His is the raw, deep voice behind Aaj mera jee karda from Varun Dhawan’s Badlapur. Singer DIVYA KUMAR, earlier heard in Happy Ending, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Kai Po Che, has finally managed to get his due with the energetic rendition of Aaj…, a track that has become a sensation.
Was it challenging to sing a powerful song like Aaj mera jee karda? How did you prepare for the number?
■While working with composers Sachin-Jigar, one usually doesn’t need to prepare. I was present since the song’s scratch version and during the recording, Dino sir (producer Dinesh Vijan), who was in the studio, wanted it to sound like the most revengeful song of the year. Sachin-Jigar played some notes on the guitar on the basis of which Dino sir asked us to start composing a song. In 30-35 minutes, we were ready with the song’s structure and they made me sing the scratch version with some rough lyrics. All Jigar had was Jee karda marjaniya but we started recording and gradually it turned into a song. Dino Sir was originally looking for an old qawwal type of voice for the song but when my scratch was recorded, everyone, even Varun Dhawan, heard it and loved it. Ultimately Dino Sir was convinced that they’d use my voice. He told me not to worry as the song had grown on them by then. I was lucky I sang that scratch and I even pulled off what Sachin-Jigar wanted. Finally my vocals were used. With regard to preparation, Dino Sir explained his brief. There has to be angst as well as soul. He guided us and accordingly, we recorded the song. It was quite an experience.
Did you expect the song to become such a hit?
■ When I recorded Maston ka jhund from Bhaag Milka Bhaag, I didn’t know it would become such a hit. I can’t foresee whether a song will become a chart buster, but the Badlapur team was very confident that this song would do well. Now that it has released and people have accepted it, I’m really happy that it is doing well.
What was the brief given to you during the recording of Dolly Ki Doli’s title track?
■ Wahi. Khulke gaao. They said to sing it as a grunge and rock song; it’s a different kind of rock song. Wajid (of Sajid-Wajid) was there to guide me through every expression; like in the antra, it becomes soft and mellow while the mukhda contains rock beats. The brief was simple, ‘keeping the lyrics in mind, full josh mein gaana hai!’ You’ve worked with Sachin-Jigar, Sajid-Wajid, Amit Trivedi. What has your experience been like?
Is there any style of singing or composer’s music that you personally identify with?
■ My voice has a folk or sufi texture. Nowadays, people are experimenting a lot, the arrangement could be pop or rock, you don’t need a western voice for a pop song. If it’s a rock song, there need not be a rock singer belting it. Composers are experimenting and using voices independent of the arrangement of the song. While singing for Sajid-Wajid, I have to infuse more energy aur khulke gaana hai. Amit’s music is very contemporary, his arrangement is his biggest USP. Sachin- Jigar’s music is very urbane and quirky, they have made me sing a club song like G phaad ke in Happy Ending; I end up experimenting a lot with them.
Do you belong to a music family? Tell us about your background.
■ I come from a music family. My grandfather Pandit Shivram was a musical composer who has worked on a lot of V. Shantaram’s movies. My father, Bhagwan Shivaram is a percussionist and has worked with several music directors, right from Laxmikant- Pyarelalji, Kalyanji-Anandji to Himesh Reshammiya and Jatin- Lalit since the past 35 years. My mom discovered I could sing when I was eight following which my parents introduced me to Kalyanji’s Little Wonders, a troupe of children from the age of 6-14. We would perform all over the country and even did world tours. Dino Sir (Dinesh Vijan) was originally looking for an old qawwal type of voice for Jee karda .. When my scratch was recorded, everyone loved it. The song had grown on them by then. I was lucky I sang that scratch and I even pulled it off.
How did you get your first break? Did you ever consider any other alternate career apart from singing?
■ It was only music for me. If not a singer, I would have been a musician. I met Sachin-Jigar through Priya Saraiya (Jigar’s wife). I started assisting them and even got to learn programming. It was through some friends who were already working in Bollywood that singer composer Gulraj Singh got in touch with me. The first song I sang was Alakh niranjan for Tutiya Dil. Amit Trivedi heard the song and called me to sing Aafaton ke parinde for Ishaqzaade. I got to work with Shankar- Ehsaan-Loy and did some backing vocals for them for Patiala House and Zokkomon. I also did some jingles for them. Shubharaambh from Kai Po Che was one of my first songs to do well. It was this song that brought me name and fame.