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Prateek Kuhad laughs a little modestly when told that Kho Gaye Hum Kahan is one of the few good things about the recently-released film Baar Baar Dekho. The love story of a time-travelling mathematician and an artist is unable to find a balance between its music video aesthetic and futuristic premise — the only sure-footed venture in the plot is Kuhad’s song with Jasleen Royal.
“I’ve known Jasleen for a few years, since we both started out as singer-songwriters. She got in touch with me over a year ago and we worked on the song together. I wrote the lyrics and it was done in a week. It got picked up by Excel Entertainment later,” says Kuhad over Skype. In Australia for BIGSOUND, a music conference and artiste showcase, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter is the only Indian act at the Australian music conference and showcase, and far from the acclaim his Bollywood debut is slowly garnering.
Kho Gaye Hum Kahan is, unmistakably, a Prateek Kuhad song. Its stripped-down acoustic arrangement is reminiscent of his debut album, In Token and Charms (2015); the lyrics remain as personal as ever. “All the songwriting I do is very personal. When I first began to write lyrics while living and working in New York, it was a way to deal with life. There are real feelings in all of my songs,” says Kuhad, who is arguably the most successful bilingual indie music artiste in India today. “My Hindi songwriting confounds me too.
I was terrible at it in school, I dropped the subject after class eight. But I grew up in Jaipur, we spoke to each other in Hindi at school,” he says. Kuhad cites Guru Dutta’s Pyaasa (1957) as a major influence on his songwriting.
He’s been having a great year so far. In March, he performed at SXSW, one of the world’s most influential music festivals, in Austin, Texas, where he was listed as “one of the 100 acts to watch at SXSW” by NPR (National Public Radio, USA). He is now headed to Music Matters, an independent music festival in Singapore. But he has a special event planned for his Indian fans. At the end of the month, Kuhad will perform his new material along with his older work at two 90-minute long sit-down concerts to be held in Delhi and Mumbai.
“I always want the focus to be on the songs. That’s what lies at the heart of doing these shows. We want to ensure an incredible listening experience, which is not always the case with club shows. We want to take things up a notch this year,” says Kuhad.