He underwent a knee surgery recently, and has been suggested complete bed rest for a few months. But Sonu Nigam doesn’t believe in staying away from music. From singing at music events to going incognito and singing on city streets – the singer hasn’t allowed his treatment affect his music.
He has released a new single, ‘Crazy dil’, recently, and has also sung a song in Sarbjit. Here, Sonu talks about his roadside act, what he misses about not being a celebrity, his plans to collaborate with his father, singer Agam Kumar Nigam, and more.
How are you feeling now?
Currently, I am on bed rest because of my surgery. I had undergone osteotomy two-and-a-half-months back in one leg, and would have to get it done in the other leg too. After that I will be on bed rest for two-three months more. But, I am actively meeting people and creating new music.
Recently, when you sang incognito on a street in Mumbai, the video of the act became very popular. How was the experience?
I didn’t do it with any preconceived notion. I didn’t know kya hone waala hai kyunki humne pehle kabhi kisi ko aise karte dekha nahin hai (what would happen, because I have never seen anyone do this before). I was apprehensive about the outcome. It could have been amazing or it could have just gone unnoticed. Though the clip shows that I sang only for four minutes, I had to sing at three different locations for one hour each. I sang a lot of songs. To sit on the roadside and sing was humbling. To get your voice heard without a microphone amidst so much noise and traffic was a huge challenge. It was intimidating. When people started gathering around me, my major concern was that in logon ko kahin pata na chal jaaye ki main Sonu Nigam hoon (the people on the road shouldn’t get to know that I am Sonu Nigam). That would have been embarrassing.
How was it to not be a celebrity for some time?
It was amazing. It felt beautiful to not be recognized. Not because I don’t like to be recognised, but to work incognito and see how despite being the same person, I was walking in front of people and nobody recognised me just because of my haggard look. I was amazed how inconsequential I looked.
Did the man who gave you `12 on the street get in touch with you later?
We managed to find him. His name is Shabaaz. He came to my house a couple of days ago. He didn’t know that he was coming to meet me. He was surprised to see himself in my house. He hugged me and got emotional. He loves music, and he knows a lot about my music. He was touched, because he became famous because of me. He told me that when he was recording my voice on his phone, he wanted to tell me, “Aap to Sonu Nigam se bhi accha gaa rahe hain (you are singing better than Sonu Nigam),” (laughs).
What do you miss from the time when you were not a celebrity?
Generally, when I walk on the streets in some countries where there are less Indians, I enjoy the feeling of doing whatever, standing wherever, and indulging in window shopping. This was the first time in India that I could walk so freely in places that are so familiar to me. The only thing I miss from the time when I wasn’t a celebrity is travelling freely. I really want to visit the interiors of India like an ordinary man. I want to visit Ranchi (Jharkhand), Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh) and Patna (Bihar). There’s a yoga institute in Patna that I want to check out. I feel if I was not famous, I would have just gone to these places like a tourist. I have heard so much about the Imambara in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), but I know if I go there, I wouldn’t be able to see the place freely. It was so difficult for me to see the Taj Mahal when I went to Agra (Uttar Pradesh) last year.
Arijit Singh recently said that you are his idol. How overwhelming is it to be idolised by so many artistes?
It was sweet of Arijit to say that. I remember meeting him for the first time on Fame Gurukul, where he was a contestant. When he saw me, he fell on the floor and had tears in his eyes. I’ve seen him as a teenager. It feels good when you are loved for your art. I’m happy that people have given me so much love. I also believe that you have to give respect to get respect. My juniors also know that I love them. I am not the kind of person who glorifies the past saying, humare zamaane mein aisa hota tha aur aaj aisa nahin hota (This used to happen at our time and this doesn’t happen today). I am not from that school of thought.
Tell us about your new single.
‘Crazy dil’ released a few days back. It is being received well. Independent music doesn’t have too many takers these days, because neither the radio stations play it nor do TV channels promote it. But, I wanted to give my best to this project. I will keep making independent music. I thought of this song in 2014 when I was on a flight. I sang it on MTV Unplugged, and the way people reacted to it, I knew it had to be released as a single. It was very sweet of Farah Khan, Rajkumar Hirani, Kailash Kher and Sunil Grover to come on board for the video of the single. My son, Nevaan, also features on it.
Reportedly, you have sung an “indecent” song in an upcoming film. Is it true?
I have sung an indecent song in a film? No way. It has been composed by Shaan and his band, Superbia. It’s a perky, fun song. It’s called ‘Angelina’. It’s not indecent at all. The news is completely false.
What do you feel about the trend of rehashing old songs and reusing them in films?
If a song suits a film and a situation, I don’t feel there’s any problem in using old songs. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. When my song ‘Deewana’ was rehashed, it didn’t work.
Do you plan to collaborate with your father?
I would definitely want to collaborate with him. I have been thinking about this for a long time. I am planning to come up with a song that will feature me, my father, my two sisters, and my son.
Do you get to spend enough time with your family?
I make it a point to spend time with my family. If I am travelling, I see to it that either my father travels with me or my wife and son accompany me.