A strong desire to innovate has turned Arijit Singh into the undisputed king of Bollywood music. The chart-topping singer and musician has delivered super-hit songs, sold out arenas and has many millions of fans worldwide.
The mild-mannered superstar hasn’t got used to the global attention despite the rapidly growing fan base and is still notoriously shy when it comes to his own fame. Most recently he scored another big success with the title track of upcoming romantic drama Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
While others would bask in all the glory and chase after the spotlight, Arijit largely avoids giving interviews and speaking on public platforms. For him the word ‘king’ doesn’t exist and it is something he will never get used to.
The singer says he much prefers singing to talking in public and owes his success to a magical connection he has formed with audiences.
“The listeners have been really kind and pure-hearted. They have really opened up a lot over the years to whatever experiments I have done. I would say that it is not perfect every time, but they have accepted it and understood that I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. So they connect to my style. That is a blessing. I think I have that connection with the audience, which is a lot better thing than becoming a ‘king’, I think. The connection is what is really important and that is there,” says Arijit.
The media-shy star speaks with honesty and comes across as someone who doesn’t know how famous he really is. In fact, he is hard on himself and always striving to improve his craft.
Instead of remaining in his comfort zone, Arijit is choosing songs that excite and challenge him. He is always looking to explore new areas of his creativity and feels that this being an interesting time in Indian film music, he can do that.
“It is a very interesting time right now. In every era, people have been doing things differently and a variety of music has come out. I think it has become a little more flexible now. There are a lot of different projects. A lot of new singers are coming in and people are much more open about it. They don’t think: ‘This is a new guy and he’s not going to work.’ It is not the case any more in these times and that’s good,” he explains.
Arijit started learning music at a very young age from classical masters and from his mother. He grew up surrounded by music and first came into the spotlight on reality TV before working with top music directors behind the scenes. He then made the leap to playback singing in 2009 with Murder 2 song Phir Mohabbat. Arijit was then catapulted to super stardom in 2013 with smash hit Aashiqui 2 song Tum Hi Ho.
Although his grounding in music has served him well, Arijit doesn’t analyse his own songs.
“I have this intuition that I can tell when a song is going to work. Unfortunately, for my songs, I haven’t done that because you get conscious; it is your song when you perform it, so it becomes very personal. So I haven’t been that judgemental about my own songs. But when songs by others have clicked, I’ve always liked them in the beginning and knew they would be a hit,” he says.
“Judging your own songs is very dangerous. If you think this is going to click or this is not going to click, you become too sure every time. And there will be a moment you will be wrong – that’s dangerous,” he adds.
Following his instincts and not judging his own work has resulted in a massive array of hits for Arijit, from slow love songs to big dance floor hits. This has resulted in him becoming a big global box-office draw and a red-hot performer on stage.
The humble singer doesn’t get too excited by his success on the live circuit. “Having a sell-out show feels outstanding and I feel immense happiness. I feel happy for the crew, orchestra and organisers who worked so hard on each show. They get very happy and excited when the show is a sell out. I generally avoid things like that. I don’t get excited because it affects my performance. I am really thankful because it is not something which happens every day. It is very special for my entire team, concert organisers and those who come. I thank everyone who makes it happen, but I still say I don’t think about it,” he says smiling.
Apart from the hit songs and natural singing talent, another of the reasons why Arijit has become so successful live is his desire to change his sound. He tries making his film songs more interesting by injecting influences including hard rock and electronic.
When asked what had been his most memorable live performance, he surprisingly says: “The most memorable ones are basically ones where I goofed up. They are the ones I will never forget. I will never forget Leicester this year where I goofed up from experimenting too much. South Africa is another show I will never forget. Basically I remember those things that need to be corrected.”
But Arijit doesn’t think he is too hard on himself. “It is basically you don’t need to remember happiness, right, because happiness is always with you.”
Looking ahead, he wants to carry on exploring new musical styles and working with diverse musicians. The multi-million-selling star has been getting international offers, including cross-over songs, but he is in no rush to take any up.
“Of course it will be a great experience to do it. Collaborating is very easy for me right now because I have a fan base and international artists look for that. They look for how many people you have because they want to reach out to even more people.
“So for them I think this is the only idea that they have because I have got a huge fan base, but I don’t want to work like that. I want to start from scratch and do something new in the international market. I wanna produce tracks for people, but I don’t know if I will really fit into that industry. If I do, I will collaborate.”
Arijit stays connected to his roots despite reaching such heights. He remains grounded as an individual and still draws inspiration from his musical influences as a youngster, including his teachers and the songs he listened to.
“I was listening to old classics because my grandfather used to have those big gramophone records. So he used to listen to Hemant Kumar, Aarti Mukherji, Sandhya Mukherjee and all the other classic Bengali artists at that time.
“I also had a radio and would listen to it the moment everyone was asleep. I used to listen to the western stations and artists like Michael Jackson. So I think I had inspirations from the east and west. So basically you grow as person and as a listener. Everyone I have come across in my life has been an inspiration.”
Thanks to Vijay Bhola from Rock On Music.