Time to tune out

Time to tune out

Stars today are keeping their career options open with small-scale forays into the music scene — but are killing us softly… with their songs

By Khalid Mohamed

Published: Fri 14 Mar 2014, 1:18 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:49 PM

TRIPLE TROUBLE: (from left) Farhan Akhtar, Hrithik Roshan and Abhay Deol crooned a few lines for Senorita from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

TRIPLE TROUBLE: (from left) Farhan Akhtar, Hrithik Roshan and Abhay Deol crooned a few lines for Senorita from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

It isn’t their core competence, and perhaps never will be. Yet practically every actor or actress, who has achieved a measure of popularity, develops an itch for singing — doing their own playback for the songs assigned to them. Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal, Arijit Singh and Sonu Nigam needn’t lose their sleep though, because the results most often leave much to be desired — and that’s putting it politely.

Over the past two years, Priyanka Chopra regularly springs up with news about the status of her album, a collection of pop-dance songs, whose single In the City, is reported to have chalked up astonishing sales figures. Not many seem to have heard it, or heard of it. Neither is it a staple at the discotheques and lounges, nor has it taken the popularity of the former Miss World to ano-ther level. Still, one can’t blame her for trying. Bollywood actresses suffer from the insecurity of a short shelf life, after they cross the age of 30, and look for career options.

But whatever possessed the two-film-and-20-year-old Alia Bhatt to ann-ounce that she’d love to croon some of her film songs in the future, if that’s all right with the directors? This after her rendition of the AR Rahman track Sooha Saha in Highway. And if her quotes in a recent interview are to be taken seriously, Ms Bhatt has stated that Priyanka Chopra is her role model. Already? Young actress Parineeti Chopra, too, has been shouting out from the rooftops that she knows a thing or two about the art of singing, and can always consider it as the next-best-option if no one wants to cast her as a heroine. Parineeti, a cousin of Priyanka Chopra, you hope, is just kidding.

The up-and-coming Aditi Rao Hydari may not be a household name, yet one of her claims to fame is the recording of the Hindi version of a song for the 
Hollywood animation movie Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. The original had been rendered by Jennifer Lopez. No medallions for guessing which one is easier on the ears.

Now at some point, practically every established Bollywood star has been bitten by the singing bug. Songs personally rendered by them serve as a gimmick to stoke the interest of their fan base. Moreover, thanks to modern-day recording facilities — when a line and a word can be glued together from different takes — singing is no big deal. Today, even the most senior playback singers have to resort to this cut-and-paste technique. So why can’t the acting tribe break into song? Most of them shouldn’t actually — because despite the technical support and varnishing, they end up sounding awfully out of tune and amateurish.

Indeed, there have been only a few competent ‘singing actors’ in the annals of Mumbai-produced cinema: Suraiya and Kishore Kumar. Noor Jehan, on the partition of the subcontinent, migrated to Pakistan. Salma Agha, also from Pakistan, did make a measure of impact with the ghazals in Nikaah, but was limited. Her voice had a nasal twang, unsuitable for the Hindi movie style patented by sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle.

The on-screen singing bug didn’t bite the stalwarts of the 1950s. The gimmick initiated with stars intersper-sing the songs with spoken lines of dialogue rather than any formal singing. Example: Vyjayanthimala adding the words ‘hoga hoga’ to the track Bol Radha Bol (Sangam) picturised on her and Raj Kapoor. This was quite in keeping with the vintage favourite Goodness Gracious Me, the duet by Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers, from the comedy The Millionairess. Loren and Sellers elocu-ted the words rather than sing them with any form of pretension.

In fact, speaking with a lilt of sorts has been often mistaken for singing. Actors may add in bits in their own voice and that’s it — notably Aamir Khan for Aati Kya Khandala (Ghulam) and Bum Bum Bole (Taare Zameen Par), Sridevi for the title track of Chandni, Akshay Kumar (Special Chabbis) and Ranbir Kapoor (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani). A recitation of a poem for Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Apun Bola (Josh) have been Shah Rukh Khan’s tries at employing his silken voice, in something besides dialogue delivery. Salman Khan’s voice was audible in the title cut of his film Bodyguard.

On the positive side, Amitabh Bachchan — blessed with a deep baritone voice — has occasionally segued successfully into playback singing mode, particularly the rambunctious Mere Angne Mein (Laawaris) and some recitations (Silsila).

Quite simply endowed with a great voice, he hasn’t been off-putting.

Madhuri Dixit could also pull off a Kaahe Chhed Mohe for Devdas, without compelling you to reach for your earplugs. Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar and Abhay Deol were in their element, warbling the Spanish Flamenco-flavoured Senorita for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Although not endowed with a mellifluous voice as such, the otherwise multitalented Farhan Akh-tar’s vocals for Rock On found favour with the younger generation, not overly concerned with vocal niceties. Ditto random efforts like Kareena Kapoor’s for Dev and Abhishek Bachchan’s for Bluffmaster and Bol Bachchan. Surely, it wasn’t essential to make Kareena or Abhishek sing, but in a star-driven system, it’s okay — another way of cashing in on names that matter.

All said and heard, singing stars may be endurable once in a while. But heaven help us, if they insist on elbowing out the professionals.

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