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The changing tune of Bollywood

Nineties’ popular playback singers, whose voices are rarely heard in Bollywood tracks today, talk about keeping up with a rapidly changing music industry

bollywood Updated: Aug 24, 2013 14:59 IST
Soumya Vajpayee
Soumya Vajpayee
Hindustan Times
Alka Yagnik,Abhijeet Bhattacharya,SP Balasubrahmanyam

The changing sound of Bollywood music has turned it into a bastion of young, fresh voices. Gone are the days when playback singers, a tightly guarded and small but monopolistic coterie, proved as quintessential in defining the careers of some of the biggest stars in Bollywood as their film’s script or its director.

But now, these voices are fading away. We don’t remember the last time we heard an Alka Yagnik track. Clearly, it is a sign of changing times. However, in a blast from the past, veteran singer SP Balasubrahmanyam recently recorded the title track of Chennai Express.

So we spoke to some of the most popular playback singers from the ’90s to know how they are coping with the changing film music industry.

All singers sound the same: Abhijeet Bhattacharya
Popular songs:
'Wada raha sanam' (Khiladi; 1992)
Main koi aisa geet gaaon' (Yes Boss; 1997)
'Suno na suno na' (Chalte Chalte; 2003)

“I don’t want a lot of work. It’s difficult for any singer to reach the position I am at. I am not only a successful singer but also a successful businessman. I don’t long for consistent presence in Bollywood singing as I don’t belong to the film industry; I belong to the music industry. All my songs are as evergreen as Kishore Kumar is. I keep doing a lot of stage shows and keep very busy. I cannot compromise on quality. All singers sound the same. I have sung in Besharam; people will recognise my voice with the very first note. During my active playback days, the music used to sell as much as the film did. But it’s not the case anymore.”

My voice doesn’t suit today’s music: Anuradha Paudwal
Popular songs:
‘Dil hai ke manta nahin’ (Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin; 1991)
‘Dhak dhak karne laga’ (Beta; 1992)
‘Jaane jigar jaaneman’ (Aashiqui; 1990)

“I perform at a lot of devotional stage shows and jagratas. I have also sung in a mega-album comprising Vir Savarkar’s works, which features various artistes. As far as Bollywood playback singing is concerned, I think my voice doesn’t suit today’s music. I am quite satisfied with what I’m doing and I don’t long to be a Bollywood playback singer. I have been part of the golden era of Indian film music. I feel that the fame of the present-day singers are shortlived. Though we have great talents like Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal and Aakriti Kakkar, the voices in our times were magical.”

Today’s songs have a short life: Udit Narayan
Popular songs:
‘Jaadu teri nazar’, ‘Tu mere samne’ (Darr; 1993)
‘Kuch kuch hota hai’ (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai; 1999)
‘Chand chupa badal mein’ (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam; 2000)

“I feel blessed about my journey from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (QSQT; 1988) to ‘Radha teri chunri’, from Student Of The Year (2012). I don’t ever feel that my songs have reduced in number, as I record in 35 languages. Yes, the number of Bollywood songs I do have gone down. But I feel that change is inevitable. In the earlier days, a lot of emphasis was given to lyrics and melody, unlike today. This is the reason why most of the songs produced have a short life. I feel blessed to have sung songs like, Papa kehte hain, (QSQT), Ae mere humsafar (QSQT) , Jaadu teri nazar (Darr) , Pehla nasha (Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar; 1992) and Tere naam (Tere Naam; 2003).”

Hindi film music has lost its soul: Alka Yagnik
Popular songs:
‘Ek do teen’ (Tezaab; 1988)
‘Meri mehbooba’ (Pardes; 1997)
‘Ek din aap’ (Yes Boss; 1997)

“Though I don’t record a lot nowadays, its still music that keeps me busy. I feel that Hindi film music has lost its soul. But, I am glad that owing to the gap between recordings, I am able to do a lot of stage shows. Concerts give me a lot of satisfaction since my repertoire of songs is vast. I am also grooming new talent and reality shows keep me busy too. I don’t long for playback singing but certainly wish to sing a good composition. Some of the songs closest to me are, Mere angne mein (from Lawaaris; 1981), Ek do teen (from Tezaab; 1988), songs from Saajan (1991), Baazigar (1993), Raja Hindustani (1996), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Refugee (2000). I don’t get excited about Bollywood songs anymore.”

First Published: Aug 24, 2013 13:07 IST