Prateek Kuhad: No creativity in playback singing
In the city for a recently concluded gig, Prateek Kuhad on juggling roles as a musician, and finding his happy place in song-writing
With the lyrics of Prateek Kuhad's Cold/mess (Wish I could leave you my love, but my heart is a mess) reverberating in the ears, we begin prepping for a rendezvous with the musician. His music, we hope, will help us comprehend his carefree spirit. On the day of his Mumbai concert — which he calls "the biggest high of my life" — we catch up with him to decipher what makes him tick.
While most musicians would be occupied with last-minute sound checks before taking to the stage, Kuhad seems surprisingly at ease. "I just show up," he says of his scheduled gig for Zee Live Supermoon, and adds that he is often well-rehearsed before the season of touring begins. Yet, he requests us to take his seemingly confident demeanour with a pinch of salt. "I still get nervous before going on stage. In general, my basic state is 'nervous-anxious'. [During] the first three years [as a touring artiste], I would stick to my set, and [primarily] play solos and trios."
Even though his work in mainstream cinema may be limited, Kuhad enjoys an immense fan-following in listeners of independent music. It takes us by surprise then when he says he did not expect the kind of turnout that the city concert saw. "We have sold 6,500 tickets in Mumbai. I am surprised that people are buying tickets for my show during peak season. This is my biggest show because my fans are coming to watch only me; it's not even a music festival. Even the Prodigy [music band] didn't sell as many tickets [as I did] in Mumbai," he says gleefully. Kuhad's films in Bollywood can be counted on one hand, but both, Baar Baar Dekho (2016), and Karwaan (2018) were significantly appreciated for their soundtracks. But a discussion on commercial fare doesn't seem to particularly excite the singer, who "never seeks Bollywood projects". "People come to me because I write songs of a certain kind. They trust me as a songwriter. It is my job to write a good track for a director, and it's his job to respect me as a professional. [Things go wrong] when [you] work with the wrong people. If someone is a misfit, the project is bound to be a misfit too. If somebody asks me to write a fusion song, I'll decline because I won't be able to do justice."
But, in an industry where music is controlled not by musicians but label owners, it's natural for an artiste to compromise, isn't it? "It has happened a few times, but that was a mistake. I will never repeat it." Prod him on the instances he took to playback singing, and he cringes — "There is no creativity in it. You have to sing precisely what the music director wants. I felt like a device." Despite donning multiple hats, he chooses to identify himself as a songwriter. "For me, creating music and song-writing is one single process. If I am writing a song, I am imagining the overall production. It is a holistic process. But, it is through song-writing that I seek maximum satisfaction. I also put in a disproportionate amount of effort into it."
Know him better
. Random fact: Drinks four bottles of water each morning
. His biggest fear: Sitting in the centre seat of a flight
. His future plan: To make a new album
. Kuhad tells aspiring musicians: Be the kind of artiste you like being, and stick to it
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