INTERVIEW Playback singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya says but for R.D. Burman, he would have been working in some bank
After years of struggle, hunger, poverty and no shelter in a mega city like Mumbai, Abhijeet Bhattacharya decided to return to his hometown, Kanpur. But before that he decided to meet R.D. Burman one last time. RD was composing the background score for the film “Sunny” when a tired and disappointed Abhijeet stood before him with a cassette in hand. “Please spare five minutes and listen to my song...” he implored. During the lunch break RD did listen to him and was extremely impressed. “Why didn't you come to me before?”
He advised Abhijeet not to return home, but to stay on. Before the month was over RD gave Abhijeet a chance to sing with legends such as Lataji, Ashaji and his idol Kishore Kumar! “Panchamda changed my life forever,” recalls Abhijeet . “If he hadn't shown that concern for me, I would have been working in some bank in Kanpur today,” he says.
“All I had was conviction. I had no contacts, no godfathers, no food, no money. When I think of those days, I want to pat my own back,” says Abhijeet “People say I have an attitude. Why shouldn't I? I have come up the hard way and I am RD's discovery. I am proud.”
Abhijeet has sung for all the top heroes of the film industry. “I don't think there's another voice that has a range like mine, except perhaps S.P. Balasubramaniam,” he claims, explaining how even as a child he saw music in everything — from the call of a bird to the sound of a utensil to the vegetable vendor's cries. Abhijeet's mother who also sang made a lasting impact on her son, though her music never crossed the threshold of her kitchen.
“My family knew I had that something for music, but like all middle class families, education was priority.” After his class ten, Abhijeet started practising under gurus like R.S. Katiyar and Shankar Bordes and his riyaaz was obsessive.
“I would practise for hours together .” Years later, when Abhijeet moved to Mumbai to pursue his course in chartered accountancy, he slowly began to drift towards playback singing, and his riyaz came in good stead.
After two to three years of no luck, no work, Abhijeet got an opportunity to work under the composer Ravindra Jain. “I learnt a lot during this period. Yet, I was unhappy. Because becoming a playback singer was my childhood dream. And that had remained unfulfilled.”
Even after Panchamda gave him a break in “Anand Aur Anand” nothing much happened. He had to wait for at least six to seven years, before Anand-Milind gave him a break in “Baaghi”. “I owe a lot to Anand-Milind, Jatin-Lalit and Anu Malik. They gave me the best songs and I have been extremely lucky.”
Software and melody
Much has changed in the last 20 years, and Abhijeet fumes at the present-day songs and declares it is “software” and not “melody”. “Isn't it a pity that legends like Kishore Kumar and R.D. Burman never won an Oscar and now when we have the most dilute, gizmo-oriented music, the country gets an Oscar?” For Abhijeet, this is a dishonour to the Oscar itself.
“I am not singing as much as I used to. I am so busy doing live shows in India and abroad and I don't have any time. But a synthesiser and lip synching is not part of my kitty. I go with my band of original musicians. In my career, I have met phenomenal musicians who had great passion for their music and I believe in furthering those values,” says Abhijeet. ”