Rekha Bhardwaj Curated
Indian Playback Singer
CURATED BY :
How special is it to sing Gulzar Saab's lyrics in comparison to any other lyricist?
What have been the milestones that have shaped you and your voice in your musical journey?
What are your dynamics with Vishal Bharadwaj?
How did you think of becoming a singer?
Who is your favourite character from a book or movie?
If not a singer, what career would you have chosen for yourself?
To a person who has never seen any Bollywood movie, which one would you recommend?
A book you think that should be adapted into a movie?
Do you think there is a scope for female protagonists in Bollywood just like in writing?
Which is the last book you read? What was it about? Would you recommend it?
Did you face any problem while recording a marathi song since you do not know how to speak marathi?
Was there a special reason behind singing a marathi song?
How was your experience while recording a song for a marathi movie?
You have a special liking towards tragic song. Can you tell us more about it?
How do you prepare yourself before performing?
What is the story behind the beautiful voice that you have?
श्रोता के तौर पर आपको किस तरह का संगीत पसंद है ?
मुझे हर तरह का म्यूजिक पसंद है. जैज भी सुनती हूं मुझे उसपर डांस करना पसंद है।कोई भी संगीत जैसे ही वो शोर हो जाता है फिर मुझे वो पसंद नहीं. हमारे यहां के रिमिक्स बहुत खराब लगते है क्योंकि हमारे यहां गंदी सेंसिबिल्टी के साथ ही उसे पेश करते हैं सिर्फ ढिंचैक ढिंचैक ही होता है. रिमिक्स के नाम पर विशाल और शंकर महादेवन ने कहा था कि कंपोज करने की क्षमता जिसमें नहीं है.वो रीमिक्स करते हैं. वो जब संगीत कंपोज करते हैं तो उन्हें लगता है कि वो इबादत पर बैठे है. अपने गानों को हम रिअरेंज कर लेंगे लेकिन रिमिक्स के नाम पर ढिंचैक ढिंचैक नहीं कर सकते हैं.
आपके बेटे को संगीत में कितनी रुचि है ?
हमारी जो कोशिश रही है वो ये कि उसे मेडिओक्रेसी के लिए जागरुक बनाएं. बच्चा अगर आपका थोड़ा कम अच्छा भी काम करें तो आप उसे बढावा देते हैं , हम वो करते हैं लेकिन साथ में ये भी बोलते हैं कि इससे अच्छा और हो सकता है. क्वालिटी में थोड़ा कम है. ये समझ उसमे है. सलाहियत उम्र के साथ और आनी शुरु हुई. क्योकि वो बचपन से मेरे और विशाल के क्लासिकल रियाज सुनता था. मेरे गानों की नकल करते हुए गाता था बचपन में. पलटे गाता था. फिर गिटार और वेस्टर्न म्यूजिक से जुडा. वो क्वालिटी के प्रति जागरुक होना जरुरी है. वो अच्छा काम करें. हमारी यही चाहत हैं. मैंने उसकी शॉर्ट फिल्म में गाना गाया है. जिसे स्पेशली गुलजार साहब ने लिखा है. विशाल ने कंपोज किया.
सिंगिंग रियलिटी शो पर आपका क्या कहना है ?
मुझे सिंगिंग रियलिटी शो जज करना बहुत पसंद नहीं है. मैंने बहुत जल्द ही ऐसे शोज से किनारा कर लिया. वहां पर सिर्फ आपको तुलना करना सीखाया जाता है. इससे आप में हीन भावना ज्यादा आती है. मैं ये भी कहूंगी कि कुछ शोज अच्छे भी हैं. जहां पर प्रतिभाको बढावा मिलता है लेकिन उनकी संख्या बहुत कम है।कुछ क्वालिटी होना जरुरी है. हम उनको सीखाते हैं कि वोट फॉर मी कैसे बोलना है . उनको स्टार बना देते हैं. उनका मेकओवर कर देते हैं लेकिन जो असली स्ट्रगल आता है. उसके लिए हम उन्हें तैयार नहीं करते हैं. एक साल के बाद जैसे ही रियैलिटी शो बंद हो ता है. वो गिन्नी पिग्स को अंधेरे में छोड दिया जाता है. शादियो के शोज में 50 हजार लेकर गाते हैं. वो खुद को तो खोज ही नहीं पाते हैं. विदेशों की नकल पर हम शो तो ले आते लेकिन हम भूल जाते हैं विदेशो में बच्चे 16 साल बाद घर से बाहर रहने लगते हैं. खुद से लोन लेकर पढ़ाई करते है लेकिन हमारे यहां ऐसा नहीं होता है। हमारा बस चले तो सारी जिंदगी हम अपने बच्चों के साथ ही रहें.
आपका बेटा कब फिल्मों से जुड़ने वाला है ?
हमारा बेटा आसमान भारद्वाज फिल्म मेकिंग पढ़ रहा है न्यूयॉर्क में. मई में वह वापस आएगा. उसको 2020 में बतौर निर्देशक लांच करने की तैयारी है. आकर थोड़ी और स्ट्रगल करेगा. उसे थ्रिलर और एक्शन जॉनर बहुत पसंद है.
आप नये लुक में नजर आ रही है क्या एक सिंगर के लिए लुक मायने रखता है ?
मैं ऐसे नहीं सोचती हूं जो मन का लगता है .वो मैं करती हूं. उम्र बढ़ रही है लेकिन आज मैंने स्कर्ट पहना है. इस बार के एमटीवी अनप्लग्ड के सीजन में मैं थोड़े अलग अंदाज में दिखूंगी. अंगरखा पहनूंगी. जैकेट पहनूंगी. पैंट पहनूँगी. मुझे साक्षी ने डिजाइन इस बार किया. मैं कभी वो नहीं पहन सकती हूं जो मुझे अच्छा लगता है लेकिन मैं उसे कैरी नहीं कर सकती हूं. बहुत जरुरी है कि जो मैं पहनूं. उसे पहनकर मुझे अच्छा लगे. मैंने इससे पहले एमटीवी अनप्लग्ड और कोक स्टूडियो में रोहित बाल के डिजाइनर कपड़ों को पहना था. वो मेरी इमेज बन गयी. मैं तो कई बार बाल भी नहीं बनाती हूं. स्टेज पर क्लिप लगाकर थोडा सा मेकअप करके चली जाती हूं. एक टाइम में सिर्फ काजल और लिपस्टिक लगाते थे लेकिन जब मैंने परफॉर्म करना शुरु किया तो मैंने पाया कि स्किन में जलन हो रही है क्योंकि लाइटिंग बहुत तेज स्टेज पर होती है वो स्किन को खराब करती है. उसके बाद मैंने मेकअप करना शुरु किया. टीवी और फिल्मों में थोड़ाऔर ज्यादा मेकअप करना होता है. यहां लाइट इतनी हैवी होती है कि बिना मेकअप के आपकी स्किन अच्छी दिखेगी ही नहीं.
Has Mr. Vishal Bhardwaj influenced your musical journey?
Being Mrs. Vishal Bhardwaj might have acted as a catalyst for my work, but I had to fight hard to get what I deserved. It took time to emerge as a full-fledged playback singer, and that, of course, wouldn’t have happened had my husband’s name made things easy for me. He was always an inspiration to me.
What happens to be your favorite genre?
I love the feel of Sufi music. I can listen to it anytime. I delved into the world of Sufism with my first album.
Have you always wanted to become a singer?
Yes, I think I was born to be a singer, as I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. I had a special liking towards tragic songs.
Any message for the younger generation and budding singers?
The younger generation are doing very well. They are good at multitasking from music production to singing to playing instruments because they have got good exposure. The only thing I feel they need to do is pay attention to diction, meaning of the Urdu words, otherwise I feel the youngsters are a highly talented breed.
What do you think of the actors and not the singers going around to promote the songs from the movies?
Well, it’s because actors add a face value to the songs and that’s necessary to promote the song. Because if the actors are singing our song on screen, then the audience goes to watch it, that way they listen to our songs. So it is necessary to have a face value but what I don’t agree to is the actors going to the Radio stations to promote the songs!
How do we bring folk music to the current generation?
A lot of children have explored folk music through Coke Studio especially the Pakisthan one, children have discovered folk, ghazal etc. They’ve heard ghazals by Begum Akhtar etc. The Coke Studio Explorer on Netflix have brought some great folk songs. That way this generation is also getting exposed to it. For example my song made me listen to Kabir’s dohas somewhere.
How can we bring folk music beyond just a cultural reference?
The base for all genre of music is folk. Folk has its own fragrance, it should blend well with what we are doing. There have been so many instances where folk songs have been blended with filmy music and that sounds terrible. It’s like eating half a paratha with half dosa or a noodle dosa!
Audience wants to connect to such songs like Ladki, but in an age where remixes are being made etc. do you think we should include such songs in Bollywood as well?
Wherever I go everyone asks me about it, they say; “You’ve sung Ladki. We love that song!” Just like we want to watch a good content based movie, so is it with music. What is happening is that the public does not have a choice, I want to hear a good song but if that is not available then we have to make do with what is available. If we give quality to the audience they will like it, it’s a matter of reaching to the audience. So many times our work does not even reach the audience and everyone craves to listen to good music.If we give good music, there is an audience for good music too.
Your songs have a different approach, there is more of a folk and traditional reflection. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Firstly the earthiness in my voice comes from my roots, my roots are very classical.I’ve grown up listening to classical music, semi classical music, ghazals, thumri etc. From childhood I learnt Hindustani classical music, I followed the Indore Gharana. Till date I do my riyaaz for two-three hours. About lyrics when you are singing Gulzar Saab’s lyrics where do you need any inspiration? And to top that if Vishal Bhardwaj is composing the song then it’s like an icing on the cake! AND if Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy are doing the song or if A R Rahman is doing the song then the package is strong already! My work then is to feel the song and prepare the songs.I claim my songs, make the songs mine so I think when I sing that’s the quality that comes across.
What is different between MTV Unplugged Season 1 and MTV Unplugged Season 8? Since you’ve been a part of mostlly all.
Such a huge difference, every year is a different experience. Season 1 was curated by Ranjit Barot and he was under tremendous stress because he had to arrange 70 songs in a limited amount of time. Nobody knew how much would go in the production and the post production which is a lot of work. It was very challenging. Now too we sing 6 songs in a day but then we have been preparing those songs for a month. This time I got two weeks to prepare but we were aware about it a month back. Those days we got only a day of shoot and rehearsal, it was very tiring and taxing. Though the experience was good. Every year there is improvement.
Do you have any regrets?
None, really. It has been lovely to grow together.
What are Vishal's ambitions for himself? And yours?
Gulzar once told him, "Once you excel, you must move to next level." He lives by that. I find it is not an easy ride with him because he is so perfect, wanting to excel in everything he does. It gives me a complex. In the beginning it was very tough to accept this, but now I tell myself, I cannot be him. I must be myself.
You have a son. What sort of father is Vishal?
Doting. Gives him full freedom to express himself. Vishal has financed his short films, his home music console. And after his 12th boards, Aasman will go to film school. He will have everything he needs for his creative growth. It makes us happy.
Do you get the first right to sing Vishal's songs?
I get to hear his compositions first. He takes my opinion on them, which I give freely. Whether he heeds it or not, is another matter. But I have never asked for a song, never will dare to, even if I feel inside me that I can do it justice. His clarity of vision will not permit me to ask. Yet, he did take a chance when he gave me Namak Ishq Ka. I was humming it, and he realised it could work well in my voice. He took the risk. I trust him in such matters since he knows best.
What about creative differences of opinion between you and Vishal?
We are both people with strong opinions, and it is difficult to accept each other's opinions. I am the singer, he is the composer, but sometimes the line is crossed. Sometimes, though, he gives me the freedom to interpret. He used to push me, beyond where I wanted to go. I would get upset, feel a complex, and say, "You don't care." But now I realise that he was trying to improve me.
Has money ever been an issue? You have lived through lean days...
Both of us have been brought up to believe that words, music and language are more important than worldly things. Today, however, he takes care of all basics for me and my son, and he takes care of his mother too. We have lived with no money and yet been happy, but it is easier when we have the money of course. He does feel the pressure as has a unit of 300 people who depend on him. Sometimes when he gets angry, I realise it is the pressure. And he needs to vent. He also knows I can take it. Our needs are few. We travel in comfort, a/c, business class, once a year. If we can afford it, fine, or we don't go. For 15 years we have lived in rented apartments. For us it is more important to be together.
But as a creative person, is Vishal slow and steady or volatile?
When he is creating, he breathes it, lives it, be it a song or a scene. If he reads a story he likes, he will talk endlessly about it. He will be excited, want to share it with me, with his assistants. If he has a song on his mind and cannot sleep, he will wake me up and sing it. It is so complete an involvement that I have to take on responsibility for other aspects of his life.
How is Vishal's relationship with others?
He is very sensitive, he values a relationship, be it with me, or his mother, or his team members. He has the ability to make a difference in people's lives without being asked.
How did things change? What changed?
Meeting Gulzar changed our lives. He got his break. First, Jungle Book, then Matchis. Gulzar treats him like his own son. Because of Gulzar so much in our life changed for the better, including our perspective. Gulzar used to tell him, "Be patient, have success on your terms."
Why did you and Vishal sir move to Bombay? Was it films that beckoned?
He went through a terribly tough time. His father and brother were in Bombay: his father was a lyricist, brother was a producer here. His brother suddenly died of a heart attack, when Vishal was in the second year. He went through a tough time after that. From 1990 to 1995, we struggled a lot. But today when I look back, I think our days of struggle were the best days.
You were a student of classical music. How did that work for Vishal bhardwaj? And did it bother him?
I had the training of the Indore Gharana. Serious stuff. And that gave me a sense of pride. I was straight forward, critical, almost badtameez. I would react loudly to his compositions with my views. It did not really bother him. He was always a patient man, and he realised I was classically trained. I could influence him in that way. His strength was his poetry, He'd started reading Gulzar while still in school, and knew most of his work by heart . He could recite freely from Dr Basheer Badr's long poem. In college, he would also compose a lot of poetry, and I had nothing to criticise in that sphere.
What was Vishal Bhardwaj like?
He would compose music even then, and was quite lost in that. I liked the soulfulness of his compositions, though there were not many embellishments. His classical training started much later, when he started listening to the ghazals of Mehdi Hassan.
You and Vishal Bhardwaj do seem rather different from each other temperamentally. What brought you together?
In a way, it was music. And the fact that we were in the same college. But mostly, the bond between us was the crazy streak we both had, perhaps still have. We met in 1984, at Delhi University. I was in Music Hons, and Vishal was in Arts. I was a year senior, and was quite well known, as I would take part in all the college music cultural functions. We met at an annual day function. He planned to sing some songs by Jagjit Singh and Pankaj Udhas on stage. He was rehearsing, so was I. Somehow we got together, and then the crazy streak took over. We would laugh a lot, over nothing. But music proved to be the real bond.
How much do lyrics matter to you when you work on a song?
Lyrics are by far the most important component in music. The thing is to understand and appreciate the lyrics because if you don’t do that, you can never emote a song. I must say that I am really fortunate in this regard: I have often had the privilege of singing the poetry of Gulzar saheb. His lyrics are so powerful, and when they come together with the melody of Vishal’s composition, I think the overall outcome is amazing. In a sense, half my work is done. As a singer, I also like to emphasise on diction. It helps that my Hindi is very good, as is my Urdu. My father studied in an Urdu medium school and my mother is a voracious reader of Hindi literature.
Do you think with the coming of young, experimental composers into the film industry, singers are getting to croon songs belonging to different genres?
I won’t say all the songs belong to different genres, because to me, most of the songs sound quite similar in terms of sound and their treatment. Sometimes, in fact, it’s difficult to differentiate between singers, because most singers today almost sound the same. I won’t call it different genres because we are taking a lot from the West and whatever is trending on the Internet, in a sense. But some songs have a distinct quality about them and those are really the kind that I appreciate.
How did playback cinema happen?
Well, I married Vishal (Bhardwaj) in 1991 and shifted base to Mumbai. While he composed music for cinema, I slowly began assisting him in the process. While doing that, sometimes he’d make me sing, just to see how a song sounded, the core of the composition, etc. It was as organic as that. And then one day, in one of the films that he was composing for, Jahan Tum le Chalo, after Maachis, I got to sing as a dummy for Lataji (Mangeshkar). It was a song called ‘Yeh kaisi chaap’. The film’s heroine Sonali Kulkarni, Gulzarji and the producer loved my singing and decided to keep the song in my voice. That’s how my tryst with cinema began. I always knew I had a distinct voice; you see, I don’t have a regular high pitch kind of voice which is considered romantic in cinema.
Tell us about your training in classical music.
I began studying classical music when I was a child, born and brought up Delhi. I initially began learning from my sister at home and when she got married — I was 12 at that time — I enrolled at the Gandharv Maha Vidyalaya and began to learn music more formally. I pursued music in college and went on to top my university in Hindustani Classical Music. My guru was Pandit Amarnathji of the Indore Gharana; he was the senior-most disciple of Ustad Amir Khan saheb. Even as a child, I was immensely fond of ghazals. I was also a huge fan of the radio. Back in the day, and almost until I joined college, we didn’t have TV at home. So, radio was really our go-to medium for all kinds of music. I grew up listening to the music of Begum Akhtar sahiba, Farida Khanum, Mehdi Hassan saheb, Girja Devi, Rasoolan Bai... you get the picture, right?