Nikhita Gandhi is on cloud nine these days. Her songs, ‘Chedkhaniyan’ and ‘Munda Sona Hoon Main’ from ‘Shehzada’ and ‘Tere Pyar Mein’ from ‘Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar’ have been trending at the top of music stations all over the country. The songs have become massively popular, and rightfully so, the singer is basking in its glory.
Doing a bit of research about her, one gets to find out that she started her career with AR Rahman. Not only had she been a part of his training school in Chennai, but she has also sung a few numbers for AR Rahman’s movies.
Talking to Prateek Sur, Nikhita Gandhi opens up about starting her career with AR Rahman, how he took her under his wings, how he once scolded her and how he taught an important life lesson that day. She also talks about why and how AR Rahman has refrained from creating remakes. She also shares her opinion on the entire remake culture in today’s time. Excerpts from the candid chat:
Reading about you, I come to know that one of your earliest collaborations was with AR Rahman. As a youngster trying to make a mark in the music industry, how did you end up with AR Rahman?
The irony is that I wasn’t a youngster trying to make a mark in the music industry per se, I was actually a dental student studying dentistry in Chennai and doing music as a thing that I know and love. It was something that I would go to every evening after college to get away from only studying. That is actually how I was introduced to the world of AR Rahman. I would use to go and do part-time courses in his music school after my college hours. My participation in his world became more and more in terms of different activities like the choir, musicals, etc. That’s where my introduction to Rahman sir happened. Funnily enough, I didn’t set out to be a playback singer. I used to always write music for fun. With a guitar, I was like this typical dark horse always writing my own music, never releasing it. Everything else just sort of happened.
Did he ever compliment you or give you some guru mantra, which you remember even today and follow religiously?
Actually, he scolded me once. He’s been nice to me and said inspiring things many times but the day he scolded me is the one I remember most profoundly because it was a very important interaction with him. He came and he got upset that I wasn’t able to follow the brief. He said that every second you are in the studio, you should just be constantly devoted to the sound that is before you. It wasn’t really my fault either as no one in the studio knew what actually was I supposed to do. So, I was just waiting without the brief. But I don’t know why, his scolding me made me feel like it mattered. What I am doing mattered because he cared enough to scold me, he cared enough to teach me what he felt would be the right path. So that, for me, was a very profound moment because I think that if someone takes the time out to scold you or show you a different way, that is when they really want you to learn.
AR Rahman has always spoken up about the originality of songs and has refrained from creating remakes or remixes. What’s your take on the whole remix culture of songs in the current days?
I think sir is way beyond and above any culture or trend. He does what he does. He has made a mark and he doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody. So, it doesn’t matter to him whether people remix music or not. It doesn’t even matter to him even if they remake his music because that has happened, but he doesn’t do it. So, I think that’s what it is. It is about who you are, and what you stand for and that’s what it has been in his case.
What about you?
My take on the remix culture is honestly that if done well, it’s a beautiful way to pay homage to something that has inspired us growing up. It’s not a culture, I would say that it is something that has always been happening. Even in English music in the West, people re-release and cover timeless music and that is a culture that has been practised forever in all industries. I think it comes from a good place, it comes from a place where you want to show your respect and celebrate something that you have always celebrated. So, as long as that intent is intact, it’s a good thing.
Do you think with more remix songs, originality is somewhat getting lost in Bollywood movie songs?
I think in general there is more volume of songs. So, we tend to not hear everything that releases and that is a genuine stat. If there were 1000 songs a day that was released 10 years ago, today it is 60000 songs a day. The sheer volume of music has increased. So, it makes it a cacophony of things that we have to listen through to listen to what we love. I do believe that there is some amazing original music that is releasing, but a lot of it does not reach the mass audience. They don’t get the same amount of marketing that a remake does, because a remake is like a sure thing. So, that is the issue. It’s not that there is less originality, there are tons and there are some amazing new artists emerging every day.