How was the experience of working with A. R. Rahman again for Ek Deewana Tha?
As magical as it has always been. As I have repeatedly said, Rahman is "the music director" who guided me in this industry. I continue to be fascinated by his compositions and his style of working. Ekk Tha Deewana is a romantic film. And Rahman’s music in this one oozes romance with every note.
Do you regret not being able to sing for him for some years now?
Ever since he won the Oscar, he has become so busy with international assignments that he hardly stays in India. But I'm happy that if he is working on a film in India, he does call me whenever possible. I feel honoured that he has such faith in my singing. My journey with him started in 2002 and it is still going on. I missed only 2011, where I sang for him but it has not released yet.
What do you think of the song, Sharminda Hoon that you have sung with Rahman in the film?
It is a romantic song to its core. It has such a sweet melody. And the subtle variations in the orchestration, the arrangement make it a song that touches your heart. The effect is sheer magic which only a legend like Rahman could conjure up. And the lyrics by Javed Saab take it to a different level altogether and make it unforgettable. It is a song which is complete in all its aspects. I just hope we get to sing such songs as often as possible. And yes, Sharminda Hoon is also my first, full-fledged duet with Rahman.
We hear that the lyrics have been written to fit into the already composed tunes. Was that difficult?
As you must be aware, Ek Deewana Tha was originally made in Tamil and then in Telugu by director Gautham Menon. Both the versions were super hits. And Rahman had composed of them. Now, Hindi lyrics had to be fitted into those compositions. It was difficult. But Javed saab has done it so beautifully that it is impossible to realize that the words have been written around the tune. We had a little problem fitting the first word, Sharminda. But then both Rahman and Javed saab managed to solve the problem and it sounds beautiful. Incidentally, Javed saab also told me that this word ‘Sharminda’ has probably never been used in the very beginning of a song so far!
Isn't it ironical that while you all have worked so hard on the lyrics, it is the item numbers that have become the real rage in Hindi films? As a singer trained in traditional classical music, what do you think of this trend?
As other styles of songs, item song is also part of a movie. Its now the race for item songs as previously was for romantic songs. I have nothing against item songs. Every situation demands a different type of song. Earlier, we had Lataji (Mangeshkar) singing only for the heroines, who would never do a cabaret. Those roles were reserved for actors like Helen or Bindu. And their songs were reserved for other singers. Now, even the topmost stars do not hesitate to do such songs. So people have to move with the times. These are times when foot-tapping songs are loved by the people. There's nothing wrong with that. I have also sung a number of item songs for film from the south.
Which Hindi film has been your most satisfying as a singer so far?
As a singer, I am never really satisfied. After every song I sing, I feel I should do something better. I would love to sing as many different types of compositions as possible.
Apart from Rahman, is there any other composer you would especially like to work with?
All of them. And I am not being diplomatic. Every composer today has a different style, whether they are Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Salim-Suleiman, Pritam, Soheil Sen or anybody else. I would love to sing their compositions for their sheer variety.
You have been associated with Rahman since the last 10 years. What changes have you noticed in his music and in him as an individual over the years?
He moves with the times. His music in Rockstar is proof of that. I’ve also noticed that his treatment and arrangement of the songs has evolved too. And so has his singing. I must also say he has become quite media savvy. He now seems to know a lot more about camera angles and the way he projects himself (laughs shyly). I think it is wife who has made that possible.
How would you describe your first decade in Bollywood as a singer?
It has been an enriching period. I got to learn a lot of things and I am happy with it. My journey is still going on. And I look forward to doing even better work, more challenging compositions with a greater number of music directors in the coming years.
Do you think this affected your work in any way?
I believe that if you are doing good work, people will notice it and work will come to you. My focus is on my music. That is the only important thing, I feel. I don’t know if that has affected by work in any way. But I do think that work comes when it has to. Sometimes, there is little work, and then suddenly you are flooded with so many offers that it is difficult to choose.
Would you like to tell us about your future films and albums that you are working on?
Well, I'm working on some exciting projects with some young music composers and established ones. But as know, things are very unpredictable in this field. So I would talk about it only when things are finalised and set for a release. But yes, I'll be singing a lot more songs this year.