It was in the June of 2017 that composer Shamir Tandon decided to rope in Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (pictured) for Ishtehaar, a song for producer Vashu Bhagnani’s upcoming film, Welcome to New York. Apart from his musical chemistry with Khan, it was the vocalist’s range (he comfortably travels through all three octaves), pitch and texture that goaded the composer to use Khan’s voice. “As a composer and singer, we have a lovely relationship.
But apart from that, the reason to ask Rahat sahab was also that I didn’t want a Hindi-ised version of this song. The song is picturised on actor Diljit Dosanjh and Rahat sahab is from Punjab in Pakistan. I thought his voice and pronunciation would suit the song perfectly,” says Tandon, who was also instrumental in Khan releasing Back 2 Love, a 10-song collaboration album with Indian singers.
But back then Tandon didn’t factor in the controversy that the song would generate after singer-turned-minister Babul Supriyo held a press conference asking Bollywood to show solidarity to Indian soldiers by not engaging with artistes from Pakistan. Tandon and Bhagnani were also present at the conference and agree with Supriyo’s stand. While the Sonakshi Sinha and Dosanjh starrer will release with Khan’s song in place, Supriyo said that Bollywood should refrain from using Pakistani singers in the times to come.
In the wake of the controversy, Khan tweeted on Thursday, “In midst of so much being said all I can say is music has no boundaries and I thank everyone for showing so much love for the songs which I am a part of.”
Salman Ahmad, head of Khan’s management and producer for a lot of his music told The Indian Express that official stand aside, artistes are delicate people and this controversy has hurt Khan quite a bit. “But it is best to not comment on the number of helicopters that Babulji has counted. He has said that artistes by virtue of their nationality should stay away. Does America ask Priyanka Chopra to stay away? India is doing so well globally, why spread this negativity? Is it right to say, ban kardo?” said Ahmad over the phone from London. He added that eight out of 10 destination weddings from India have Khan performing in them.
“There is no dearth of love from people in India. And Khan sahab has categorically kept one stance and said that music knows no boundaries. People in Pakistan ask him, why are you going to India if you aren’t valued. He tells them that ‘people in India love me way too much’. He isn’t begrudging this but it has hurt him,” said Ahmad.
Tandon said that as responsible Indians, it was the right move to currently use Indian talent only. “We the music makers are the weavers of dreams. We have some influence over what the society thinks. So as responsible Indians, we can take a backseat for a while, let the tensions ease across the border and let our counterparts know that your guys are doing this,” he said.
It is notable that Pakistani singer Atif Aslam’s latest song Sehmi hai dhadkan in Sudhir Mishra’s Daas Dev released on Wednesday without any hoopla around it. “Why target one person. If it’s a collective decision and a rule is passed, we are happy to abide by it. But that’s not the case,” said Ahmad. Khan, who is from Faislabad, comes from a family imbued in six centuries of qawaali tradition, and is best known to contemporary audiences as the nephew of Ut Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.