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Playback on big screen

Once just faceless voices, background singers are now becoming household names and common faces on 70mm. Movies are a great avenue for recognition, they say.

music Updated: Apr 21, 2012 13:36 IST
Megha Mahindru
Hindustan Times

Academy-and-Grammy-award-winner-AR-Rahman-has-composed-the-music-for-the-Tamil-film-starring-the-Southern-superstar

This year, after composing film songs for over two decades, AR Rahman broke out of his studio to face the camera for the first time in Prateik-Amy Jackson starrer Ekk Deewana Tha’s song, Kya Hai Mohabbat Giving the song and dance sequence a bit of a break, filmmakers are now looking beyond their lead pair to give songs a realistic flavour.

Once limited to end credits, musicians, whose job was to simply blend in with the storyline, are coming out and claiming their territory.

“Nobody knew us when we first appeared in the song Hindustani from Dus (1997),” recalls Shankar Mahadevan of the celebrated trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. “Our popularity rose gradually, but this was the beginning as the audience began to take notice of the voice behind the song. It’s a great boost for an artiste,” he adds.

With the noughties marking the end of an era for pop music videos, the only avenues for musicians to be heard and seen have been YouTube channels and Bollywood films. “Music companies don’t promote the artistes, especially if their music is non-filmi. You’re known more for the star for whose film you composed,” feels Shankar. Raghav Sachar, who recently appeared in Bittoo Boss, says, “This is my fifth filmi outing. As an artiste, you are used to being in front of the camera. It’s like performing to a live audience or recording a music video. But videos like the one I did for Bittoo Boss help promote us in many ways including financially, by producing a great quality video for no cost.”

Shibani Kashyap, who’ll be seen in ‘Azaad karo…’ from Shobhana 7 Nights, a film allegedly based on Shobha De’s life, chips in: “It’s a cameo of sorts. As a musician, I have my hands full, but it’s nice to face the camera.” Shibani has appeared in six films and even had a toony avatar appear in the animated film Ashoka — The Hero (2011). “Our voices need recognition. Luckily, I’ve always played myself in movies, and singing my own songs doesn’t require acting skills as it comes naturally,” she says

Down south, Malayali rockers Avial made their 70mm debut last year with Salt ‘n’ Pepper. And while most singers are seen with a microphone in hand, others like Pakistani singer Ali Zafar and Himesh Reshammiya have even managed to get big breaks as actors in Bollywood.

Kailash Kher, who sang the iconic number, Allah Ke Bandeh in Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II (2003) recalls his first date with the camera. “I never dreamt of being a playback singer. When Shashanka Ghosh (director) told me he wanted to shoot the video around me, I thought it was a prank. These directors weren’t looking for lip-syncing artistes, they wanted real passion that only musicians can express,” he says.

Video Gaga
Vinod Rathod in Baazigar (1993)
Daler Mehndi in Mrityudata (1997)
Shaan and Sadhna Sargam in Hungama (2003)
Pritam in Life In A…Metro (2007)
Atif Aslam in Race (2008)
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in Dil Kabaddi (2008)
Kailash Kher in Gali Gali Chor Hai (2012)