Nice man on the move


PLAYING IT DOWN Kailash Kher   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: MURALI KUMAR k.

Despite his larger-than-life voice, Kailash Kher is a humble man, reticent about his success

Almost the first thought that comes to mind when one sees Kailash Kher is that adage about great things and small packages. After all, for the kind of larger-than-life singing persona that he of "Allah Ke Bande" fame has managed to create, the man himself is remarkably self-contained and humble. Although obliging of the media, Kher admits that he is generally attention shy and prefers to stay as far away from the crowd as possible. "I like to live with Nature, live in harmony with it. Around my house, there are a lot of trees, and I often imagine that the trees enjoy my singing too," says the singer, quipping that, of course, such a philosophy must make him sound a little bit crazy to most people. "But most people don't seem to have any sense of direction. It's like their body is there, but someone else is driving. To be yourself, you have to be by yourself."

Rags to riches

His is the quintessential rags to riches story. He struck out on his own from Meerut at an early age with nothing but his conviction to go on and eventually rose from scratch to become one of the most sought after voices in the Hindi film industry today. "It still surprises me when music directors, big names in the industry come to me and say they have written a song specially for my voice," says the singer, who owes his success to "the grace of God." As much as Kher tries to play it down, however, the singer exudes the silent confidence of a man who knows just where he's going: standing by his convictions even in the toughest of circumstances and not tolerating those that keep him from constructive growth. So it is, that when he first decided that his future lay in music, Kher sought out a guru in Delhi, and then went through more than a dozen of them before finally teaching himself to sing. "I was always restless when I was younger, and couldn't stay in one place," he says, at first. But probe further, and he opens up: "With many gurus, for the first one or two years you just have to be like their chelas and keep falling at their feet, with no serious talk of music ever taking place."

In awe of Rahman

It comes as no surprise that Kher is respectful of another man who shares his work ethic, A. R. Rahman. "He is one of the few people who doesn't talk, just works. When you do that, you keep growing." Kher, who first worked with Rahman on the Aamir Khan-starrer Mangal Pandey, is appreciative of the music director's uncanny ability of using unusual voices to great effect. "His casting is perfect. When I met him for the first time, I had originally gone for another project. But after asking me to sing only four lines, he decided that I should sing `Mangal Mangal'."Talk of Rahman leads to other names in the industry, past and present; and eventually to the great names that one would expect to have influenced Kher. But, says Kher, he can't pinpoint any specific names because he has never had the luxury of listening to the greats long enough to be influenced. "When my friends talk about Elvis and so on, I am always curious to know who these people are." Even his exposure to Bollywood has been limited, although that genre is of the nature that, "even if you don't want to hear it, you will be forced to hear some of it. But I have observed life, and that has been my influence."Having won over millions of fans with his debut album Kailasa, Kher is hard at work on the follow up. "One of the highlights will be a song that combines the folk music of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra." And that is just one of the many projects that dot his immediate future. Certainly, if Kher's rise to fame is any indicator, one can't ask for a better teacher than life itself.RAKESH MEHAR

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