People Alka Yagnik and Kumar Sanu, the two film music stars of the Nineties, left journalists star struck writes Deepa Ganesh
We are supposed to learn from our mistakes. As if we do. We go back with renewed hope, a small dose of forgetfulness, and aspire for oodles of divine grace. It's time to confess – “They also serve, who only stand and wait” – we swore loyalty to Milton, something like the Hippocratic Oath. So each time the “stars”, “starlets”, their kith, kin and brethren descend on the city, we wait studiously – armed with notebook, pen and a list of questions that we hope to ask, if only these “gifts to mankind” gave us a molecular bit from their super busy schedules.
So we sat – waiting from playback singers Alka Yagnik and Kumar Sanu, both winners of many Filmfare Awards, and story has it that the latter after winning five in a row, politely told the Awards committee “give it to someone else please…”. The clock was ticking, we waited for these singers who performed in Bangalore last weekend. “They are at the signal,” someone said. “Which signal?” no one asked. We continued to wait. “Weekend traffic na… also, their flights were delayed,” someone else said. “They have just a couple of hours left for their show this evening. They haven't had the time to practice together. They're planning; they'll be here anytime now.” We took a deep breath, scribbled nonsense words in our notepads, looked around for interesting species that would make these long, empty moments exciting. Still we waited. “Don't worry,” the harried PR said, “you will get your exclusive with Alkaji. She has approved the interview list.” Suddenly things looked bright. We were willing to forget these hours of waiting as hope wore a bright orange halo.
An announcer came up to the mike, apologised profusely and again said they were at this (mysterious) signal and would walk in any moment. In the meanwhile, the PR came running looking desolate, “Kumar Sanu will not give interviews. If you have questions just ask them at the press conference.” Even as these golden words were whispered into my ears, the entire camera brigade within seconds was in a “lotus formation”, like what you see at the Asian Games inauguration. Lo, and behold, at the centre was Alka Yagnik!
The singer, who has stuck around in the industry for over two decades, and has sung many memorable songs for some of the best composers, wouldn't look up from her phone. But the cameras kept clicking away. When she did after a while, “Sanuji, kahan hain,” she asked. “Do minat, yaheen signal pe hain…” But she refused to buy the ‘signal' excuse and insisted the proceedings began.
“I had come for A.R. Rahman's show to Bangalore, but this is the first time I will be performing a full concert for Bangalore audience. I have heard the audience here are very musical, and I look forward to this evening…,” she was saying this and the door opened, and Kumar Sanu stormed in full Bollywood style and in his tearing hurry nearly toppled his chair. “Kya ho raha hain…?,” he restlessly asked, adjusting his hair for the clicking cameras. “Wohi, aaj sham ke bare mein kuch boliye,” Alkaji gently reminded him of the context. “Hanh, hanh….it's my third visit, we are very excited, people have good taste here, and I guess we both will enjoy,” he was done with it and began to impatiently tap his feet.
Questions came tumbling – we realised time ‘start' was time ‘end'. “I am glad I came into the industry when I did. Fortunately, I got songs that suited my voice. Had I come in now, I wouldn't have survived. It's now the era of the item song. The melodious era of the romantic song is over,” said Alka, recounting the good time she had during the Nineties. “It's a phase, I guess. Maybe those times will come back,” she added. Handing over the mike to Sanuji, “Aap boliye,” she said. “Hanh, hanh, jaise aap kahe. Wohi, wohi.” Alkaji looked askance. “My favourite song is ‘Jab koi baath bigad jaaye…',” he added a line with great effort.
But our kind never says die. When you moved to Mumbai, ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh gave you the first chance. He's such a “non-Bollywood” composer. Can you recall working with him? “Kya bole aap…?” he said edgily turning to Alkaji for help. After repeating the question two or three times, “he was bindaas, large-hearted man. I enjoyed working with him. Bahut si choti choti baat hain, but this is enough na, teekh, teekh…,” he replied ready to get up.
There was a flurry of activity, Sanuji was running to find the door, organizers, event managers, PRs were running after him. A fan stopped him to say something – “Time nahin hain…”, he was running again. The television crew chased Alka for bytes. She was confused, whether to stay or to leave. As she was answering her question, someone came and pulled her away, the camera was still running. Everything was turning around like a frenzied whirlpool. We waited, hoping things would settle down.