Alka Yagnik: Sang Ek Do Teen in one go
Alka Yagnik tells the story behind the yesteryear hit to interviewer Neeti Mohan
While Neeti Mohan is in awe of her senior, Alka Yagnik, the veteran is all praise for the young star and how newer singers are confident about their skills. As they settle for an interview peppered with music at a Juhu five-star, they walk each other through their musical journeys. Edited excerpts from the tete-a-tete:
Neeti to Alka
You redefined how singers carry themselves. Before you, few female singers would pay attention to dressing.
I am fond of good clothes and accessories, and I like to dress up. Earlier, for almost 15 years, my life was limited to home and studio. I would record five songs daily, and do stage shows occasionally. Later, when I started getting a little more time for myself, main apne shauk poore karne lagi.
At stage shows earlier, singers were only expected to perform well, with little attention paid to their dressing. But today, the spotlight is also on your appearance when you perform live.
Earlier, media was not so active and you wouldn't be clicked wherever you went. I did several shows with Kalyanji-Anandji and Laxmikant-Pyarelal. They taught me how to conduct myself on stage. Gradually, I started speaking to the audience. Back then, so much importance was not given to outfits, background dancers and presentation. I was a shy person. I could let go of my inhibitions only when I was in front of the mic. Now, I am a changed person on stage. I make the audience laugh.
(Mohan adds) I experience something similar when I perform live — mere andar ki diva unleash ho jaati hai.
Do you feel singers are also actors?
Absolutely! Performing arts are always connected. You have to be an actor to be a good singer. When I sing a song, the actor in me comes out as I emote for the track. Actors also have a singer in them. Unless they have an idea of rhythm and sur,how will they dance to a song?
You said you would record five songs daily. How did you take care of your voice?
I had tonsillitis since childhood. My doctor suggested not to get it operated as my tonal quality would change. So, I had to live with tonsillitis attacks. The good thing was that the more I would sing, meri awaz utni hi khulti thi. Some artistes get tired after singing a couple of songs, but my voice used to blossom.
Do you remember recording a song with a bad voice?
When I had to record Ek Do Teen [Tezaab, 1988], I could barely talk. The song required strong throw, and we didn't have technical help those days. Mehboob Studio was filled with musicians that day — there was a 45-member chorus and around 100 instrumentalists. I told Laxmiji [of Laxmikant-Pyarelal] that I was not in a state to sing. He said, “Aap socho hi mat uske baare mein, aur bas gaao.” Though we had to finish recording before 12 am, we hadn't had a single take till 11.30 pm because balancing all the instruments was taking long. Finally, when it was all set up, Laxmiji said, “Alkaji, sing a rough version today. We will dub your voice again.” I belted out the number in one go. But that dubbing never happened. He was so happy with the song that he said, “Agar aapko lagta hai is gaane mein aapka gala kharab hai, to aap mera har gaana kharab gale se gaao.”
I read that when Osama Bin Laden's Abbottabad house was raided in 2011, hundreds of your song recordings were found.
Somebody had told me when this was reported. I felt weird. I think maybe he too had an artiste inside him (laughs).
Have you ever thought of teaching music?
Music cannot be taught. Either you are a singer or you're not. I always guide singers who need help. Over the years, I've done so many reality shows, and the participants often send me their works or come over to my home for suggestions.
Alka to Neeti
Do you plan to get married?
It has been on my mind of late. I hope to get into a relationship now.
(Yagnik adds) I feel artistes should not get married. An artiste's life is erratic and most of them are moody. In such cases, the partner has a tough time adjusting to his/her moods and schedules. Even Ashaji [Bhosle] often says kalakaaron ko shaadi nahin karni chahiye.
(Mohan) I have been in a relationship with my music and career. I am so busy that I don't have time for a guy in my life.
(Yagnik) I got married early and my daughter [Syesha Kapoor] was born within a year. It was around the same time that Ek Do Teen and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) released, and my career took off. I used to feel guilty that I wasn't able to devote time to my husband and her.
What kind of songs are your forte?
I don't know my forte yet. As a kid, I used to sing a lot of Hindustani classical songs and bhajans. When I went to a boarding school in Pilani, Rajasthan, I learnt folk music. I was there for seven years and would hear local women sing Marwari songs.
Did you always want to become a singer?
As a kid, I loved being on stage - be it acting, singing or dancing. I could never pick one, so I would often be in a fix. We used to have an hour-long extracurricular class daily. My dramatics, music and dance teachers would fight over me for their respective sessions. I struggled to figure out what I enjoyed the most. Eventually, I realised that when I sing, I get to do all three things - sing, dance and act - together. That's when I decided to participate in a singing reality show. I recently performed with AR Rahman sir in Kochi. I sang Jiya Jale Jaan Jale live and put up a Bharatanatyam act for it. It was fulfilling.
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