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Banjaara comes home

Mohammed Irfan Ali wants to carve out a niche for himself

Mohammed Irfan Ali wants to carve out a niche for himself   | Photo Credit: 07dmc Irfan

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Meet Mohammed Irfan Ali who is keen to take the melodic legacy of Mohammad Rafi forward

Mohammed Irfan is the new voice of melancholy in Hindi cinema. He was noticed with “Phir Mohabbat” ( Murder 2) but in 2014 Irfan is on song with back-to-back hits with “Baarish”, ( Yaariyan), “Dard Dilon Ke” ( The Expose) and of course “Banjaara” ( Ek Villain), whose craze is refusing to ebb. Not to forget, the unplugged version of “Muskurane Ki Wajah Tum Ho” ( Citylights), which is often credited to Arijit Singh, his “friend and rival”. Recently, his couple of songs in Kick have climbed the charts and with Singham Returns ready the Hyderabad boy finally feels at home in Bollywood. “I don’t have any sad story to offer. I just identify with light romantic numbers with a tinge of sadness,” says Irfan.

Despite excelling in reality shows, for a long time the engineer didn’t know how to break into the Bollywood matrix. “The stories of ‘you need to know somebody personally’ used to clog my mind. Here meeting with people doesn’t necessarily result in work and when it doesn’t you start doubting your talent. It was a tough phase and finally Mithoon offered me a couple of songs in Lamhaa. Unfortunately, the film failed and I was back to square one.”

On a visit to his teacher K. Ramachary’s, Little Musicians Academy in Hyderabad to attend the convocation he happened to sing in front of S. P. Balasubrahmanyam who put in a word for him with A.R. Rahman. “I sang the same song that I sung at the time I passed out from the school. By chance Balasubramanyam, the mentor of the Academy was present during that event as well. He admitted that he was moved by my voice back then as well and promised to do something for me.” Rahman made him sing “Behne De” for Raavan but Irfan says again the film failure ensured that the song could not travel far.

However, Mithoon didn’t forget him when his stars started shining. “He called me for “Phir Mohabbat Karne Chala Hai Tu” because the emotion of the song suited my voice and the collaboration continued.” Irfan says he had recorded a scratch version of the song and had almost forgotten about it when one day he got a call from Mithoon that the Bhatts have liked it and want to use it in Murder 2.

Recording scratch versions has become a trend in Bollywood but Irfan says it doesn’t necessarily affect the quality because the composer tells you the situation and re-records it when a maker gives him that kind of situation. “However, the rest of the songs that I have sung are according to the exact brief.” In the “Banjaara” song there is a slight accent – he ends words like ghar with an extra emphasis on ‘r’ – but Irfan says there was no direction from Mithoon to that effect and it was his own creation and that it has worked. On the sudden rise of Mithoon’s brand of music, Irfan says Mithoon is old school when it comes to compositions but knows how to package them for the young generation so much so that sometimes the songs are more effective than the film.

If Rafi is his icon, Irfan has keenly followed K.K.’s repertoire and wants to follow his style without copying him. “As a young boy I was moved by the pain that he generates in his voice. Perhaps, that’s why I picked his songs like “Tadap Tadap” ( Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) during my stint in reality shows,” he admits.

Sometime back the champions of reality shows were spurned by composers as copycats, not suitable for original stuff. “It depends from singer to singer. Once a reality show is over, the participants get a lot of stage shows. It is up to the singer whether he wants to take the safe route and keep singing cover versions or is ready to wait and work for the big opportunity. As I was trained only in light classical, I used the time to learn the nuances of Hindustani classical for four years and it is helping me now.”

Irfan says the technical support in the studio can provide you many things but it cannot develop the feel, the personal touch for the song. “That has to come from inside and that makes one singer different from the other,” he muses.

According to a point of view composers’ concern for variety in voices has emanated after some seasoned playback singers have taken a stand on the issue of royalty which is contrary to the interests of music companies. “I think it has something to do with the public’s demand. And it is good that the industry is no longer dominated by two-three singers and it is not exactly new otherwise Balasubramanyam sir would have been singing for Salman till date. Yes, the period of this cycle has shortened from say 10 to two-three years,” counters Irfan.

Remind him that this shortened period of fame is going to affect him as well and Irfan says, “I am ready for the competition. My struggle has taught me that nobody can take away the songs destined for me.”

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2018 12:47:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/banjaara-comes-home/article6287475.ece

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