You've just released your album of Vajpayee's poems. How does it feel?
The credit must go to my nephew Adinath who stood behind the whole project with his recording company Music Curry like a pillar strength. I'm satisfied because Atalji seems happy with the results. I've always admired him as a human being and politician.
The album was released in the prime minister's beautiful banquet hall Panchvati in Delhi. Atalji and I had an opportunity to catch up with old times. I've known and met him on several occasions even before he became the prime minister. We even met in the US once.
How did this project come about?
Years ago I had expressed my desire to sing his poetry to him. See, singing poems isn't the same thing as singing film lyrics. I only want to sing poetry that has a narrative strength and doesn't meander into abstract images just for sake of being poetic.
For example, when I sang the poems of Meerabai I felt I was reliving the emotions expressed in the lines. That's the kind clarity of images that Atalji's poems express. When I sang his "Aao man ki gaanthe khole" where he has spoken about his family and home, I asked him if the descriptions matched reality. When he said yes, I simply flowed with his vision.
It was quite easy, actually. He has mentioned how as a child he'd listen to his mother reciting the Ramayan. There's an anti-war anthem, which I've sung on Atalji's request. Then there's one of my favourites-"Kya khoya kya paaya jag mein". Jagjit Singh had sung it earlier. But that was not an issue for me at all. I chose what both Atalji and I approved of.
Is the album supposed to convey a message?
You mean beyond the message of poetry and melody (laughs)? My motive is very clear. I want good poetry to reach out through my singing. There's no hidden agenda here.
We're fortunate to have great contemporary poets in Hindi like Harivanshrai Bachchan, Maithili Sharan Gupt, Sumitranandan Pant and Dinkar....I'd place Atalji in the same category. Every poet expresses his turmoil in his own way. Atalji's poems have an ability to touch your heart, though some of it was hard to tune.
Some people read a political leaning in your poetic collaboration with the prime minister?
Then they know more than I do about myself. Beyond Atalji's expertise as a poet I've no interest in his activities. I look at him as a poet and he looks at me as a singer. Politics doesn't come into our collaboration at all. My love and respect for Atalji goes back to a time when he wasn't what he is today.
However, let me clarify that the quote saying, "I'd have like to be his daughter" that appeared in the Marathi press is false. I love my own father. I'm proud to be Pandit Dinanath's daughter. What I said was, going by the affection that I feel for his rhetorical powers, I feel I was Atalji's daughter in my last life.
Do you feel the composer Mayuresh has composed adequately?
Absolutely. And he has also contributed to the way the poems are arranged for composition. I wanted a composer who could go beyond the call of his duty.
This year you seem to be heading towards a new phase in your career?
If you mean I'm moving away from film music then I'll have to disagree with you. I'm not moving away from film music. Film music is moving away from me. Now I sing only the songs that enthuse me. The non-film assignments come once in a while.
And I pay great attention to such projects. However, this year I've a huge film project on hand. Yash Chopra's new film where the unrecorded songs of the late Madan Mohan are being recorded. That too is a unique endeavour.
Madan 'bhaiya' (brother) was very close to me. When this project came about there was no question of saying no to Yashji (Chopra) who's been a part of my family for years. It's hard to give a definition to my feelings for him.
Would the experiment work?
I don't see why not. Madan Bhaiyya's son Sanjeev Kohli is doing a fine job of trans-creating the tunes in today's context. However, there'll always be the naysayers. I also plan to do a third volume of "Shraddanjali".
How about music direction?
No! It doesn't suit me. Although I've done it in the past, now I don't feel like it. I don't think I've the patience.