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Manmohan Desai threw me out: Anwar

Singer Anwar admits losing many opportunities due to his arrogant behaviour. V Ananth speaks to him on his comeback album Tohfa and more.
Hindustan Times | By V Ananth, Mumbai
UPDATED ON NOV 21, 2007 06:48 PM IST

Singer Anwar minces no words in a baat cheet geet with V Ananth.

You vanished after singing such charttoppers like Humse kya bhool huyi (Janta Hawaldar) and the title song of Qurbani? Why did your career nosedive?
It was purely because of my arrogance. Bahaar Aane Tak was the last film I sang for.. that was 17 years ago. Rajesh Roshan had composed it's music. In fact, he had given me a major break with Janta Hawaldar. I was first noticed with Kamal Rajasthani's number Kasme hum apni jaan ki khaaye chale gaye for Mere Gareeb Nawaaz.

My biggest mistake, then, was to let go off an offer to sing for Raj Kapoor's Prem Rog. My secretary goofed up by making unreasonable demands.. without my knowledge. My loss was Suresh Wadkar's gain because he sang all the songs for Prem Rog.

Is it true that because of your unprofessional ways, you lost an opportunity to sing for Manmohan Desai's Mard?
That's true. During those days, playback singers would be paid a meagre sum of Rs 5,000 for a song. When Manmohan Desai asked me to sing for Amitabh Bachchan, I told him arrogantly that I wanted Rs 6000 a song. Rs 1000 extra was a princely sum back in the '80s. Manji threw me out and gave all the Mard songs to Shabbir Kumar.

Were you backed by any of the ruling music composers then?
Only Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Bappi Lahiri called the shots then. Laxmikant-Pyarelal were sought after by all the Punjabi film producers, the South Indian ones opted for Bappi Lahiri. Both Laxmikant and Pyarelalji would demoralise me by telling me that I still had a lot to learn.

Did you ever try to make amends with Manmohan Desai?
Yes, I swallowed my pride. I went to Manji's house to ask him why he had recorded his songs with Shabbir though he knew that I was a far superior singer. I was shocked when Manji told me that although he knew Shabbir was besura, he did not want to deprive him of his livelihood by opting for me. All said and done, Shabbir undercut my price and grabbed my songs.

Have the comparisons of your voice to Mohammed Rafi's been a positive or negative factor?
Yes, my voice is similar to Mohammed Rafi's. Ameen Sayani had warned me to change my style because I was sounding like Rafi saab's clone. I told him that my voice was God-given, I could not change it. On the other hand, Shabbir Kumar was a Raif-clone.

How would you rate today's music?
If you are lucky, you're accepted as a singer, whether you sing through your nose or throat. Anu Mallik sells other composers' tunes as his own even today. My tragedy is that I cannot ask any music director for work today. Most of them were either drummers or tabla players when I was recording at the studios.

The only two truly accomplished singers on the scene today are still Lata


and Asha


. Hariharan is good but when he sang for Naushad


in Akbar Khan's

Taj Mahal

, he sounded like a Shah Jahan from Madras!

Why did you quit the scenario and pack up for the US?
When Kumar Sanu became a rage after Aashiqui, I realised that I wasn't needed by the film industry. My style of singing had become outdated. I hired a bungalow in the US and started singing classes, charging $30 an hour.

Over the weekends, I would have shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I'd only sing Rafi saab's songs and my own. But then it became very boring.. there was no life there. I would feel frustrated when I'd be asked constantly about the recording of my next song.

How did you become a fixture at Kalyanji-Anandji's concerts?
When they asked me to join them and Amitabh Bachchan at the concerts, I was game. I would open the shows, because Amitabh was far too scared to face a 50,000 strong audience. I would just sing three songs - Aaja tujhko pukare mere geet, Pardesiyon se na akhiyaan milana and Akele ho chale aao.

Are you in touch with your step brother Arshad Warsi and sister Asha Sachdev?
My own mother Ranjana Sachdev has made sure that Asha doesn't remain in touch with me.. although Asha has nothing against me. As far as Arshad is concerned, yes he is my stepbrother but we are not in touch.

What now?
Although I'm into the construction business to keep the kitchen fires burning, I'm coming up with an album..Tohfa on the Ocean Record label. I am also toying with the idea of producing a musical suspense thriller like Baazigar. These will be for my fans.

Yes, I haven't been forgotten.

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