INTERVIEW - Kumar Sanu
Kedar Bhattacharya's journey to Kumar Sanu has been a long one; from a Calcutta University Commerce graduate who grew up in North Calcutta's Sinthee area to the Hindi film music superstar. After Manna Dey and Hemant Kumar, once again a voice from Calcutta gained prominence in the world of Hindi playback singing with Kumar Sanu. He has already sung over 9000 songs in over 800 movies. This interview was taken during the Durga Puja celebrations in California last year with the assistance of Shyamal Chowdhury of Prabasi and Partha Chakravarty.
Q: Your path to success started with Aashiqui almost 12 years ago, and you have not had to look back ever since.
A: Yes, it has not been easy to continue pleasing my listeners. I have had to struggle in the past, and I am struggling now too.
Q: You mean to say that holding on to your success has been just as difficult as reaching the top.
A: I would say that holding on to one's success is even more difficult than achieving it. One may become successful by a stroke of luck, but continuing to deliver is much more tough.
Q: When did you leave Calcutta for Mumbai ?
A: During November of 1986.
Q: How did you get your first break?
A: Jagjit Singh gave me my first break in the film Aandhiya. Kalyanji Anandji were the first famous music director to use my voice in the film Jaadugar in Amitabh Bachchan's lip. I first gained popularity in Gulshan Kumar's Aashiqui.
Q: Have you worked with R D Burman in any film other than 1942 A Love Story?
A: I have sung for his Bengali film Nyay Anyay. There have been some other Bengali films too, but they were probably never released. I worked with Pancham-da for another Bengali film called Nawab.
Q: What was your impression of him?
A: It is difficult to say anything about Pancham-da. He could be called a school by himself in the industry, he was almost a one man industry by himself. He had a tremendous range, and there was a lot to learn and know from him.
Q: There is a trend now to have more than one music director in films...
A: This trend is not totally new. But in the past, it used to usually be two music directors who formed a team, even though they may have been successful scoring for films individually. But now it is not like that any more. Now a film can have up to three or four different music directors. Few composers have the guts to handle all the songs of a film individually.
Q: Who do you find promising among the new music directors?
A: Himesh Rashmiya. A R Rahman is now a senior. I also like the work of Sanjeev Darshan, Saajid Wajid, and Anand Raaj Anand.
Q: Some people complain that nowadays producers and actors are influencing film music.
A: Yes, their interference has increased. This is not good. Sometimes, the producer or director decides on the type of songs or the choice of singers, the influence of so many people robs the music director of freedom.
Q: You mean there is no freedom?
A: Nil, nothing. Producers and directors are dictating terms, and there is no scope of individuality or talent or experimentation.
Q: What is the reason for this?
A: The tendency to achieve everything easily. Some new music directors are coming up who have neither confidence nor knowledge. They are ready to work just for publicity for little or no money. And the producers and directors are taking advantage of the situation without realizing that it is killing the music industry.
Q: Has the longevity of recent hit songs gone down? No one listens to hit songs of five years ago any more.
A: Five years? Its more like three months. Every new film
is introducing new singers who are never heard of again. The TV channels
are using any type of singers to fill up their time slots. They are promoting
new singers by taking a hefty sum of money. They are playing the same
song continuously fifty times a day and hammering listeners with it.
Q: Did you learn music at home as a child?
A: There was an atmosphere of music at my home. My father was a classical singer in the Bare Ghulam Ali gharana. He used to sing khayals and thumris. We had two music schools at home. I have learned a little from my father, but not a whole lot. I have learned more from watching my father and hearing him and other people sing. My elder brother Tapan Bhattacharya used to act in jatra and theater. My elder sister used to sing too, she sings on the radio and has a music school at home.
Q: At one time Kumar Sanu used to sing Kishore Kumar's songs and now others sing Kumar Sanu's songs. How do you feel about this?
A: It feels good. I followed Kishore-da initially in my career, and now others are following me. It feels like an achievement.
Q: Who is your favorite artist?
A: Of course Kishore-da. And Lataji and Ashaji among the female singers. In Bengali I like to listen to Manna Dey and Manabendra, and Debabrata Biswas' Rabindrasangeet.
Q: And among the new ones?
A: Shaan is good, and Kay Kay is not bad either.
Q: What about Babul Supriyo?
A: He is good, but (smiles) he wont be able to do much as long as I am alive, I mean as long as people can listen to the original, but he is a good singer.
Q: You had decided not to accept any more filmfare awards...
A: Yes. I took that decision after winning the award for the best male playback singer five years in a row. That is still a record. But now I have spoken to them again and said that I wouldn't mind accepting the award any more.
Q: You also have a record in the Guinness book...
A: Yes, for recording 28 songs in a single day.
Q: How did you enjoy singing in the US during the Durga Puja?
A: I really enjoyed singing here. I don't remember singing so many songs in a single program in recent years.
Q: Thanks a lot from the readers of our web site.
A: Thank you.