The year was 1990 and the country was going through a Kumar Sanu hysteria. Aashiqui
had catapulted him to an overnight singing sensation.
I was travelling on a Himachal Tourism bus, and was on my way to Manali. The songs of Aashiqui were playing non-stop for two hours. A young guy told the driver to play some other number or put off the music. He was sick and tired of hearing the same songs.
The driver stopped the bus and politely requested the young man to get off the bus because Kumar Sanu was more important to him than someone who couldn’t recognise a great singer.
The year 1991. I got off at Lucknow railway station and was struck by Kumar Sanu on every hoarding in the city, announcing his forthcoming concert. Every young boy and girl I met had only one thing on their minds — to attend the concert.
I can well imagine how many people must have attended the concert in Lucknow. Well, I tried too, but couldn’t manage to get a ticket. He was the undisputed numero uno Hindi male playback singer in the country. The fact that he was a Bengali, like me, made me even prouder of this.
It’s great fun to meet extremely talented people professionally and get to know them personally. More often than not, what we see of people in posters and gossip magazines and at social dos is so different from reality.
I met Kumar Sanu for the first time in Kolkata. As I was coming out of my hotel, I saw him entering a car surrounded by three to four men. He had on a pair of dark glasses and was driven to the hotel with his security men following him in another car. Wow, that was befitting a star.
The next time I met him was on the sets of a reality show in Kolkata. That was my opportunity to get to know him. I told him about his concert that I’d tried to attend many years ago. He laughed his famous full-throttled Kumar Sanu laugh.
Over the next few days, he came across as someone so different from the man on the hoardings. He was a simple Bengali man who loved his food, jokes and addas (chat). He was a highly emotional person. One incident highlights this trait. One of the contestants of the reality show hailed from the interiors of Bengal.
Sanuda wasn’t happy with her performance, especially because he considered her to be a good singer. Sanuda asked her if she practised with a harmonium.
She replied in the negative. Sanuda was most upset with her. He was in tears when she told him that she couldn’t afford one. His voice was completely choked. He announced that he would present her with a harmonium.
The next day, some of the best harmonium makers from Kolkata were invited to the show. Sanuda wanted to have a look at some of the finest harmoniums. He was checking them as if he were a child selecting a toy. He chose a beautiful piece and gifted it to the girl the next day. She was in tears.
He appeared as someone stripped of make-up. In its place was a simple man who respected talent and couldn’t bear to see someone suffer because of his or her poverty. That day I became his fan.
(The writer is a music composer)