From a contestant of a music reality show (Meri Awaaz Suno) to being a judge of another (Indian Idol 5), how will you define this journey?
The journey has been pretty exciting. In 1996, Meri Awaaz Suno was the greatest musical talent hunt show…I was a part of it…in fact, I won the show. Getting the trophy from Lata Mangeshkar’s hands is still the most memorable day of my life. And now, in 2010, I am part of Indian Idol, which is the first-of-its-kind music reality show.
What are the differences you can see between Meri Awaaz Suno and today’s music hunts?
Meri Awaaz Suno was a musical show that was pure. There was neither a voting system or elimination rounds. It was the panel of judges who used to decide who is a better singer. So, I would say that it was a rather tough and a proper competition. Now, a lot depends on voting. As a result, at times, good singers get eliminated, while average singers win the show.
What took you so long to debut as a reality show judge?
There is no special reason behind it. I got many, many offers to judge reality shows till date. But I didn’t want to do them, so I stayed away from them. Now
“No one can compete with me…”
Do you think musical talent hunt shows help contestants to get a foothold in Bollywood playback singing?
I don’t think so. Musical reality shows give you a platform to showcase your talent to the world. But that doesn’t mean that success will come easy to you. Only if you are genuinely talented, you can make it to the top. There are no shortcuts. But then, I hope we will keep on providing platforms to people so that the real talents can come to the limelight.
Your co-judge Anu Malik (music composer) has been judging Indian Idol since the first season, while Salim Merchant and you are the new additions…
Yes…Anuji keeps telling us that. (Smiles). See, Anu Malik is someone without whom I can’t imagine Indian Idol. He is simply great! As for myself, I still don’t consider myself as a ‘judge’. I can only give my opinion to a contestant’s singing. How can I judge someone when I am still a learner.
Did you always want to become a singer or it was Meri Awaaz Suno that decided your career course?
Since I was 3-4 year old, I used to sing. That time obviously I didn’t know that I will become a singer. Then, gradually, I started doing small stage shows…just for fun. My father and one of his friends started encouraging me that I should take my singing seriously. Then I started participating in more shows…and even before I could realize, my hobby became my profession.
You are not a trained singer?
No. I wanted to take training, but by the time I felt ‘aab training lena chahiye’, I got too busy with my career. But then, I have learnt a lot from CDs and cassettes.
Do you remember your student days?
I only have memories of my school days. Because I started my career so early that I could not go for higher studies…my interest level in studies died when I realized that music is my world. Thankfully, my parents were really supportive.
These days a singer’s career span is very short in Bollywood. There is an influx of new talents. What do you have to say on this?
What can I say! I think every singer should develop his/her own individuality. Like, I am aware that my voice has certain uniqueness and when it comes to a particular genre of singing, no one can compete with me.
Tinsel town talks are that you are getting quite a number of acting offers?
Well, I didn’t know that (laughs). But then, even if I get offers to act in films, I will turn them down. I am madly in love with singing….it means the world to me.