Sukhwinder Singh on winning the National Award for Haider and singing with his heart on his sleeve.
The trumpets played the Danish march as an audience of lords and ladies descended upon the castle hall in Shakespeare’s Hamlet for the famous Act III and the play the Prince of Denmark stages with a travelling troupe. In Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, his version of Hamlet, the director and the composer replaced the drums with a rabaab prelude followed by ghatam beats for Bismil. This climax was empowered with passion as Haider enacted his father’s murder.
“It is one of the more significant moments in the film, so had to be blazing and effective. The thrill of it had to continue through the story-within-a-story format. The opera structure of the song gave it a grand demeanour,” says 43-year-old singer Sukhwinder Singh, who won the 62nd National Award for the Best Playback Singer (Male) for the song on Tuesday.
In the summer of 2014, Sukhvinder Singh met Vishal Bhardwaj at his Andheri studio to attempt Bismil, which employs Gulzar’s frantic yet coherent folklore. The track can be called simple yet is a brilliant piece of work. For Singh, the song, with its mix of Kashmiri folk and Middle Eastern tunes, “has been one of the hardest songs in a long time.” Haider also won awards for its music, dialogues, costume and choreography for Bismil.
“Songs such as Bismil, Chak de and Chhaiya chhaiya sound simple. They are also on every concert list. As much as I feel happy singing them, they are the toughest to deliver. In Bismil, the right energy, stamina and expression are the keys,” says Singh, who doubled his practice sessions for this one. “The song needs a certain level of lunacy too. You can’t be sane and deliver Bismil,” says Singh, whose Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar and the Grammy in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Singh credits the success of Bismil to Bhardwaj. “A song is a composer’s vision and needs to be followed exactly the way he or she needs to,” says Singh. Currently, he is busy recording his album Jogi, which will release in May, and also singing for Shankar Ehsaan Loy, Vishal Shekhar and Salim Sulaiman, among others.