Alka Yagnik speaks from the heart

By Aradhana Bhatt

It was Friday evening and the Madison Function Centre at Dural was buzzing with anticipation as invited press and guests started arriving at the venue to meet the melody queen Alka Yagnik on the eve of her third performance on Saturday, 7th October in Sydney organised by Showcraft Entertainment and Heart and Soul Productions. She arrived along with Shravan, at about 8.00 pm, dressed casually in a long black outfit, looking a little weary. But her weariness soon disappeared. She did not disappoint the waiting press when she answered their questions patiently and wholeheartedly. She was poised, she laughed and chatted throughout the meeting and posed for photographs at the end, when requested.

Alka and Shravan at Madison Function Lounge and with organisers

Sydney’s own nightingale Jasmine Gill opened the evening with her favourite Alka Yagnik number ”˜Kyonki Itna Pyar Tumko’. Jasmine dedicated the song to Alka, who, she said, she looked up to as her idol.

“It’s is not your first visit to Australia, Alkaji, yet, we would like to know what you think of Australia and your audience here,” I ask.



Aradhana Bhatt asks Alka Yagnik about her music

This was her third trip to the land down under, a country which she described as beautiful; with lovely, friendly, warm, caring people. A child prodigy that she was, Alka Yagnik started singing on All India Radio at the age of six and entered Bollywood at the age of 14. This prompted me to ask her about her roots, her training and tutelage in classical music, her family background, and what brought her to Bollywood. Alka responded by attributing her success to her parentage, especially to her mother, a classical singer in Kolkata, who recognised her daughter’s aptitude and brought her to Mumbai. “Bollywood’ is a very bad word’, she said curtly, ”˜let’s call it Hindi Cinema music”¦. I was just destined to be, I guess,” Alka acknowledges Lataji as being a great inspiring force in her career that spans over three decades in which she has sung more than 4000 songs in many Indian languages. “How do you handle a situation when you are given a song with which you cannot connect, either emotionally or musically? After all a singer must feel the song to be able to sing it. How do you come to terms with a song that you do not like?” I ask. “Personally I may not like the song, but when I sing it, I sing it earnestly, with all my heart. For me every song is equally important, whether it is a film song or not. It may be in any language. When I am recording a song, for me, it is the most important song in the world. The tunes of a song are produced by the vocal chords, but the emotions come from the heart, they have to be felt.”

When asked about the highlights of her musical journey, she re-called 1993, when she was nominated for five Filmfare awards, and then added humbly that although she has won many awards, every song she has recorded has been a highlight for her, especially her work with illustrious seniors like Kalyanji-Anandji and Nadeem-Shravan. “Which is your favourite old movie song?” A question which she answered with caution, after some deliberation, “All the songs are my favourite songs’, she smiled evasively.”

“What is missing from today’s film music? Is it the poetry or the melody?” She shared the gloom and disappointment that many of us feel, yet expressed hope in the future of Hindi film music. “It’s a phase, a trend. It will pass and the trend will change, like everything else. We don’t know where this trend has come from; we do not know how it started. But the music makers say that people like this, and the people complain. We can hope that the depth, the evergreen quality of the songs form yesteryears will come back. Like you, I am waiting too.” She then turned to Shravan, who analysed the situation thus, “We don’t listen to songs these days, we watch them. The visual element has become very important now. Today, songs have a very short life of about two or three weeks, then they are forgotten.”

Alka Yagnik is a singer with a social mission. She has been a champion of India’s ”˜Save the Girl Child’ movement. She attends events in Mumbai relating to this movement. She says she does it, because she feels from the heart. Alka admits to being a shy girl who would not have been where she is now, if her parents had not supported and encouraged her. “I have a daughter too, who is flying high and I am very proud of her. I feel that all girls should be encouraged,” she concluded.

She departed just as she had arrived, smiling coyly and said she was looking forward to the show on Saturday.

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