Alka Yagnik Curated

Indian Playback Singer

CURATED BY :  


  • How are you connected with Tips?

  • You are back to judge L’il Champs 2009…

    Yes…and you can expect more fun because this time it’s boys versus girls as our tagline says ‘Jeetenge yeh world, Boys ya Girls…?’

  • Aren’t you tired of judging reality shows?

    See, I have not judged reality shows so far. I judged L’il Champs 2007, after that Voice of India, and now L’il Champs 2009. I may not have agreed to do this show too had it not involved children. I always enjoy being a part of a show where talented kids are involved.

  • Of late, there had been cases where judges’ comments had adverse effects on child-participants. How will you handle such incidents?

    I always try to sugar-coat the bitter pill. It hurts me to hurt kids. But when you have to tell a child that he/she is rejected, you have no choice. Then also, I try to

  • In the last season of L’il Champs, we saw co-judge Abhijeet pulling your leg in all the episodes. Are you prepared for his leg-pulling this season too?

    Yes…I have decided to pull all his hair if he pulls my leg. So you may expect to see a bald Abhijeet at the end of the show. (Laughs)

  • Who scripts your fights on air?

    Nothing is scripted…people who don’t know their jobs, needs scripts. We are here for so long in the industry that all our comments, actions and reactions come spontaneously.

  • You are a shy person in real life. So did you have any difficulty in opening up in front of the camera for the first time?

    It is true that I am a very shy person in real life. But that doesn’t mean I have difficulty in voicing what I have to say. It depends on the mahaul (surrounding). I talk a lot where I am comfortable.

  • What do you like more-singing or judging reality shows?

    My first love will always be singing, not just playback singing, but live shows where I can interact with my audience. But honestly speaking, after spending so many years singing ‘Jiya bekarar hai, humko tumse pyaar hai’ type songs, judging reality shows is really a welcome break.

  • Now-a-days we are getting too many new voices, but not a ‘name’ like Lata, Asha or Alka. Why is that?

    Now there are too many new talents because of the reality shows and media exposure and hence work in the industry is distributed too. But stardom is short-lived now-a-days as there is no sustenance value. Everyday a new voice is coming and before he/she gets a chance to establish himself/herself, another new voice replaces the singer.

  • Name the heroine who best fits your voice.

    There are so many of them. As long as the heroine does justice to my songs on-screen, it’s all right. Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla were very good. I also loved singing for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Karisma Kapoor and Rani Mukherji.

  • Amid your multi-tasking, do you find time for your family?

    Yes, yes. I get time because I get my schedules from before-hand. I know when and till what time I have to shoot or record or go for a show. And I plan accordingly so that I am able to spend quality time with my family.

  • Amid your multi-tasking, do you find time for your family?

    Yes, yes. I get time because I get my schedules from before-hand. I know when and till what time I have to shoot or record or go for a show. And I plan accordingly so that I am able to spend quality time with my family.

  • Many singers are now trying their hands at acting. Do you too have any such plan?

    Not at all. In fact, when I started singing in Bollywood, I got a lot of offers to act. But I was always focused and knew I want to be a singer. I have always believed in doing one thing and concentrate on that, instead of trying too many things and become ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’.

  • Any plans to join politics in future?

    I am not campaigning for any party this Lok Sabha polls. Let’s see next year. But I have voted and know that everyone must vote. Beyond this don’t ask me anything.

  • Back in the ’90s, music making was a more mechanical process compared to today’s digitisation. Do you think technology has made singing easier?

    Using technology to enhance the quality or effect of a song is good, but manipulating an entire rendition and reworking it digitally can only produce short-lived work. Because of the improved software today, even inexperienced people can compose music and make it worthy. Technology has created many singers and composers, but digitisation can enhance your singing, not your skill.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • Who was your biggest competitor in your musical career?

    I struggled with myself to get better. I sang from my heart. I was self-analytical, self critical… Even if today a song of mine is playing on radio, and I find something wrong with it, I ask the driver to switch the station.

  • Did you face rivalries or manipulations in your singing career?

    Politics exists in every line of work. A lot of songs were taken away from me. One of my contemporaries played very dirty politics with me.  Like I’d rehearse a song only to know that a senior singer had eventually sung it, I’d say koi baat nahin. I didn’t bother who was doing what, saying what… I was a homebody and only too happy to return home after work.

  • What do you enjoy about performing at concerts?

    The audience euphoria, energy… charges you, then it’s just my song, my audience and myself. I’m shy but I become a different person on stage. Surprisingly, the audience demands the songs I sang in the ’80s and ’90s,” she points out.

  • How do you spend your time nowadays?

    Basically, I’m a loner. It’s not difficult to be with myself. I hear music, read and watch films. I like spending time with my daughter Sayesha who’s launched her restaurant - Boveda Bistro – in Andheri. My husband flies down to spend time with us sometimes. Kaam bhi karti hoon, zindagi bhi jee rahin hoon. I never did the wild things as a teenager. Movies, parties... Maybe, I love to do the wild things now.

  • How has Lata Mangeshkar influenced you as a singer?

    When girls played with dolls, I’d be stuck to the radio. I’d imitate Lata didi. I’ve learnt by just listening to her. She’s my guru. Didi is in me. Raina beeti jaaye (Parichay), Ajeeb dastan hai (Dil Apna Preet Parai) were my favourites. I met Didi for the first at Film Centre in Mumbai. She was recording Main tujhse milne aayee from Heera for Kalyanji-Anandji. I just gaped at her speechless.She blessed me and said, ‘Padhai mat chodna!’ Though a bright student, I hated studies. But I went on to complete my studies.

  • Why haven’t you done classical music concerts like your contemporaries such as Kavita Krishnamurthy did?

    You know I’m quite laid-back. I always dreamt of getting married, having children, living in a nice little house and being a homemaker. Singing just came along. Even when mere angne mein became a hit, I didn’t see stars. Only after Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Tezaab, did I become serious about a career. So there’s a definite lack of drive. I have done albums like soulful compositions by Nida Fazli. I’m open to trying creative experiments like fusion or jamming with a band or something. But this can only happen if someone approaches me. Kavita’s marriage to the legend L Subramaniam has helped. She got exposed to a different genre and a different audience.

  • Over the past 30 years you’ve sung under composers with varied styles. Whose compositions have challenged you the most?

    I will have to say L-P. They are such an institution to learn from. Each antara completely different in the long songs. We’d have a day of rehearsals, followed by live recordings with HUGE ensemble orchestras. When I began I’d sing softly and Laxmiji would shout at me to throw my voice. That cultivated what recordists now call a powerful voice. In fact I’m made to step back from the mike while singing.

  • Which are some of the voices around that you like?

    I am a great fan of Lataji and Kishore Kumar since I was five. I’d sit next to my mother, a trained classical singer and sing along. But it wasn’t classical music but Lataji’s songs which influenced me even as a child in Kolkata. I like Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shaan, Sonu Nigam and several other voices. Each of them has their unique strength. But they’ve been around for long. I like some new voices but don’t even know their names.

  • Why don’t we hear you sing as much as we used to in Bollywood?

    Why do you think? Tell me where are the songs, composers, song-situations and even films which inspire one’s best. I don’t want to be part of the noise. I’ve always sung melodious numbers etched in people’s minds for years. When all one can hear is noise, repeated words and a beat; its tough to make sense of compositions masquerading as songs.

  • It’s been ten years since you sang Ringa Ringa for the internationally-acclaimed Slumdog Millionnaire, collaborating with the Mozart of Madras. What was it like singing for him for an international project?

    It is always great to work with AR Rahman. I’ve sung for him in Taal, Lagaan, Zubeidaa, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Swades, Yuvvraaj, Ada... A Way of Life and Slumdog Millionaire in the past. This track from The Hundred Foot Journey is a sweet number. Rahman’s extreme humility, simplicity and purity of heart, inspite of being a world-famous makes it delightful to work with him. As for the ‘international’ label, I know a lot is being made of the fact that this is an Indo-French film.  It is amazing how labels can get attention in India. I don’t think like that.

  • You were born and brought up in Calcutta. Any memories of the city?

  • What do you miss about your earlier days as a singer in films?

    I miss the live  recordings we used to do in those days. The entire song would be recorded in one go, at one place. The grandeur of those live recordings was something else, unlike today where you record the song in bits and pieces. It's like taking the bits and pieces from everywhere and putting them together. There is no regular flow now.

  • You have been Bollywood playback for three decades now. Over the last 30 years, what are the challenges you have seen in Bollywood music?

    The current phase is a different one. Among the positive changes, technologically, we have advanced but being technologically sound is not good enough. I feel as though we have progressed so much, but at the same time we have compromised the soul of music. There are many good music composers but songs with an evergreen quality are hardly made now. There are also many new singers and it would be unfair to point out who is good among them all, but it remains to be seen which singer will last long here. Singers don't have a big shelf life now.

  • You’ve judged various TV shows; are you open to acting in one?

    No, not at all. I think I am already an actor, because when I am asked to record a song, I’m expected to imagine the situation the song is made for and sing accordingly.

  • Were you always determined to be a playback singer?

    Not really. My mother is a trained classical singer. I used watch her doing riyaaz with her tanpura. I would sit next to her and sing along. She was my main guru. But it wasn’t classical music but Lataji’s film songs which influenced me. I was an ardent fan of hers from a very young age. I wanted to sing like her. I used to carefully listen to her songs and hum them. That’s when my mother spotted my aptitude for singing.

  • Which composers have inspired you to do quality work?

    There was a time when I did a lot of work with Laxmikant-Pyarelal. They’re the ones who groomed me. Then Nadeem-Shravan and I had many successful songs to our credit. If they’re back on the scene, all the better. I always shared a good rapport with them. Right now, I share productive working relationships with Anu Malik and Jatin-Lalit. Anu gives me a lot of songs which are tailormade for my voice. He has managed to get the best tonal quality from my voice. Apart from Refugee, we did good work together in Josh. Hai mera dil is one of my favourites. The new music composers like Sanjeev-Darshan, Sajid-Wajid, Himesh Reshamiyya and Ismail Darbar are doing good work. It’s still premature to say whether they have staying power. But they have the enthusiasm.

  • Share your experience with reality shows. Have they really unified the industry or distorted it further?

    Reality shows, just like any other program comes with a positive and a negative side. It is positive because, lot of talent from unknown areas and rural regions find a platform to perform and be under the national media scanner. It is negative because there are so many, every day different artists are churned out from all regions, and not all of them can co-exist in equal capacity. They are unable to sustain, they are short lived, fade, become frustrated and then disappear.

  • What are your views on the remixes and remakes of old Bollywood songs that are used quite a lot today?

    According to me, remixes or remakes can never match the purity of the original songs. Meri baat chor dijiye. Lata didi ke gaane hain, unko bhi remake kiya hai, unme bhi woh baat nai hai (Forget about my songs. Lata Mangeshkar’s songs are also being remade, and they can in no way match up to their original versions).... If you remake a melodious song into a dance number and then play it in a lounge, you’ve destroyed the original, and that’s not correct.

  • You redefined how singers carry themselves. Before you, few female singers would pay attention to dressing. What’s your take on this?

    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.

  • How were you as a student?

  • How did music happen to you?

  • आपने कल्याण-आनंद और लक्ष्मीकांत-प्यारेलाल के साथ काम किया है। उनकी कार्यशैली में क्या अंतर था?

  • आपने क़यामत से क़यामत तक में “ग़ज़ब का इक दिन” गाया जो एक पंथ गीत बन गया। क्या इस गीत को रिकॉर्ड करने की कोई यादें है?

  • आप और कुमार सानू उस समय में एक प्रसिद्ध गायक जोड़ी थे। आपके साथ काम करने का अनुभव कैसा रहा?

  • फिल्म खलनायक में आपके गीत ‘चोली के पेचे’ ने विवादों को जन्म दिया। उसके बाद क्या हुआ था?

  • आप अपने बचपन के दिनों में रेडियो पर लता मंगेशकर के गाने सुनकर बड़े हुए थे। जब आप उन्हें पहली बार व्यक्तिगत रूप से मिले तो कैसा महसूस हुआ?

  • जब एक नया संगीत निर्देशक आपके द्वारा गाए जाने वाले गीत के लिए संपर्क करने के लिए आता है, तो उस गीत के लिए आप किन बातों का ध्यान रखते हे?

  • क्या आप किसी भी क्षण को याद करते हैं जब आप एक गीत के लिए रिकॉर्डिंग करते समय भावनात्मक रूप से टूट गए थे?

  • What was it like when you got the first National Award for singing?

  • How do you maintain your voice?

  • You’re known to be ruthlessly ambitious. What’s your take on this?

    That’s not true at all. But if that’s the reputation I have, what’s wrong with it? My mother was very ambitious on my behalf. I always dreamt of getting married, having children, living in a nice little house and being a housewife. Singing just came naturally. Even when Mere angne mein became a hit, I didn’t see stars. But after Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Tezaab, I began to enjoy my success. That’s when I became very serious about my career. I wanted to make it big. Today I’ve reached the same level where Lataji began to make a mark many years ago.

  • Were you embarrassed about your early songs?

    No. They are a part of my growth as a singer. One goes through phases in life. Since those songs came my way, I gave them my best shot. But I knew that wasn’t the real me. I bided my time. With Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak I proved that soft, romantic numbers suited me the more. Ek do teen happened around the same time. My versatility was established.

  • You used to be the only choice for the heroine’s voice. How does it feel?

    That’s an honour and was  a very big responsibility. Because expectations were also high. So I can’t treated  any of my songs casually. Comparisons with Lataji are foolish. None of us today have her calibre. But yes, I have created a niche for myself. Any new singer who comes in was automatically weighed against Lataji’s talents. Now this  happened to me as well. The other day I read that Sunidhi Chauhan is about to give Alka Yagnik a run for her money. I laughed, just as Lataji must have done when we were compared with her. More than funny, it’s pathetic. I think comparing newcomers with established artistes shows a lack of a sense of proportion. How ignorant can they be? If they knew anything about music, they wouldn’t be saying such things.

  • Whose lyrics you have enjoyed the most during singing in your career?

    Javed Akhtar saab is a stickler with pronunciation and takes great pains to explain the stress and enunciation of every syllable. Its so reassuring to find him there at recordings.

  • What is view on actors turning to singers?

    I also received offers to act in movies  but my major focus was on singing because that moment i know i am better in what. But everything now is changing, so the music industry, and is giving preference to the techno voice instead of originals.

  • What do you like more, singing or judging reality shows?

    My first love will always be singing, not just playback singing, but live shows where i can interact with the audience. But honestly speaking, after so many years singing 'Jiya bekarar hai, humko tumse pyaar hain' type songs, judging reality shows is really a welcome break.

  • Which heroine do you think best fits your voice?

    There are so many of them. As long as the heroine does justice to my songs on-screen , its all right. Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla were very good. I also loved singing for Aishwarya rai Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Karishma Kapoor and Rani Mukherji.

  • Nowadays we are getting too many new voices, but not a ‘name’ like Lata, Asha or Alka. Why is that?

    Now there are too many new talents because of the reality shows and media exposure and hence the work in the industry is distributed too. But stardom is  short-lived now-a-days as there is no sustenance value. Everyday a new voice is coming and before he/she gets chance to establish himself/herself, another voice replaces the singer.