AR Rehman office was looking for me
Chicago IL: June 15, 2012 Suresh Bodiwala Chairman of Asian Media had an opportunity to interview Bollywood Play back singer Poonam Bhatia regarding “Her passion of music, journey in Bollywood, experience with AR Rehman and fans in USA.
Please tell us about your journey in Bollywood?
I started my singing career as a playback singer in the Mumbai film industry , which is now called Bollywood. From my childhood I had this secret dream to become a playback singer! Even my folks didn’t know about it! My mom is a trained classical singer. But she only sang on Delhi Radio. Singing on stage was a taboo! Forget about the films! But Lata Mangeshkar is what I wanted to be! Without realizing the hardship I’d need to endure and the amount of hard work that goes into it. I seriously started doing my riaz and taking my music lessons very seriously.
We hear stories about people struggling to get a break in Bollywood. So when did you get your first break?
I had gone with my friend to meet Anu Malik in a studio. He was recording for a movie called Diljale. They were recording the song “mera mulk mera desh, mera ye watan”. Anu Ji just asked me to sing something, which I did. We were leaving after meeting him. I had just gotten into my car to drive back, and his secretary came running after us, saying that Anu Ji wanted me to dub a small alap in the song right then! I couldn’t believe my ears! That was my first recording experience in a studio, on one of those fancy intimidating studio microphones for the first time ever!!
How did the big break with the legendary AR Rahman come about?
Oh there is an interesting line of events preceding my first AR Rehman recording! I had been dubbing for almost all the music directors at that time, including Nadeem Shravan, Anand Raj Anand, Anu Mallik, Viju Shah etc. During the making of Pardes, I had dubbed a song for Nadeem Shravan. Mr Subhash Ghai really liked my voice and style of singing. He wanted to use me for Taal With AR Rehman. Thay kept calling me from Chennai. My phone was switched off! And I had gone out the whole day shopping with my friends! At night when I got back home, there were messages from Subhash ji’s, from Nadeem-Shravan’s studio, from AR Rehman’s office in Chennai! I was supposed to catch the late night flight to Chennai to sing a song for Mr AR Rehman!
Your fans are complaining that you’ve been away from Bollywood playback singing for a while. Why did you choose to do that?
It so happened that I completely got immersed in the live performance scene all over the world. I think I have a traveller’s streak in me. I kept traveling across the globe. Getting to know the world and spreading my love through my music. So it was impossible to pursue Bollywood playback and my live performances. And traveling and singing gives me more pleasure, than being confined to a studio and obeying the instructions of the music producer!
What is it that excites you about live performances?
Well, I get to interact with my audience. I can instantly see their reaction to my music and my performances. It gives me a complete high when my audience gets transported to a different world through my music. When I am giving playback, I’ve to sing what the demand of the story is. But in my shows I can create my own story-line and incorporate the songs that I want. And most of the time it works out perfectly!
Who has been your mentor in the music field?
I think it’s solely The Almighty God up there, and my listeners and my fans down here! I am what I am because of them.
Do you think you could’ve done better, had you had a god father in the film industry?
We all need to be content with what we achieve in life by fair and just means. I think I am content with what I’ve done so far in my life. I aspire and dream to do a lot of other things in life while keeping my ethics and integrity intact. I do things, because I want to do them. It’s not, just because the rest of the world is doing something , I’m supposed to be doing it too! I don’t want to be the part of any rat race in life.
Who have been your influences in music?
I’ve been a total Bollywood music buff! I enjoy the music when there is a visual associated with it. I always imagine music in Audio-Visual format! When I was growing up, internet scene was still far far away. There used to be only Bollywood music around to provide my mind that kind of connection. So it was Bollywood music all the time for me. And I personally feel, it is challenging to deliver a song in 3 minutes with all the emotions, proper diction and total feel of the song. When you are performing a classical bandish, you get a good 10-15 minutes to open up the raga that you are about to sing. You do alap, bandish, taan, palte, boltaan and the rest, spreading into almost an hour. Whereas in a movie song the essence has to be delivered in 3 minutes flat! My heroes are Lata Mangeshkar, Asha bhosle, Noorjahan, Mohd Rafi, Kishor Kumar, Mukesh, Sonu Nigam, Shreya etc.
In how many languages can you sing?
I perform in Hindi, Punjabi, gujarati, a bit in Marathi also. Though I’ve given playback in more than ten regional languages in India including Bhojpuri, Oriya, Bengali, Marwadi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to keep singing till my last breath. Want to spread the fragrance of music in whichever possible way I can.