From remixing old songs like “Hawa mein udta jaye”, “Woh chali”, “Chod do Aanchal” and popularising them with the youth to singing the latest Bollywood chartbusters like “Twist”, Neeraj Shridhar of Bombay Vikings has come a long way. “People used to make fun of old songs. I didn’t like that as they are great songs with such nice melodies. So I tried to present them in a new way that became popular with the youngsters,” says Neeraj. And after becoming a raging success in Bollywood, Neeraj is busy reviving his band. “I do miss my band. I am working on an album. It is going to be a fusion of pop, rock and jazz with Hindi lyrics. In short, something new with an Indian touch that the people can connect to. I want to give something different, not run of the mill. That is why it is taking some time.”

In the city to perform at the annual fest of IIPM, the singer talks about his journey so far, the highs, the lows and everything in between.

How has been your transition from a band singer churning out remixes of old songs to a playback singer with the latest hits to your credit?

Not very difficult, though the two genres are definitely different. In a band, it’s more hard work as you compose the music, sing and play the instruments. Though, it is definitely easier and more satisfying to sing something that you have created yourself. In playback you are singing somebody else’s tunes, so there are no solid creative inputs from your side. But I am getting used to it slowly. That could be because I like to put in a certain attitude and style in my songs to give my audience something different.

From “Twist” and “Chor bazari” to “Tum mile”, most of your songs have been chartbusters. What’s the secret?

I wouldn’t like to take credit for the songs completely because they are a team effort made by the music director’s vision. He is the one who makes and composes the music. Like there are 80 instruments in a song, I’m just one of them. The only difference is that this instrument is right in the front. But the credit for the success of the songs should go to the directors, especially Pritam and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy with whom I have done most of my songs.

We see a trend of band singers increasingly moving towards playback singing in films. What is the reason? Is there any future for the private music industry?

It is sad. Private album sector needs a push. It is important to get the best out of the artist and albums are the best way. They allow one to experiment and create new forms of music but unfortunately people are not buying such music anymore so most of the singers are shifting to playback singing.

Also, the package of a Bollywood song is irresistible. The combination of top actors, exotic locales and great fresh music in a film song guarantees great sales. If a private album has to find takers in the market, it must provide something new and fresh to ward off the tough competition from Bollywood.

How come you are singing for different actors like Saif, Shahid and even Akshay?

In the beginning my voice was actually rejected by music directors. They thought it wouldn’t suit anybody. It was too different and striking compared to the previous voices that everyone was used to. I think after some time you get used to a certain voice. Also, nowadays it is not so much about which actor one is singing for but the mood and style of the song. I never thought my voice would suit Akshay, but it suited him so well that even I was surprised when Akshay himself said that he would like to have my songs in each of his movies after I sang “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” for him in “Bhool Bhulaiya”.

What are your views on music reality shows that abound the television industry?

They are fine but how many people from these shows have made it? Maybe one or two. When you practice a song thousands of times, it is very easy to sing it properly. The melody is right there in your mind and you are able to deliver it. But when these kids come to the studio, they are given a new tune and they have to deliver it right there. That’s when they falter or fail to live up to expectations. In my opinion, these shows are taking the kids away from real music.