How was the experience of recreating Jagjit Singh ji’s soulful track, ‘Tera Chehra’?
It was a fantastic experience. I’d like to share an anecdote about the song. About 20 years ago, I was performing in South America, where they love Bollywood music. We were going for a long drive in one of my organiser’s cars and he had played this song. I loved the song so much that I took the cassette from him. I still have it in my CD rack in Mumbai. I had so much love and admiration for the song that it actually fell into my lap.
Jagjit Singh has always been special to me. While coming from one of the tours in 1993, musicians met each other at the JFK airport and Jagjit ji was sitting there. Everybody ran towards him and started talking to him. I wanted someone to introduce me to him and it finally happened. I was listening to one ‘Phir Wahi Raat Hai’ sung by me and others on a walkman when he walked towards me and asked me what I was listening to. I told him it was one of Kishore Kumar’s songs. He heard it and asked whose voice it was. I told him it was mine, to which he reacted, by saying, ‘Tum toh Kishore Kumar ke bhai ho’. It was the most priceless compliment that I have received in my entire life. After that, he started calling me for riyaaz. He used to sit on his bed in his room and look into the inland letters and postcards he used to receive, and sing, and ask me to repeat, while Ghanshyam Swami played the tanpura. I have had that experience at least 6-7 times. It is one of my fondest memories. I had also requested him to unveil my pop album ‘Kuch Aisa Lagta Hai’ and he had readily agreed. We all remember him not only for his singing prowess but for what he did for society as well. It is really special for me to sing ‘Tera Chehra’.
Apart from this song, which other immortal song by the legendary singer is your absolute favourite?
It is impossible and unfair for anyone to try and pick a favourite from a repertoire that covers all human emotions. There is a Jagjit Singh song for every mood and emotion. In my shows, I used to sing ‘Hothon Se Choo Lo Tum’ on my piano. There is an item I do where I mix two songs with the same lyrics – one sung by Jagjit ji in a particular tune, and another by Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab.
How did you come on board for Tips Rewind? How was it working with Kumar Taurani?
It was fantastic. I have sung several songs for Tips music. Kumar Taurani ji is one of my sweetest bosses in Bollywood. There was no way that Kumar ji would have kept me away from such a beautiful album. I am very happy to have been a part of it. Both the song and Jagjit Singh make up for a very happy combination for me. Ever since I left my bank job and went to Mumbai to pursue my dreams, Tips has given me work and helped me grow. I have had homely relations with Kumar Taurani ji. It was like taking a trip down memory lane. I have sung a lot of songs for them and it was like a homecoming for me.
You have also recreated a lot of old classics of Kishore Kumar. Was he your idol?
Yes, he was my idol. I always used to say that along with my grandfather, poet-composer Banikantha NC Baral, I have been singing from the age of four. He used to teach me and make me do riyaaz. After I was a little older, my father used to take me to Kishore Kumar concerts in Kolkata. It was euphoric to see an artiste make an entire stadium full of people sing and dance with him. I wanted to sing for a hero and sound like a hero. Kishore Kumar’s voice was the epitome of that. I believe I had an Arjun-Dronacharya relationship with my grandfather, but I had an Eklavya-Dronacharya relationship with Kishore Kumar. I never got to meet and learn from him directly. But I learnt from him by listening to him.