heart attack. (Laughs) This time if I didn’t turn up, people would say that I was giving birth to a baby.
But there was considerable talk about a heart ailment...
Yeah, these would have been believable when I was obese and unhealthy but not now when I have lost 145 kilos. It was a bad bout of food poisoning. I’d eaten a couple of prawns. Vikram (Vikram Bhatt, director of 1920) understood my predicament and even made an announcement. But others jumped to ridiculous conclusions.
But surely there must have been repercussions.
No, I was constantly monitored by experts. Obesity in the US is acknowledged as a national problem. I wasn’t starving, I was taking a truckload of supplements to counter any deficiencies. My nutritionist didn’t prescribe a diet but a change in lifestyle.
What do you miss on your daily menu?
After a no bread-rice-sugar-oil diet, I no longer enjoy bread or roti which are hard to digest. But I have a few spoons of rice. And high-protein, grilled stuff like chicken tikka. I can do with a few tasty morsels.
Do you fit into your purani jeans?
I could fit into five of them. My waist size has gone down from 82 to 34 inches. I can buy anything off the shelves now.
I meant the ones you wore as a teenager?
Ah, when I was the captain of my squash team and was playing polo, rugby, tennis, hockey, tent pegging. Yes, I can but I’ve only one pair left.
What advice would you give to the second season participants of the TV reality show Biggest Loser Jeetega?
They came to me for Season One but I wasn’t interested. The incentive should not be a fat paycheck but life. My wife (Sabah) married me when I was already overweight. She tried to keep me in check but I was out of control. Finally, she said, “Adnan, I love you very much but you love food more than me. I cannot sit back and let you destroy yourself. It’s a crime and I don’t want to be accused by God of being an accomplice.”
So she left you...
Yeah, and I finally cut back on food. After I lost 100 kilos I called her. She didn’t believe me. So I mailed her a picture and then, caught a flight to Dubai. She had tears in her eyes when she saw me. I’ll never let her go again.
Apparently, she’s now ready to produce a film with you in the lead?
Yeah, she’s set up a film production house. Acting was never on my agenda but after I lost weight, offers started coming in. We’ve zeroed in on four scripts. We just have to decide which one to go with first.
Will one of the films be directed by Bela Sehgal?
No, that’s not happening.
And the one opposite Bhumika Singh?
That’s not on either.
Will we see you in a maar-dhaad action movie?
(Laughs) You can’t expect Sylvester Stallone to do a Woody Allen or Woody to turn into Rambo. But I’m ready to try anything that can be watched by anyone from six to 60. Even as a singer my graph ranged from the romantic Kabhi to nazar milao to the time-pass Lift kara de. I like it when people say, “Yeh kya ho gaya?”
You’ve composed a promo-song for Tahaan. How come?
Santosh (director Santosh Sivan) and I have been friends for years. I knew Tahaan wasn’t your typical Hindi cinema but once he started narrating the story, I was enchanted. (Smiles) Santosh’s brief wasn’t brief, he told me in explicit detail that he wanted something folkish but upbeat which would send out a message that despite all problems one should count one’s blessings.
How did 1920 come about?
When Vikram came to me for a period horror film, I rolled my eyeballs. But it wasn’t about a man running around a haunted house with a chainsaw. Set in 1920, it flashbacked to the 1800s and yet it had to cater to today’s audiences. The tunes had to be classic yet contemporary.
How did you persuade Pandit Jasraj to sing for a Hindi film?
My roots as a classical pianist and my friendship with Durga Jasraj got me a meeting with him. I then coaxed him to come to the studio and promised that if he wasn’t happy with the song, it wouldn’t be recorded. Once he started singing he blew me away.
I also roped in Begum Parveen Sultana, Shubha Mudgal, Asha Bhosle and Kailash Kher. Their signature tunes are the same but you’ve never heard Panditji with bass guitar in the background or Parveenji in a hip-hop groove.
There are other films too.. Sadiyan, Zalzala, Ken Ghosh’s film.. they let me wear different masks.
Will you ever work with Pahlaj Nihalani again?
What he did was not ethical. He had a song by Bappi Lahiri and used it in Khushboo without informing me. But we all make mistakes and he gave me a public apology. I’m not vindictive. I would consider his offer but I’d remind him never to do that again.
Why did you part ways with your manager Rikku (Rakeshnath)?
I wanted to explore new avenues, expand.. (laughs) but only my team. He’s much more into event management today.
You’re returning to London after three years for a concert. Excited? Yes, I had two sold-out shows in Wembley. This one too has got a great advance response.
After Bol Baby Bol will you return to TV?
Not as a judge. They are used to boost TRPs, orchestrate debates and bring in drama. But when it comes to the final verdict, SMSes rule and the jury’s marks are meaningless. That’s why most runners-up are better than the winners.
There’s talk of an album with the Jacksons?
I’ve already recorded with Michael and Janet. They’re very grounded and open to experimentation. But the album will take time, so will the private album on which I’m working.
Obviously acting is your priority today. Isn’t Sabah insecure? There was talk that you were seeing Ameesha Patel.
My wife keeps me grounded. As for Ameesha, that was a lot of talk. I’m a friendly guy, both verbally and physically. My gestures are misinterpreted at times.
Are you in touch with your first wife, Zeba Bakhtiar?
No, but I’m in touch with my son Azaan, he’s musically inclined too.
Are you planning a family with Sabah?