Though she is usually seen with her popular husband, film-maker Vishal Bhardwaj, Rekha Bhardwaj has made an identity of her own in the industry as well.
Not many people remember her first Bollywood song, Ek woh din bhi the (Chachi 420; 1997), as the singer’s claim to fame was Namak ishq ka from the film Omkara (2006). Post that, Rekha has sung multiple chartbusters, including Ranjha ranjha (Raavan; 2010), Phir le aaya dil (Barfi; 2012), Ghaghra (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani; 2013) and Hamari atariya pe (Dedh Ishqiya; 2014), among others.
When asked if she always wanted to become a singer, Rekha excitedly says, “Yes, I think I was born to be a singer, as I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. I had a special liking towards tragic songs.”
Known for her intense songs with a melancholic twang, Rekha says she owes it all to Sufi, which happens to be her favourite genre. “I love the feel of Sufi music. I can listen to it anytime. I delved into the world of Sufism with my first album (Ishqa Ishq; 2002),” says the singer, adding that Sufi music, for her, is a means to spread love and feel energised. “I prefer to focus on my inner energies because I can’t change the world. Sufism is not a genre; it manifests in Rumi's (Sufi mystic) poetry and is a way of life. It’s about spreading love. For me, even an item song is a Sufi rendition,” she says.
Talking about her background in music, Rekha, who is set to perform at a concert in Mumbai o June 14, says, “I had studied classical music from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya (Delhi) for eight years. I’ve grown up listening to thumris and semi-classical music,” she says.
With a little help
While Rekha considers her husband’s influence crucial for her musical journey, she says that she’s had her share of struggles too. “Being Mrs Vishal Bhardwaj might have acted as a catalyst for my work, but I had to fight hard to get what I deserved. It took time to emerge as a full-fledged playback singer, and that, of course, wouldn’t have happened had my husband’s name made things easy for me. He was always an inspiration to me,” says the singer, adding that music keeps the couple “connected” and they “often make music together” (Vishal is also a music composer).
As veteran writer Gulzar is quite close to Vishal and considers him “an extended family”, ask Rekha if she also shares a similar bond with the senior industry member, and she says, “I idolise Gulzar saab. Vishal and he have encouraged me a lot in my career. I used to go with Vishal for music sittings for his film, Maachis (1996; the film was directed by Gulzar and its music was composed by Vishal) and one day, Gulzarji said that he will write for my album.”
When asked if there is any other creative space, like film-making, that attracts her, the singer says, “Not really”, adding that she “often gives inputs to Vishal”.