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Interview Hindi

Am sure the audience wants to listen to more originals: Divya Kumar sings a new tune

Set to perform at the Bollywood Music Project 5.0 on 20 and 21 December, the singer took a break from his preparation to speak with Cinestaan.com on his rise to fame, the trend of remixes, and what the future holds. 

Shriram Iyengar

Since making his breakthrough with the wonderful 'Shubhaarambh' in Kai Po Che! (2013), Divya Kumar has come a long way. His progress as a singer was never in doubt. He was groomed for the task since his childhood, having performed on stage alongside Kalyanji-Anandji during his early years. The last couple of years have seen the singer reach new heights with 'Kamariya' in Stree (2018), 'Halka Halka' from Fanney Khan (2018) and 'Basanti No Dance' from Super 30 (2019). 

Now, the singer will join a medley of artistes and singers to perform on stage to a live audience with the upcoming concert Bollywood Music Project 5.0. The singer spoke with Cinestaan.com over e-mail answering questions about his rise to fame, working with music directors as varied as Amit Trivedi, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Sachin-Jigar and AR Rahman. 

"The most important thing about these legendary composers, which sets them apart, is their original sound, which is the key," he emphasises. 

Kumar should know. His ability has set him apart as one of the singers to watch out for in recent times. "It has been quite an experience and the journey has just begun. But if I have to answer, for now, I think the first time I got a call from the genius, Amit Trivedi to record a song for him.."

Excerpts below:

From Ishaqzaade (2012) to Dabangg 3 (2020), it has been quite a journey. What remains your most impressive memory of it all?

I think I can't choose one as my favourite. It has been quite an experience and the journey has just begun. But if I have to answer, for now, I think the first time I got a call from the genius, Amit Trivedi to record a song for him, which turned out to be the title track for the movie, Ishaqzaade. I couldn't believe myself, but i think Amit Sir believed in me, more than I did in myself then. I owe it all to him, because my journey started with him!

The last couple of years saw some fantastic numbers, from 'Kamariya' in Stree (2018) 'Basanti No Dance' from Super 30 (2019). Did the response to the compositions surprise you?

The one song that really took me by surprise was the response to 'Kamariya' from the movie, Stree (2018). [The] reason being the song was recorded long before the movie was released and the audience literally loved the song. That was amongst the very few original item songs that proved originality will always be appreciated! I thank Sachin - Jigar for this song and I wish composers like them keep originality in the music industry alive and trending.

There is a growing call from composers, as well as several fans, to reduce the number of remixes. How do you react to it?

Being part of a couple of songs which were recreated, I think I am still against remixes. Growing up, there were some songs that I always wished I would've sung. There are songs like 'Kaavaan Kaavaan', originally folk, which was considered for a movie, Lucknow Central (2017), which was recreated by Arjuna Harjai, who is a very dear friend!

This was the first song on which we worked together for the first time and I felt that the originality of the song was kept intact and that it was not a remix, rather recreated, given the situation of that song in the movie.

The second song I can mention was 'Halka Halka Suroor' from the movie Fanney Khan (2018), composed by Amit Trivedi. The original part of the song was sung by the amazing Sunidhi Chauhan and it gelled really well with the hook line, 'Halka Halka Suroor'. Having said that, it was still a recreated song. There are some songs that an artist will sing for the love of the composer and for the love of the great, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan saahab. I believe I was able to pay a small tribute to Nusrat saahab, one of my idols!

But I say it again, love for originals stays on top, always! I think remixes are getting too much traction, which, I think, is unfortunate. I am sure the audience wants to listen to more and more originals!

How do you as a singer approach a song remix? Is it completely the composer's subject, or the singer's own individuality needs to reflect in it?

If at all a composer wants a singer to sound like the original, then I hope we realize most original singers are still present to sing those songs again.
I still believe that being unique and bringing your own individuality to the song comes into the picture and will definitely be appreciated by the audience.
I want to be part of a song where I can showcase my originality and my individuality. I truly wish I don't be a part of a song which is recreated or remixed again.

Over the years, you have collaborated with Amit Trivedi, Shankar Ehsaan Loy, and Sachin-Jigar among others. What is the key element that sets their skills apart?

The most important thing about these legendary composers, which sets them apart, is their original sound, which is the key, I think, in today's time. I am sure that if you have a keen ear, you can definitely identify that a said song is composed by Amit sir or Shanker-Ehsaan-Loy or Sachin-Jigar or AR Rahman sir, Vishal-Shekhar etc.

How is live performance different from being in a playback studio? As someone who has been on the stage since a very young age, does it still hold the same attention and demand energy?

The only common thing between singing playback in a studio and singing on stage for a live performance is the music! But each one is a very different ball game!

Singing in a studio requires preparation, even if it is done in a more controlled environment and with takes and requires perfection. Performing live on stage, too, like a studio, requires preparation in the form of rehearsals and sometimes, improvising and impromptu work on stage does magic for the audience! Singing live on stage needs more interaction with the audience as it is also about how you look, perform and sound. Singing in a studio is more about an interaction with yourself once the composer briefs you!

What are you looking forward to in 2020 musically?

Original music, original music, original music. Also, independent music! I am working on something and I hope I can release it for the audience soon!