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Sonu Nigam birthday special  — The appealing voice behind cinema stars

We celebrate the master playback singer's 45th birthday (he was born on 30 July 1973) with some of the biggest hits he has sung for Hindi cinema's five biggest stars. 

Suparna Thombare

Since the time he made his playback singing debut at the age of 18 with filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt's Janam (1990), Sonu Nigam has gone on to sing for every major star during his career. Nigam, who had the Mohammed Rafi touch to him since his early days, came in at a time when the likes of Udit Narayan and Kumar Sanu were ruling the roost, and made a unique space for himself with his trained and distinctive voice.

There is no doubt that he is one of the most versatile, talented and accomplished singers in the last three decades - acing everything from romance and pain to dance numbers - often altering his singing style for a song or a particular actor. It wouldn't be an understatement to say that this star singer has played a huge part in the way we remember the songs featuring some of our biggest stars.

Here's a look at his best renditions for Hindi cinema's five leading men during the late 1990s and 2000s.

Shah Rukh Khan

Apart from Abhijeet Bhattacharya, who sang many popular songs for Shah Rukh Khan in the 1990s, Nigam has rendered many iconic songs for the actor too. Their first big hit together was 'Yeh Dil Deewana' from Pardes (1997), composed by Nadeem-Shravan, where Nigam altered his voice drastically to portray the anger in the song and the video which shows Khan in an aggressive mode.

Surprisingly, Nigam has won only two Filmfare awards in the best male singer category. While his first was for the Saathiya title song (2002), the second was the emotional Kal Ho Naa Ho title song (2003).

It's not very surprising that Nigam has sung tons of romantic songs for the king of romance himself. Honourable mentions of the brilliant Shah Rukh-Sonu combo include the passionate 'Satrangi Re' from Dil Se... (1998), the romantic 'Do Pal' from Veer Zara (2004), 'Main Agar Kahoon' from Om Shanti Om (2007) and 'Suraj Hua Maddham from Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001) and the Main Hoon Na title song (2004).


Aamir Khan

Udit Narayan was almost always the voice of Aamir through the 1990s, but Nigam has sung many of the big hits in the 2000s for the actor. Nigam never sang a whole film album all by himself like his seniors. He got one or two songs (and later he became even picky), perhaps the special ones, and made a big impact with them.

Take for example the intense 'Tanhayee' in Dil Chahta Hai (2001), composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy. Kicking off with a didgeridoo (an Australian wind instrument), the passion, pain and anguish is palpable in Nigam's voice. Other notable mentions include the romantic 'Mere Haath Mein' and 'Dekho Na' from Fanaa (2006), the fun 'Aal Iz Well' and 'Zoobi Doobi' from 3 Idiots (2009) and the introspective 'Zindagi Maut Na Ban Jaye' in Sarfarosh (1999), among others. 



In his prime, most of Govinda's songs were dance numbers and Nigam's energitic singing often added a lot of zing to these compositions. 'What Is Mobile Number' from Haseena Maan Jayegi (1999) and 'Beqarar Main Beqarar Dil' from Hadh Kar Di Aapne (2000) are examples of how great Nigam was in Govinda's dance numbers. In fact, Nigam sang the maximum songs in an album in the 2002 film Akhiyon Se Goli Maare (five out of seven tracks) as the voice of Govinda.  

But their most memorable will always be Anand-Milind's 'Ankhiyon Se Goli Maare' from Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998). While Govinda and Raveena Tandon pulled off some quirky dance moves brilliantly, Nigam matched his voice perfectly to the naughtiness and fun expressions of the dancing comedy star of the 1990s.


Hrithik Roshan

While Nigam has sung many songs featuring Hrithik - from 'Tu Fiza Hai' in Fiza (2000) and 'You Are My Soniya' in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001) during the actor's early days, to 'In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein in Jodha Akbar (2008) when he was at the peak of his stardom. The singer's most beautiful rendition for the actor remains Ajay-Atul's composition, 'Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin' from Agneepath (2012) as it fully explores his amazing range. Nigam pours such a lovely mix of joy and pain into every word he sings that you can feel his voice shiver at certain points.



Salman Khan

Post the SP Balasubrahmanyam phase, Salman Khan never had one singer sing many of his songs. Nigam has sung less frequently for this Khan when compared to the hits he has delivered with the other two. Yet, several of Salman's peppy dance hits in the early 2000s were sung by Nigam, including 'Chammiya' and 'Dheere Dheere' in Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge (2000), 'Dupatta Tera Nau Rang Da' in Partner (2007), 'Aaja Soniye' and 'Jeene Ke Hain Chaar Din' in Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004) and 'Tenu Leke Main Javanga' in Salaam E Ishq (2007) and 'Just Chill' in Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya (2005).

But one of most beautiful songs Nigam has sung for Khan is the melodious love song, 'Chori Kiya Re Jiya' in Dabangg (2010), composed by Sajid-Wajid.