Playback singer Arijit Singh has broken into the big league with back-to-back hits
Twenty-three years after the music of Mahesh Bhatt-directed Aashiqui shot composers Nadeem-Shravan and singer Kumar Sanu to fame, director Mohit Suri was looking for a new voice for the soundtrack of its sequel. For a film hinged on music, it was crucial that Suri found the “new-age yet soulful singer” that he was looking for. Along with composers Jeet Ganguly, Ankit Tiwari and Mithoon Sharma, he zoomed in on 26-year-old Arijit Singh. In a studio in Andheri, Singh recorded Tum hi ho, with bass vocals and a basic backbeat, that went on to top the charts, with eight million hits on YouTube.
If the success of the number took him by surprise, more validation followed in the form of the rambunctious Dilliwali girlfriend and the melodious Kabira from Ayaan Mukerji's Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani that released in May. When we meet Singh in his apartment on the 16th floor of a gated enclave in Mumbai’s Andheri, he is fiddling with his digital audio workstation, keyboards and outboard effects, working on a song to be played at the IIFA awards at Macau. The last couple of years, he says, has been “one of the more satisfying phases” in his career. In between mixing a Vishal Dadlani track composed by music director Pritam, he tells us how producing music is something he has come to enjoy besides singing. “Composers like my voice and I enjoy singing, but what I really love is producing and programming music. One needs to have fun with what is being done,” he says.
Singh first came into the public eye during a reality show called Fame Gurukul on Sony television, where he lost the finals. “I was 18 then and the show put me out there. It gave me the chance I needed to stay back in Mumbai,” says Singh, who would spend long hours in the programming room of Fame Gurukul in between recordings to learn how to use audio set-ups and arrange music.
For a boy who grew up in Murshidabad in Bengal, where he was only allowed to play and learn classical music, Singh’s introduction to Bollywood music was slow and hesitant. His mother, a music enthusiast, enrolled him for lessons when he was three. “Rajendra Prasad Hazariji, my guru, was very strict. I was not allowed to listen to a lot of