From soft ballads and uptempo dance numbers to folksy tracks and songs with classical leanings, Sukhwinder Singh manages to pull off diverse genres of music with ease. His rendition of Jai Ho (Slumdog Millionaire; 2008) even won an Oscar. Last year, he was given a National Award for singing Bismil in the film, Haider (2014). As he looks forward to releasing an album after almost 14 years, the singer discusses his journey so far, being selective about projects, and more.
What are your criteria for accepting or rejecting a song?
I sing because music is my passion. But one thing that I am very particular about while selecting a song is its lyrics. I cannot sing trashy and vulgar lyrics. I never question a composition, no matter how simple or amateur it is, but poetry is the most important thing for me.
Selective hona meri majburi hai (I have to be selective). Though the number of songs that I sing today has gone down, I feel satisfied with the work I do, and that's what matters the most.
Watch Bismil from Haider
Are you satisfied with your journey in Bollywood so far? Do you have any regrets?
I strongly believe that the world is made for special people, and special people are very few. I have applied this philosophy in my life, and I have been content because of that. I have never longed for more work. I have been calm and patient, waiting to collaborate with talented artistes. So, I have no regrets. My sincerity towards work has earned me a respectable name in the industry. I have always believed in putting in my 100%, and God has been kind to have blessed me with a successful and satisfying career.
I ensure that I spend at least two-three hours every day to do riyaaz (practise).
Read: Sufi music is not all about high pitch, says Sukhwinder Singh
Many senior singers criticise the way Bollywood music has changed over the years. What's your take on it?
I am a positive person. When you try to find negativity, you will find it. I think people should see the positives also. When we have writers like Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Irshad Kamil, etc., how can there be negativity? I agree that over the past seven years, there was a lot of aggression in film music, but that phase is over. It's time for unplugged music now.
Watch Oscar-winning Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionnaire here:
So, are there no negatives at all?
If we talk about the losses, music completely overshadows the voices of singers in today's songs. There's a software that auto tunes voices. Overdependence on that has caused stagnation in the quality of singing and an artiste's musical growth. I can confidently say that 80% of the singers who have entered the industry over the past few years have no training in singing. Thanks to the software, aap jitna bhi besura ga lein, woh theek kar dega (No matter how badly you sing, the software will correct your voice). So, this group of singers spends more time in beauty parlours and gyms, rather than working on music.
Who are your favourites from the young crop of singers in the industry?
I am amazed to find really talented musicians on various TV reality shows. If we talk about the ones in the industry, I think Arijit Singh has great skills.
Tell us about your upcoming album.
I will release it by the end of this month. The songs are in Hindi and Punjabi, and they are culturally rooted. They have elements of jazz as well.
A lot of the songs that you have sung are picturised on Shah Rukh Khan. Is it a coincidence?
Ever since I sang Chaiyya Chaiyya (Dil Se; 1998), which was picturised on Shah Rukh bhai, I feel that there's been a spiritual connection between us. Since that song was a hit, it brought about an acceptance among people about our association. It's surreal that all the songs that I have sung for him, including Chak de India (Chak De! India; 2007), Dard-e-disco (Om Shanti Om; 2007), Haule Haule (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi; 2008) and Satakli (Happy New Year; 2014), have been chartbusters. One quality that sets Shah Rukh bhai apart is his ability to appreciate people. It's really touching. Appreciation is the most important thing for an artiste, and he is full of love and warmth for everyone.