As Sonu Nigam is celebrating his birthday today, sharing with our readers his interview with Manju Ramanan.
You started very early, at the age of four?
I think it is karmic. My father who was and is a good singer was singing Rafi saab’s ‘O Duniya Ke Rakhwale’ is my memory but when I insisted to be onstage was when he sang Kya Hua Tera Vaada. My mother was a good singer but more than that, she had great musicality about her. Nevaan and I sang on stage together, we don’t anymore.
The family had a special affinity towards Rafi saab?
Yes, we did. One should aim high and my parents introduced us to the best music they knew. Their sense of music was highly refined. We used to hear songs from Rafi saab, Kishore da, Shamshad Begum, Geeta Dutta, KL Saigal and more. I grew up in a two-bedroom lower middle-class home and were part of our parents lives and philosophies from childhood. We had a small harmonium in the house that I used to play and I loved percussion but we didn’t have any other instruments. My fingers would drum on tables, chairs and sofas – the means aren’t important, the zeal is. You don’t need material things to fuel your passion.
Reverence towards the masters has been unique to your personality?
There is no other way I can be. I am not constituted in any other way. I was 18 years old when I came to Mumbai to be a singer. At that time people the 36-37-year old singers were like Suresh Wadkar jee and Kumar Sanu were my gurus. I learnt their songs would copy their songs. Today I am 46 years old. Why can’t I find a guru in someone that is 36 years old? There is no ego. Life should be met with a lot of grace and humility. Your teachers are hiding in your face. You got to acknowledge them. And people who are really filthy with me too have been my gurus for they have told me what not to do.
Who was the first big singer you met?
I used to meet Sachin Pilgaonkar who is an actor and a good singer. But if you ask me for a singer then it was Tun Tun jee. She used to come to Delhi often and I am so glad you asked me. Also, Biswajeet jee I used to meet him in Delhi. Then, when I was 14 and a half years old I met Annu Mallik who told me to meet him when I grew older. So, when I went to Mumbai in 1991, I first met Sachin jee and then Annu Mallik.
Your first mainstream song was picturized on Anupam Kher?
Yes, though I had sung for Kishen Kumar in T series films, in Papa Kehte Hain, I sang for Anupam Kher jee while Udit Narayan jee and Kumar Sanu sang for Jugal Hansraj who is a few days older to me. I say this in good humour. Again, Sandese Aate Hain from Border was picturized on people of different age groups. But it was Dil Deewana that became the song picturized on Shahrukh Khan that became my mainstream debut with a leading star.