Sukhwinder Singh, 43, is a Shiv Bhakt, who seems to be waiting for his Salman bhai to get married. He believes that you can entertain only with happiness and not with hesitation that will come into you if you are competitive.
While yoga has calmed him down completely, he is still a late lateef. His latest song Bismil from Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider again is distinctive of Sukhwinder's style and is beautiful. Over an hour-long conversation at his house over parathas and maa ki dal, he talks to Pune Times about his guru AR Rahman, his "respect for Salman and why he could never have a big bank balance. Excerpts:
Let's talk about your childhood. I was born in Amristar. When I was five, I saw a dream. There was a white palace, where all the people were made up of milk and looked white, the grass was white, clouds were white. Only I was in colour and wanted to get into this palace, when my dream broke. I opened my eyes and was shocked to hear a song that was very soothing with my entire concentration there. I suddenly became aware that the song was not playing, but I myself was singing it as it was coming from my throat. I was not exposed to any music till then and did not even know what name to give it. I would get up every morning and hum and I started listening to music instead of playing with toys and flying kites. I started visiting and living in dargahs, as there was music there from where I imbibed Sufism. While growing up, I got the feeling that I had somewhere entered the white palace and that the palace itself was Maa Saraswati. We lived a comfortable happy life, but I lost both my parents when I was nine. I became a single child and was brought up by Maa Saraswati and never felt that I was alone. There were some people who found talent in me and they took me to Leicester in London to make me a singer and study there, but I was always made only for music and was only interested in that. I loved it there, as London showered so much music on me and I cut my first album when I was about 13. I composed the song Tutak Tutak Tutiya at 13 that was sung by Malkit Singh that became a big hit. I then came to India and made my first album Munda Southhall Da that sold over 1.7 crore casettes. I then joined Laxmikant Pyarelalji but after Laxmiji died, I went to Punjab to study music. By this time, I had no connection with my family and was on my own there. I also got interested in 100 meter running, apart from music. I started preparing for Olympics and would practise running from 8 at night to 5.30 in the morning, after which I would do riyaz on my tanpura for two hours. My interest in classical music took over everything and I decided finally to come back to Mumbai to become a music director.How did Chaiyya Chaiyya happen?
I struggled for many years till AR Rahman's Bombay released. I made CDs out of my music and gave it to all his musicians hoping that they would make him hear my voice. Someone did and he called me to Chennai. That day he was also waiting for a writer and he thought I was the writer.
He saw me and said, 'You have come?' He introduced me to Govind Nihalani, who narrated a situation to me. I wrote Mujhe Rang De the song and he was impressed. I then confessed to Rahman that I was actually not a writer, but was a singer and that I would like to sing what I had written for him as against reciting it. He asked me, 'You sing?' I said jokingly, 'Yes, I am Sukhwinder Singh.' I sang just two lines and Rahman held my hand and took me towards the steps of the dargah in his house. His dargah is divine and I later came to know that he offers namaaz there and also sometimes, goes to sleep there on his mother's lap. That night he told me, 'Come and relax here and take rest.' He had found something in me. He asked me to stay there and I sang my childhood Thaiya Thaiya song. He took me to Mani Ratnam in his car and said, 'He is the voice of India and he will sing for your film Dil Se,' and I sang Chaiyya Chaiyya.READ: Sukhwinder Singh: I will continue to danceWhat is Rahman like?
Rahman set up a studio for me in Mumbai that was financed by Jhamu Sugandh, as Rahman used to compose for all his films. I asked Rahman, 'You consider me a singer, then why are you making this studio?' And he said, 'You are a music director. Whenever I am working with you, I feel that two composers are working on the song.' Rahman is a very genuine person. Jai Ho just created unneccesary conflict. If he did not want to take me to the Oscars, then the day the song got nominated, he would not have called me and congratulated me saying, 'Hi Sukhi, your song has been nominated. We will go and perform together.' After that, I did not get a call and I did not ask and till today I have never asked. But why should I be upset when my Godfather, my guru and my teacher was on stage? I need to be happy. For me, my passion and profession have come together. While the passion came through my dream, Rahman gave me my professional platform. He does not have either jealousy or competition inside him and he is the only one, who will give top breaks to absolutely fresh people. After knowing Rahman for many years, he confided in me in a rare moment that he is blessed and that some divine power follows him all the time. He told me, 'There is a soul that travels with me all the time showering ideas on me.' There are 2-3 hours at night during which you should not even touch Rahman. His sun rises at midnight. After Jai Ho, he became scared of coming in front of the media as he was being questioned and he was not having an answer. Then three years later, his silence broke and he called me one day out of the blue and said, 'Come to Bhopal. We have a show tomorrow.' I said, 'Okay.' I jokingly said I will come in my swimming suit.Talk about yourself?
As a child I was blessed by a peer sahab in Jalandhar. I was bowing in reverence, when he threw a coin at me and I stood up. He told one of his students, 'I have given him a coin as money will never accumulate with him but will never finish either.' Ek fakir baba ka zubaan pe aana aur saraswati ka zubaan pe aana, suna hai ki barabar hota hai. What he said has turned out to be completely true in my life. My other name is Help Centre. 25% of whatever money I make goes to the leprosy centre. I land up helping anyone who calls me for help as a result of which my bank balance has never crossed more than 10 lakhs ever. I used to stay in a rented place and have just shifted to my own house only two years back, for which I pay an EMI. I have seen many Diwalis, where even being Sukhwinder Singh I have been at home with just '500 or 1000. I can satisfy my needs with even '20 in a day. I enjoy all kinds of colours in my life. I am also a flirt and romantic, but meri aakhein tarasti rehti hain ki kisi ko zaroorat toh nahi hai kisi cheese ki.You have worked with both Salman and Shah Rukh a lot. Talk about them?Both do their work with complete honesty. While Shah Rukh does it with perfection, Salman does it with masti. Salman woh aadmi hai ki kahi mil jaye toh main uske pair choolu. If there would be five people from the industry who are desireless, Salman will be one of them. Look at his fitness. Just to meet people's expectation from him, he is ready to do all kinds of things and make so many sacrifices. He is naughty, and the most handsome guy. But dil ka darvesh hai where he feels that if he speaks the truth then it will reach his fans. He is not at all aggressive when it comes to his career and he works with so much sukoon. I know of thousands of people whom he has helped.
Any plans of marriage?
I want to get married now. I am attracted to a few girls but I don't have a person in front of me. Rahman in my Bhopal show asked me, 'Where is the tiny Sukhwinder? I really want to see him.' I also got that feeling. But girls don't take me seriously as I am a big flirt. I was such a good flirt but us par bhi nazar lag gayi hai. Everyone has the right to have a wish and I don't know why, but I want to get married to a village girl.What makes you a Shiv Bhakt?
I pray to him in every breath. When you are a Shiv Bhakt, one you become extremely romantic and second you don't have any hatred towards anyone. Actually I am not his bhakt. I am his chamcha.