Rahman‘s speciality is always looking to do new things. If a song becomes a hit, people try to imitate that. But Rahman always says that even if something is a superhit, it should be left alone and something new should be tried. I’ve told him, "This song was so good we should do something like that." And he replied, "No, you shouldn’t cash in on success like that." That, actually, is why he is successful.
From whatever I’ve sung in my career, 99% is for Rahman. I met him in 2001 for Saathiya and we started our association then and we continue: Kisna, Tehzeeb, Yuva, Swades, Jodha Akbar, Mangal Pandey and a lot of Tamil films. When he likes what I do for him he says in Hindi, "Behatareen!"
He is always searching. He’s very creative. He wants to work with new people, make new sounds, do new things. This is a constant search within him and you can see it. That has made him reach where he has. I am lucky to have sung for him but even in my songs you’ll not find two songs sounding alike be it Pal pal hai bhari or Kabhi neem neem, or indeed any film. He’s always giving opportunities to new voices -- that’s praiseworthy. He may not understand Hindi completely but his musicality is infallible.
When you sing for others, they ask you your range and pitch, but with Rahman it’s different. He is a technician himself and knows what I can sing well and works accordingly. When he does the final mixing, even your own song sounds different to you.
From Roja onwards, I’ve loved all his songs. In Pukar, Anuradha Paudwal sang a song kismat se tum which is my favourite from Rahman’s songs. It is in Raag Bhimpalasi. He utilizes classical raagas very beautifully.
His speciality is that even in films, the song is there for a purpose, it enhances the film. In this industry, there is a lot of politics and sometimes you think what’s the point? Maybe we should also be like the others but then I see Rahman, his simplicity and his dedication to his work and I realise that one should just work with focus. And your rewards will come.
As told to Lata Khubchandani