That which does not kill you makes you stronger. This is the lesson from the life of Kailash Kher, the singer who scaled a mountain of discouragement to reach the pinnacle of success. What saw him through was his unbridled passion for music — the same quality he is going to look for in young singers when he judges the fourth season of Indian Idol.
“My interaction with the participants last year was much appreciated,” says Kher about his association with the show, on which he was a guest last year. Seeing the response, the producer, Miditech, asked him to consider a return as a full-season judge. Kher describes Indian Idol as a show with “quality and dignity”, rating it the best among the current spate of music reality shows.
If you ask for it...
On the alleged harsh treatment often meted out to contestants in various music contests, Kher says that while the occasional singer does get a putdown from a judge, sometimes participants come with not enough respect for the show or for music. “Lots of people come [on TV] thinking, ‘I am the next superstar’,” he says. “They make animal noises. You can’t do anything you like in the name of entertainment.”
About Idol, he feels “the judges are soft-spoken”. Anu Malik, a judge, may have been “loud” at times, “but he is also sincere”.
While he believes in the diplomatic approach when judging a show, the participant who wants to go the distance had better be prepared to take a few knocks, with Kher as a sort of role model. Turned away by music teachers in Delhi, cold-shouldered by recording companies in Mumbai, he felt low for some time, but never gave up on himself.
“I stopped trying to learn music, but I listened a lot,” he says. And then came a point when he started inching his way into a career in singing — first some jingles; then a song in the film Andaz; and finally, in 2002, Allah ke bande from Waisa Bhi Hota Hai.
In the four years between that song and his superhit first album, Kailasa, Kher was told — by musicians who heard the songs he was working on — that if Kailasa clicked, it would carve a new path for singers with ‘different’ voices, such as his own. So it did. He is now collaborating with top DJ Paul Oakenfold, who wants to remix Teri deewani and Babambam.
Kher would like to help a singer with potential even if they don’t do so well on Idol. His message: “The Idol winner has won just 20 per cent of the battle.” After that, only exceptional dedication survives. Otherwise, he warns, you become just another new mobile phone among a thousand new models.