One can still hear every third person on the street singing or humming Raat ke dhai baje (Kaminey) or Genda Phool (Delhi 6). That’s the effect Rekha Bhardwaj has on people’s minds. She has certainly struck a chord with audiences. Her songs have brought back an earthiness to Indian music – especially Bollywood that was gently veering itself towards western music.
Rekha Bharadwaj received critical acclaim for her first album in 2004 titled Ishqa Ishqa. Her songs in Omkara, especially Namak, which were written by Gulzar and composed by Vishal, was well-appreciated.
Rekha opened the 11th Osians Film festival with her famous Namak song and further went on to sing a medley of all Gulzar songs in the lyricist’s honour as he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Osian's on October 24.
Very clearly one can see the happiness and gleam in her eyes as she talks about music and her life. Though her husband is surrounded by media for interviews, she sits calmly, appearing to be much above all the hype and attention.
Rekha Bharadwaj unravels her hidden self to Priya Rajendran…
Rekha Bharadwaj as Vishal Bhardwaj’s wife or as a singer? How would you like to be identified as?
Rekha as a human being and as a mother of my only son
Are earthy numbers your speciality?
I have not chosen this genre, it came naturally to me. I have a classical background and have grown up listening to thumris, semi-classical music too. Basically from Delhi, I studied music in the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya for 8 years. Right from childhood, I had this special liking towards singing tragic songs.
Your journey began with Ishqa Ishqa. Your experiences?
The song Raat ki Jogan from the album Ishqa Ishqa was conceived in 1994, almost 10 years before it released, when Vishal had started composing Bulle Shah's poetry for my album.
Your career graph till now has been good till now. Does it help being the wife of Vishal Bharadwaj?
Yes, it definitely helps. Till now I have been singing songs for all his films. My career started with Ishqa, Ishqa in 2004. It helped me explore my inner self. Gulzarji and Vishal have also encouraged me a lot in my career. I used to go with Vishal for music sittings with Gulzar for his movie Maachis and one day Gulzarji said he will write for my album. The rest as you know is history. My album won many accolades.
Singers generally do not have a say in the songs that are given to them, but as Vishal’s wife, you must have found it easier.
That’s an entirely wrong assumption. In fact, just like any singer, I also do not have a say in how many songs I can sing or the choice of songs etc. The only choice I have is the range of the song (high or low).
So who are your musical idols?
Lata Mangeshkar, Begum Akhtar, Rashid Khan and many others…
Music you love to unwind with...
I love the feel of Sufi music and can listen to it anytime. My first album gave me a chance to enter the world of Sufism. For me, music is my soul and I begin my day with riyaaz even before my first cup of tea. I feel complete only then. Nahi to kuchh adhura-sa lagta hai!
Any upcoming projects…
I am singing many songs for the Vidya Balan-starrer movie Ishquia. The songs are sung in Raag Lalit and have a classical touch to them. Other than that, I am also learning Jazz and Blues.