Neeraj Sridhar, who told the world the difference between a remix and a remake, feels that he was never cut out for Bollywood
A child who was conditioned by the MTV generation, I was introduced to Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey and R.D. Burman through a horde of remixes that blazed on our colour TV screens. So amidst all the remix bashing that happened in the late 90's by yesteryear loyalists, I became the small but strong percentage of the audience that appreciated it.
This is how I will remember Neeraj Sridhar, the man who taught me the words of “Main Chali” or rather his remake of it, “Who Chali”. Neeraj who is Bombay Vikings, and gave us hits like “Kya Soorat Hai”, “Who Chali” and “Hawa Mein Udti Jaayen”, is now belting hits for Bollywood. He was in Bangalore last week for a concert organised by the Tata Photon Leave Office Early Campaign.
Neeraj who spent the better part of his growing years in Sweden says, “I think you are more connected to the world that you left behind. I grew up in a family which actively participated in mehfils and singing and dancing, and so working with Hindi music was the most natural thing for me. While I would be on my way to school, on the bus, I would be humming the songs I grew up listening to in my head. I may have left India, but the music never left me.”
So while all the remix bashing was happening, the man screamed himself hoarse trying to explain to the world the difference between a remix and a remake. “I compose a song without changing the original, it is called a remake, and I am tired of telling people. But now I don't bother, because if you think about it even the remixes were made out of a love and respect for the original song.”
Neeraj and his band discovered remakes by accident, “I was humming ‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani' and it was one of those songs that kept coming back to me. And when the band heard me humming one day, they were most interested and when I got back home I started recording,” he narrates.
Every song that he has sung and composed as Bombay Vikings, Neeraj has had a deep rooted connection with it. “‘Hawa Mein Udti Jaayen' is in fact a song I made for my mother. That song reminds me of my mother singing in the kitchen while she was cooking.”
Neeraj is now 11 years old in Bollywood but he swears that he never thought he was cut out for the industry. And it took a lot of getting used to for him, both in terms of the way they work and the kind of discipline they follow or the lack of it. “I have had my share of struggle, and have been rejected by the industry because they could not look beyond a certain kind of voice. And I may be new to the industry, but I am not new to music. I don't want to be a slave to any record company and at the end of the day I want to do work that I enjoy.”