June 14, 2021
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Sonu Nigam

His honesty has given his music a certain ingenuity, a certain simplicity. And the better the talent, the more I see God influencing the work.

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Sonu Nigam

This is a very big event. We have so many people in the music and film industry who have great talent but we have no platform to present them in front of the world. We never could make it internationally. With Rahman getting two Oscars, Resul getting an Oscar, it shows that given the right project which is properly presented in front of the world there is no difference between the calibres of artistes in this country and the west.

I do not judge Rahman only through his music. I judge him through his entire attitude, through his persona. He is a person who lives life on his own terms, who has got a lot of self-respect in him and who, at the same time, probably will be a difficult person to sign for a movie -- but when he takes it on, he gives it his heart and soul.

It may be a Pappu can't dance, saala or a Saathiya -- anything he does, he sees that it is not similar to the rest of what is happening. His sound was different in Roja and 15-16 years later, his sound is still different. We all have access to the same software, the same craftsmen as he has, but this guy gets something else from it. And that something else is soul -- he puts a lot of soul into his music.

People have probably not noticed it yet but he never compromises on the quality of his talent. This is something I’ve been saying repeatedly, time and again, and people like Rahman have proved it. A lot of people live in their ego. They don’t want to work with the best because they want to sing themselves and do shows but Rahman knows what to sing. He will not sing a song which is meant for Sonu Nigam or Hariharan. He will choose a song like Dil Se which will not sound good in my voice or Udit narayan’s voice but only in Rahman’s voice. He chooses those songs, makes them for himself and sings them.

He is very honest with his craft. He likes to work with the best of the talent -- he likes to work with Hariharan or Sukhwinder, with singers which the industry has forgotten. Sukhwinder has been there but he gets him to do a Chhayyian chhaiyyan. He gives Sukhwinder the respect that he has always deserved. He doesn’t mess with people’s minds or manipulate them, he doesn’t play mind games. He wants to work with Chitra with Shreya Ghoshal, with everybody who is good in their craft.

His honesty has given his music a certain ingenuity, a certain simplicity. And the better the talent, the more I see God influencing his work. I see the differences between him and other composers and why they are not where he is today. Till today, I have seen his absolute loyalty towards talent, he wants to patronize talented people, he’s been working with me for so many years yet he is not bored with me. I’ve sung such good songs for him.

One song, Guzarish, which I had sung, was later sung by Javed Ali and Rahman apologized for 40 minutes sitting in my car: "I want to clarify, I don’t like to do this to you but Aamir was interested because Aamir had already shot for the song. I was in America because my son was about to be born so I couldn’t come to India to record so they got the song done by Javed Ali with different lyrics because the song belonged to me. So the song could not be mine but he retained my humming, my aalaaps in the entire movie and the entire song and that too got me accolades.But the thing is when AR Rahman comes to me and clarifies, it shows his honesty -- he didn’t take me for granted. He could very well say, "What does it matter if Sonu didn’t sing it?" It shows his goodness in not wanting to hurt people. When you take care of quality about not making people feel inferior -- us se insaan bada banta hai [one becomes a better and bigger human being]. He respects my craft, my art and felt the need to clarify.

He is very well versed in Indian sounds. He’s worked with the likes of Iliayaraja, knows Carnatic and classical music and that gives him an edge over most of the music composers.

Art is the reflection of your personality, of your attitude, of your character. As a human being, Rahman is a very enlightened human being. He is a superior human being than most of the other composers. And that superiority, as a person, gives him that edge, gives his music that edge. Because there is no other way I can explain his talent, because for me there is no way that the true character will not be reflected through his art.

My favourite Rahman composition is Satrangi Re -- it’s a very fine song. It’ll be remembered for centuries to come the way it has been composed, the way it was written. I sang this song so I like it anyway but the arrangements were fabulous. The response that I get for this song is mind-boggling. It came in 1997, 12 years back, and you can see how superior it was, even today.

Rahman is very shy. A man of few words. Lately he has started opening up. If he wants to praise you he’ll say, "Very good, very good.. mindboggling". That's the extent of his expression.

As told to Lata Khubchandani

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