When the Akshay Kumar-starrer Wada raha sanam, a typical synth-and-drums ditty came out from composers Jatin-Lalit’s arsenal in the ’90s, a time when Kumar Sanu was topping all charts, singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya’s silken voice became toast of the music industry. One of the highest paid singers, Abhijeet was Shah Rukh Khan’s singing voice on screen for many years till he fell out with him. In the following years he has courted controversy consistently — campaigning against Pakistani singers in India post 9/11, and more recently speaking out against Ghulam Ali’s concert in India. Earlier this year, he tweeted: #GhulamGigCancelled Kitni baar bhagaya but these shameless have no self-respect no work except terrorism but we feed them along with prestitutes.
This week, he was at the centre of a storm again after a Delhi-based journalist filed a complaint against him over his comments after she criticised him for giving a communal colour to Infosys techie Swathi’s murder in Chennai, calling it love jihad. Abhijeet could not be contacted for a comment.
Born and raised in Kanpur, Abhijeet came to Mumbai in the early ’80s to become a chartered accountant but didn’t let go of his musical dream. Unable to find work, he implored composer RD Burman to hear him. Burman did, liked his voice and got him to sing two duets in a Dev Anand production, Anand aur Anand (1984).
After years of struggle, Abhijeet finally made it big, becoming a household name in the ’90s with his songs in Baaghi (1990), Dil Hai ki Manta Nahi (1991) and Khiladi (1992). His duets with Lata Mangeshkar in Parampara (1993) and Darr (1993) and songs picturised on Saif Ali Khan in Ye Dillagi (1993) set his popularity soaring.
From 1996 onwards, Abhijeet became the voice of Shah Rukh Khan until he locked horns with him, accusing him of not giving him due credit for singing in Main Hoon Na (2004) and Om Shanti Om (2007).
None of his songs in the following years could match up to his earlier successes. He is, however, a popular concert name in Kolkata, especially during Durga Puja. He also recently sang in the upcoming film The Lonely Rain, the lyrics of which have been written by Gulzar. “As far as working with Abhijeetji is concerned, we’ve had a great working relationship. He has this velvety voice which worked for the project I was working on,” says Abhishek Ray, music composer, The Lonely Rain.