Like many from his generation, Nakash Aziz worships AR Rahman. And having worked with The Mozart of Madras, he is full of fanboy stories. When he was in class 10, toying around with a newly bought computer through the night, much to the ire of his concerned mother, Aziz’s earnest response would be that he was “merely preparing to work with AR Rahman in the future,” as he had heard about the composer’s famously nocturnal recording habits. A few years later, during his initial days in Mumbai, Aziz and his partner got a small-time arrangement job in a reality show just because Rahman was one of the judges.
“Once, he had a slot in the recording room right after us, and we almost deliberately delayed our work hoping to ‘bump into him’,” he recalls, as we sit down at a coffee shop in Andheri, Mumbai. The two not only managed to “bump into” Rahman, but also managed to make him listen to a couple of their compositions.
It’s then that Aziz’s dream started to become a reality. Rahman offered him an arranging job, following which he has been working with him in projects such as Highway, Raanjhanaa, Rockstar and Delhi 6. But that’s not the reason you may have heard his name. Aziz’s is the voice behind joyous chartbusters from last year such as Saree ke fall sa from R…Rajkumar and Dhating naach from Phata Poster Nikhla Hero. The 29-year old has also sung for Rahman in his Hollywood film, The Hundred Foot Journey and Lekar Hum Deewana Dil.
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“I want to be anything that music allows me to be,” says Aziz, “even if it’s coming up with a small musical idea like introducing a slight variation in my singing for Amit Trivedi’s Aisha title song.” That spirit, of working with music in its entirety and not just as an aspiring playback comes across in the story behind the haunting male version of Tu kuja from Highway, used in the film but not the album. “I was given the responsibility of casting a voice for the portion. I started singing impromptu when it was decided to be included,” says Aziz, who has been assisting composer Pritam for five years.
“My role is not limited to one thing. I assist the composers in whatever way I can — be it programming, conducting dubbing, arranging instruments or designing backing vocals,” he explains.
Aziz’s musical taste was influenced by his father and uncles who were famous in his hometown Mangalore, as voice-alikes of Kishore Kumar and Mukesh. He didn’t have to struggle much in Mumbai, he says. “If somebody understands music they just need to listen to two minutes of your work,” says Aziz, who has also composed for Marathi films such as Raada Rox and No Entry Pudhe Dhoka Aahey.