“It was a filmi scene. I had boarded a train to Mumbai, and my family was on the platform, with tears in their eyes. They were upset as I had quit a stable bank job, and was going to Mumbai to try my luck with singing. I knew they wanted me to stay back. But I’m glad that I didn’t listen to them,” says playback singer-turned-politician Babul Supriyo. Though he is currently a Minister of State for Urban Development and for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Babul says “music is the only constant” for him. He hasn’t crooned too many film songs in the recent past, but he released a new single last month. Titled ‘Dream girl’, the song has been sung by him and veteran actor Hema Malini. Here, Babul talks about the track, and more.
Since you are now a member of the Lok Sabha, do you get enough time for your music?
I believe that if you really want to do something, you will make the time for it. Music to me is what a charger is to a mobile phone. Music keeps me going. I will be a hypocrite if I say I have only devoted myself to the nation. While I’m loyal towards my responsibilities as a politician, I also ensure that I fulfil my duties on the personal front.
Lately, you have been keeping a low profile in Bollywood.
I’d love to sing more. But the trend of getting cinematic voices to sing is getting lost now. Singers like me are not getting enough songs. Things have become unpredictable. But I feel this is a phase that will pass. All I can do is be patient. People who say they are choosy are lying. I know I am not, unless the lyrics are not good.
You were a banker. What prompted you to turn to music?
After finishing my studies,I got a job in a bank when I was 20. I worked there for two years. While everyone around me used to say that I was in a secure space, Ihad this perpetual feeling ofinsecurity. Everyone around me was happy, except me. So, I tried to get a transfer to Mumbai, as I knew that the music industry was where I wanted to be. But when that didn’t happen, I had to quit my job. I believe it’s important to pursue your dreams. There was a time when I had to choose between cricket and music, and I chose the latter. Music is the only thing that comes naturally to me.
How would you describe your journey in Bollywood?
It’s been great. I believe risks are worth taking. I am glad I gave myself a chance, and didn’t listen to my friends and family. I went ahead with my decision to move to Mumbai. If I look back today, I will say that I am not completely satisfied with the work that I have done, as every artiste wants to do more work. I have also been a bit unlucky, because while all my duets were hits, only the female singers won National Awards for the songs, and I didn’t.
When did you decide to join politics?
I had never dreamt of becoming a politician. Once, I met Baba Ramdev on a flight. He is a very funny person. The Lok Sabha candidature was being announced at that time, and he was holding a list of the BJP candidates. I jokingly asked him to put my name on it to represent BJP from West Bengal, and I assured him that I would win. He thought I was kidding. After a week, I got a call from him to check if I was serious. I told him that I’m very lucky; I won’t lose. That’s how it all started. But I have taken my duties as a minister very seriously.
Do you ever plan to only focus on politics and quit singing?
Never; music keeps me charged. I don’t take power or fame too seriously. Music is the only constant for me.
What do you have to say about HRD minister Smriti Irani’s latest speech that caused such a stir?
I think it was very good. I was present in the House, and I am proud of the way Smriti responded to all the questions. She has been my colleague in the entertainment industry as well. I have sung songs for many of her serials. It’s ironic that in their desperation to gain political mileage, the opposition is forgetting the basic principles.
What musical projects are you currently working on?
Apart from my new single, I have shot for an episode of a popular music TV show with my daughter, Sharmilee.
How did you come up with the idea of your new single?
When Hemaji (Malini; actor) and I were going for a political campaign, we started talking about her songs and Kishore da (Kumar). She told me she had recorded a couple of Bengali songs for him, which never got released. When I heard those tracks, I thought it would be a great idea to recreate them. That’s when the idea of an album that features numbers sung by Hemaji came up. So, we announced the album on Valentine’s Day (February 14) last year. Hemaji thought we should also include Hindi songs to have a wider appeal. I started writing a track, and conceptualised it around Hemaji. She was known as Dream Girl, who had all the heroes running after her. So, the song is about young men seeking suggestions from Hemaji on how they can stay in their girlfriends’ hearts forever. We released it last month in the presence of the entire team of Sholay (1975), including Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan and Hemaji.