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Updated: February 24, 2011 16:41 IST

On the right track

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Singer Javed Ali. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup
The Hindu
Singer Javed Ali. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

Javed Ali on his musical journey in the film industry.

‘Jodhaa Akbar,' ‘Ghajini' and ‘Endhiran' have got something in common besides A.R. Rahman's music – Javed Ali's soothing vocals, which helped those catchy tunes climb up the charts.

“I was fortunate that I got what is possibly the best tracks of those films,” says Javed. His ‘Kilimanjaro…' from ‘Endhiran' continues to be popular. “I knew the song would be a hit because it was composed by Rahman for director Shankar. However, its popularity has exceeded my expectations. It wasn't an easy song to sing; I really had to work on it, including my diction. I am glad it has come out so well,” says Javed. And his two other big Rahman hits, ‘Guzarish…' from ‘Ghajini' and ‘Jashn-e-bahaara...' from ‘Jodhaa Akbar,' continue to be remembered.

Move to Mumbai

It is actually the freshness in his voice that has helped him stand out in Bollywood. But until he moved to Mumbai from his home in Delhi some 16 years ago, he didn't want to be a playback singer at all.

“To be honest, I hadn't realised the greatness of film music till I was exposed to film songs after I started living in Mumbai. A disciple of Ghazal legend Ghulam Ali, I was more inclined towards Ghazals and classical music,” he recalls.

Javed, who learnt music initially from his father, Hamid Hussai, a Qawwali singer, took a train to Mumbai on the advice of Kalyanji (of the composer-duo Kalyanji-Anandji). “He felt I had the potential to be a good singer. Eventually, I began singing in various shows. It was then that I started appreciating the breadth and depth of Hindi film music. I found that there was scope for every kind of music in films – be it Ghazals, classical, pop, folk or melodies. So, I too wanted to become a singer,” says Javed.

He got his first break in 2000 with ‘Beti No. 1.' The song, ‘Chori chori aankh…,' didn't make an impact, however. He did create a ripple with his splendid rendition of the semi-classical ‘Ab ghar aaja…' (‘Haasil'), composed by Jatin Lalit. But he had to wait for a few years before people began to take note of him.

His first hit was ‘Kajra re…' (‘Bunty Aur Babli'), but that song would always be known as Alisha Chinai's.

It was with ‘Ek din teri raahon…,' composed by Pritam for ‘Naqaab' that Javed really arrived. Pritam had earlier made him sing ‘Nagaada nagaada…' from ‘Jab We Met,' along with Sonu Nigam.

Then ‘Jodhaa Akbar' happened and Javed's career zoomed skyward. “These days people ask me, which song am I singing for Rahman and not if I am singing for Rahman. It feels great being one of his regular singers. I still recall how nervous I was when I went for the recording of ‘Guzarish…' When I reached the studio, all of them were there – Rahman, Aamir Khan, lyricist Prasoon Joshi and director A.R. Murugadoss. I remember Rahman making Prasoon write several lines before settling for the ‘mukhda' we now hear,” he says. Rahman also made Javed sing in Tamil.

“I had already begun singing in Tamil thanks to Yuvan Shankar Raja. I enjoy singing in different languages, be it Telugu or Bengali. I would like to sing in Malayalam too. I have noticed that there are melodious numbers in Malayalam. Yesudas [K.J. Yesudas] has been one of my favourite singers,” says Javed as he begins humming the evergreen Yesudas classic, ‘Kahan se aaye bhadra…' (‘Chashm-E-Buddoor').

Javed believes today's Bollywood music has great variety. “Now you find all kinds of music being appreciated by audiences, unlike earlier times,” he says.

He says he has got quite a few interesting songs coming up. “I have sung some beautiful songs for Rajshri Productions' new film, directed by Sachin. It has music by Ravindra Jain. I am also singing in M.F. Hussain's next film, the music for which is composed by Amit Trivedi,” says Javed. The singer was in Kozhikode for a concert.

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