“Every song is not MOHTAAJ of stars” – Antara Mitra

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On the occasion of World Music Day, super singers Antara Mitra, Amit Mishra and Dev Negi in a Bollywood Hungama exclusive interaction with Faridoon Shahryar poured their hearts out about their views on the music scenario in India today. Without being politically correct the three singers spoke on the Justin Bieber lip sync fiasco, why they feel that singers have an equal contribution to make a film song look and sound good and at par with the stars enacting it on screen, why actor turned singers can never replace the trained singers and what’s the cause for the private album market dying down in India.

How do you react to accusation that Justin Bieber lip-synced to most of his songs during the concert in Mumbai recently? There were reports that he didn’t sing any song even though he belted out at least 4-5 songs on his guitar.
Antara Mitra: First of all, he is an international superstar and for Indian people to go out and buy those expensive tickets is something. In India, we don’t see a Sonu Nigam lip-syncing a show. We are not used to that. Maybe if it was Wembley, he must have really sung, but in a small European country he must have done the same thing. We are not used to seeing people performing on plus one. Kyu ke hamare yaha bhi bahut log claim karte hai ki humare yaha bhi hota hai lip sync. Toh usne kya kharab kia? But humare yaha jo uss level ke singers hai, jaise Arijit aur Sonu Ji yeh log kabhi bhi Lip Syncing shows nahi karte hai. Chahe woh India mein ho ya India ke bahar ho. We don’t have that culture. In the west, they are used to seeing a lip-sync concert, we are not. And that is why everybody reacted so heavily . D.Y Patil mein Arijit ka bhi show hua hai, waha Arijit ne pura show gaaya hai. Tab uska tickets itna expensive bhi nahi tha. They paid double and triple money for Justin. So that is why they expected that from him. They wanted to see him sing live like Coldplay. Coldplay didn’t lip sync anything, they sang when they came here. They are used to seeing people sing and that is why all that criticism happened.

I have seen Indian artists too lip-syncing during concerts and using a plus one.
Antara Mitra: That is even more foolish to sing on a plus one because that clears the point that he is lip-syncing to the vocals. There will be two voices, one is recorded and the other one playing live. And quality wise that doesn’t sound great. You are right some Indian artist do it, but my point is if somebody as big as Justin Bieber in west is as big in India, they won’t do it.

But in a live concert how do you maintain the momentum with vocals, don’t you feel stressed out after a point of time?
Dev Negi: We get used to it as we keep singing. Kabhi Kabhi galle ko accordingly scale karna padta hai. So we try and maintain that the throat doesn’t get too stressed and we shouldn’t sing in too high a pitch as it may affect the voice. So we somehow manage by making our voice as per the scale and to ensure that it becomes used to it.

Another debate that has been going on that was triggered by Armaan Malik and Kailash Kher was that about whole Sonakshi incident. What is your opinion on that? Actors have started singing, how do you look at this trend?
Antara Mitra: I don’t think this trend is new to Bollywood. This was there before also, Lata didi started as an actress and then she became a singer. Kishore Kumar Ji as well, there are many. But I would say just because you have technology music ki malumat hona bhi zaruri hai. After listening to Shraddha you realise that she has learnt music, it seems she understands music. India is a very melodious country. Ask anyone and he or she can sing at least two lines in Sur but that doesn’t mean that you go ahead, dub and make a song, go and perform live. It’s not easy. It’s a very difficult art form. Technology is not everything. Technology can’t put emotion into a song. Technology can’t make your live performance sound great. Jaise Parineeti has learnt music, woh samajh mein aata hai. Alia Bhatt has not learnt music, samajh mein aata hai. Shraddha has learnt music samajh aata hai. Power bol raha hai, unka position bol raha hai. I won’t disagree to the fact that there are people who love them and want them to sing. Like Shraddha sang all songs of Rock On 2 and she did a good job but to be frank those songs didn’t do really well. I very strongly believe that they were very strong compositions and they were extremely well produced. I don’t know how their film did but I think songs would have done better if they would have been in a professional singer’s voice.

Let’s take Farhan Akhtar for example. A very fine actor but there are question marks on his singing. He has a unique texture but professionals still question. What are your thoughts about that?
Amit Mishra: If the song is being sung by professional singers, it would be sung better of course. Someone who is doing sessions every day because routine and scheduling is different for everyone. But if somebody is able to produce that thing with better production and better talent then good. They say every singer doesn’t have abs like Farhan Akhtar (Laughs). It calls for a lot of practice. If somebody is playing cricket everyday he’ll become good at cricket. But we can’t replace the best of the best.
Antara Mitra: He is actually right. Gulley mein bhi bahut log cricket khelte hain par woh Virat Kohli ko nahi replace kar sakte.
Amit Mishra: How will you handle the pressure of the field and pressure of a stadium? You can’t. Hume pata hai ki stadium ka pace gulley cricket se zyaada hoga. I can’t do that practice for 5 years and be good because people toh have practiced for 21 years. But at the same time hats off to that guy (Farhan) because he has a lot of projects. He is a multi-tasker that way. I cannot make six pack abs and sing at the same time because I am used to different schedule. I read an article jisme likha tha ki yeh procedure sahi, ek gaane ko leke different singers try kie jaata hai because the reason is the composer is also looking for the right voice. It’s not about a particular vocalist it’s about a song. So yes if a professional would be singing it he would be singing it in the right manner. Log 5 – 6 ghante riyaaz karte hai (talking about Antara Mitra) .

There is this debate that singers feel that the film songs do well because of them while the stars say that the songs do well because of their persona, the locations etc. There was a time when private albums were doing very well. Dealer Mehndi, Alisha Chinai, Altaf Raja sold insane number of copies. It’s not the same any more. Your views.
Dev Negi: Javed Akhtar Sahab said a very nice thing. When Aamir Khan ji said that it’s the stars who make a song hit, Javed hi said that all the songs of your first film Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak were hits but no one knew you then. It’s a combination of actor and singers. One can’t say that he is bigger or he is lesser. It’s the hard work of both that matters. No one can say, ‘tum meri vajah se hit ho rahe ho’. As for private music then there is a lot of change there too with music available digitally. Earlier a few people became famous but today you can be a nobody and you can become very famous.

Antara Mitra: I believe this is the conspiracy of the music labels (laughs). There was a time when pop music industry was flourishing in India. Even singers like Devang Patel were very successful (sings ‘Aish Tu Kar’). I think two things have happened. One is that earlier music labels supported private albums which is not happening any more. Second thing I feel in that era, the film music wasn’t good. ‘Jab Tak Rahega Samose Mein Aaloo’ type ke gaane bun rahe the. People would want to go and listen to songs like ‘Made In India’, because films pe samosa walle gane baj rahe the ya Sarkayi lo khatiya jada lage. So obviously you go for something better than films. That scenario changed because of new music directors and film directors. A new wave of people have come into the film industry. Pritam Da has incorporated Rock music into films; listen to Life In A Metro songs. He is the pioneer of rock music in films in India. James is a POP singer in Bangladesh. He incorporated him in film music. After a time koi difference hi nahi tha Pop music or film music mein. Jo pop mein mil raha tha woh film music mein mil raha hai. So gradually the film music and pop music merged. Aur ab agar POP ko wapas lana hai toh sirf aur sirf music labels kar sakte hain. Social Media ka reach khatarnak hai aur music labels woh reach bana sakta hai. Aur woh reach bahut zyaada hoti hai. Humare paas bahut achche ache singers hai, bahut acche potential POP artist hai, Jo individual music ko naye level pe pahucha sakte hai. I think we can have a music industry other than the film industry. We don’t have a music industry, so this is where all this talk comes from ki hero bada hai singer se. Kyu ke humare paas music industry hai he nahi ab tak. Hamaare bade bade singers kuch claim nahi kar sakte kyu ke humare paas sirf ek he industry hai aur woh hai film industry.

‘Bulleya’ for e.g. did so well, people thought Ranbir actually sang. The veins in the neck coming out. He has done that since Rockstar. How important is that aspect for the actor to enact so well?
Amit Mishra: If the song is coming on to an actor like Mr. Ranbir Kapoor, toh of course audio ka appreciation aata hai sabse pehle, but at the same time jab ek superstar ka involvement aa jaata hai log unke through aapko pehchante hai. Because he has millions of heart throb fans. At the same time Arijit Da ke jitney bhi gaane chal rahe the, unke bhi upar unka act dekhlo kaafi brilliant hai. So unke wajah se gaana AUR ACCHA DIKHNE LAGA.

Antara Mitra: But don’t you think that is his (Ranbir) job to do that? He has not done anything out of the box! He is supposed to lip sync it that way, he is supposed to make it his song, because he is the FACE. I want to say it that ‘Bulleya’ as a pop song has an equal potential to grow that big. It would be equally big at any college gig as a pop song but same thing, if a music label would have supported ‘Bulleya’ to become a pop number it would be great. I won’t get a budget to shoot in Iceland and ‘Gerua’ wouldn’t have done well as a POP song because ‘Gerua’ is a filmy song. ‘Gerua’ was made for just Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. It’s just that we don’t have a belief on a song to make it big without a star. Aaj ‘Bulleya’ agar filmaya jaye with a help of music label, that song will reach every college student. That song is a POP song and ‘Gerua’ is a filmy song. Every song is not Mohtaj of stars. It’s just that we don’t have people who will support us.

– Bollywood Hungama