Daughter of T-series music label's founder & film producer late Gulshan Kumar and li’l sis of current head honcho of the music company Bhushan Kumar, Tulsi Kumar has carved her own niche in the industry by crooning soft, romantic and soothing numbers in the films like YAARIYAN, AASHIQUI 2, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI, READY, ACTION REPLAYY, DABANGG 2, HUMKO DEEWANA KAR GAYE and many others. In an exclusive tête-à-tête for glamsham’s special section Music Mania, Tulsi candidly spoke on various topics. Read On.
What place AASHIQUI 2 holds for you?
AASHIQUI 2 was lucky and blessed project for all the people attached with it. Whether it was actors, singers or composers, it brought everyone into the limelight. AASHIQUI as a franchise has been lucky for all. Even at that time it was with newcomers and it catapulted everyone in a bigger way, like it brought everyone in this era.
It was very special for me because this was the project that was started by my father back in the 90s. At that time, I started my training for music, especially classical, and I was all of 5 or 6 yrs of age. When AASHIQUI 2 was announced and I was pitched as one of the singers, I was extremely excited because I was going to get a chance to live my father’s dream. It was he who wanted me to get into the field of singing that’s the reason I am here today. Being part of A2, it brought back lot of emotional things for me. Plus the songs were received so well, the music did extremely good and appreciated which usually doesn’t happen in today’s time.
We’ve mostly heard you singing romantic and soothing numbers. Do we expect raunchy item numbers or fast-paced peppy songs from you now?
Actually, I don’t know if I'm meant for item numbers or can render it. But I would definitely love to do fast-paced numbers. But before saying that, if you have gone through my list, then you will realise that I started with fast-paced songs with Himesh Reshammiya (‘Janabe Jaaniya’), then other version of ‘Tum Saanson Mai’ from HUMKO DEEWANA KAR GAYE. All these have been fast. But it so happened in the middle that I was being offered a lot of romantic songs, especially after ‘Tum Jo Aaye Zindagi Mein’ (ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI). And I enjoy doing romantic songs because that’s my comfort zone. But I would like to be known for my unique singing and show versatility rather than just being typecast for sad romantic songs. Apparently, I have recorded a fast-paced track in LEELA, but it's slightly folkish and not an item song.
Talking about raunchy lyrics, I don’t think I’ll be very comfortable doing that. There’s a difference between fast paced and an item song. I am more ready for fast-paced songs which have decent lyrics because I don’t think I will be able to do justice to those raunchy ones. I don’t think I can reflect that side. Your personality reflects in the kind of songs you do.
Is it also because of the kind of reputation your father and brother has in the market, especially your father, as he was inclined towards devotional songs?
You are absolutely correct in saying that I am not even that type because I come from a certain background and I have to live up to that expectation but more than that it’s not my choice to do those kind of songs. While it may be order of the day and audiences also like it, I won’t be comfortable rendering cheap or raunchy lyrics, as that’s not my personality. But if an item number is with good lyrics I will give it a shot.
'I am very emotional and not a business oriented person'
Like your father and brother, do you wish to set your own business someday or contribute in the company?
I am not a part of T-series’ any administrative work, but definitely I am involved into the creative side of the company. We have gotten into lot of production of films. My contribution is that I am rendering songs and here for the company, whenever they need me. I am very much involved musically. But I don’t have any separate plans or intentions. I am very emotional. and not a business-oriented person. I’ll stick to my singing because through this only I will be a part of the company. I am doing my bit. We are also coming up with a new channel for kids on the video sharing platform. So, I am doing nursery rhymes, story telling things.
Do you have plans to compose for your own songs?
Why not? If my brother approves of it, you never know may be I’ll also compose one day. I would definitely love to compose but I have not yet started anything on that. I think it will just come out naturally. I haven’t planned it.
Are you working on any of the singles?
As of now I am concentrating too much on Bollywood. I do have couple of projects in hand. For singles, I have had a word but nothing really finalised. I will talk about it only when something concrete is happening. But I definitely want to do single. When the time is right and when we have correct song in hand, it’s only then I’ll do it.
You embarked your career with devotional songs and then switched to mainstream Bollywood songs. What made you shift? Do you feel pressurized singing for Bollywood songs?
Singing for Bollywood is everyone’s dream. Now I am singing, touch wood, for such big films and heroines. Who wouldn’t be interested in doing that? I started up with bhajans and remixes. I was behind the mike since I was 16. My brother was very sure that till the time my voice is not mature enough to be cast on a heroine; I should not start for Bollywood. Once he was sure that’s when I got my first break in HUMKO DEEWANA KAR GAYE but before that Himesh ji had heard me. He offered me a song for the film AKSAR. So it became my first song and HUMKO DEEWANA KAR GAYE, apparently, second. I would rather say that bhajans was my training. I am also a spiritual and religious person by nature because I used to hear my dad doing lot of bhajans, it came out naturally to me. I wanted to start my career in the name of God. And I still record bhajans. But the kind of recognition you get through Bollywood songs you don’t get it in devotional music, as it’s not heard by one and all. Bollywood music is something that reaches to masses. But definitely bhajans give you that peace of mind. It’s a different feel of music you have to put. However, at the end of the day I love connecting with music.
Comment on the rift between Sonu Nigam and your brother Bhushan Kumar. Have the relations soured? Are they still on talking terms?
I don’t wish to comment on it. I don’t think the relations have soured between Bhushan and Sonu. It’s just a rift between the company and couple of singers because of whatever reason. It’s just a different take of different people on one matter as far as I know. Nobody is trying to understand the other side’s viewpoint so I would just say that it’s a matter of time and everything will be fine. But I have nothing to do with it and I keep myself out.
Sonuji and my brother are on good talking terms. If you meet them you’ll realize. It’s just that their view points are different, so there is a little problem. Otherwise, personally there is problem in the relationship.
'I dont think relations have soured between Bhushan and Sonu ji'
But will you croon along with him?
Yes, definitely I have nothing to do with him personally. It’s the company’s matter. As an artist I do look up to him and I would definitely like to sing along with him, if I am offered any songs. In fact, I have sung so many songs with Sonuji and his father Agam Nigam also. If he is willing to sing along, I am too ready.
Were you conscious singing for your sister-in-law’s film YAARIYAN, since it was her debut venture and she seemed pretty enthusiastic?
Yes, it was an important project because it was my sister-in-law’s first film. We all were very excited and it was a fun experience because the whole family was coming together for a film. My brother was producing it, she was directing it and I was a part of it as a singer. But I was not at all conscious because I’ve been singing for the last six years. The song that was happening in YAARIYAN was completely my comfort zone genre. As it was a romantic song.
Do you wish to join the bandwagon of singers/composers turning as actors?
But you have seen na how they have fared as actors. They’ve not fared well. I am not going to try my hands at something that I am not comfortable with. I would rather feature in my own videos and do my own bit. I never thought of getting into acting. I am very content with my singing and being close to music.
With so many new music composers and singers entering Bollywood, what do you have to say about the rising competition?
It’s very healthy and good to have competition. It keeps you going. If you are good enough and if it’s meant for you, you’ll definitely get what your share is. I am a strong believer in destiny. But, a certain amount of competition should be there which helps in bettering yourself. I am very happy that a lot of new music composers are coming into the scene and T-Series is only launching a lot of new music composers and singers with every film. HATE STORY 2 had two new girls Khushboo & Samira crooning for it. Every song requires a different voice.
With the backing & support of home banner T-series, do you feel assured of your profession & career?
Yes it’s there but I can’t really rely on the banner because things are too professional now. Till the time God is willing nothing can stop me. I don’t back myself that I have T-Series with the impression that I don’t need to do anything and mujhe toh kaam mil he jayega. If my song doesn’t strike a chord with my listeners, I don’t think even T-Series is going to back me. Because end of the day, it’s a music company and they are here to sell what people like. If that would’ve been the case, I would have sung countless songs till now. I have done very limited work but I am proud of the kind of songs that I have done and am doing.
But do you consider it as huge responsibility when it comes to lending your voice for the home banner?
I never take anything easily or lightly. I am a very serious person by nature and of course that responsibility is even higher when I am singing for my film because I don’t want anyone to point on me. It has to be of the topmost quality if I am singing for anybody’s film, mostly importantly for my home banner because I don’t want any singer pointing at me in a bad way.
'I don’t back myself that I have T-Series with me'
Who has been your all-time favourite music composer and singer from the industry?
I love R D Burman. I love his kind of music. I wish I was able to do a song with him but that’s not possible of course. Among the singers, I really like Lata Mangeshkar. I also love Sonu Nigam’s voice. I love the way he modulates his voice. He is extremely versatile and talented. I look upto him.
Your voice also reminds us of Lataji. Did you ever imitate her?
Thank you I am floored but you are the not the first one to tell me this. Even Sajid-Wajid, the music duo, feel that. It’s a huge compliment. Even if I am 1% of her I would be very happy. Though I have picked a lot of Lataji’s songs, I haven’t tried to imitate her voice or any of the singers in my life. I know a lot of people do that. But I haven’t done it and that has worked for me. I am very happy that I have a unique individual tone and God has blessed me for it.
Among the current crop of music composers and singers, with whom you share great working rapport?
I have very cordial friendly relationships with all the music composers that I have worked. Among the newer lot, I have recorded two songs with Amal Malik, somebody to look out for in the coming years. Mithoon is extremely focused and very good music director in today’s times. Then I really respect Jeet Ganguly. He is a very sweet person.
Who’s your best buddy from the industry and who do you confide in everything to?
I am very close to singer and composer Neeraj Shridhar, Bombay Vikings lead. I have done a lot of work with him and I literally call him Neeraj bhaiyya. He is like my older brother. I mostly talk to him about the music industry or whatever gossip is there. I can talk to him any point of time.
Any wish list of actors you are looking forward to lend your voice for?
Alia Bhatt. I am really fond of her acting. I think she is very cute and innocent. My voice could really match with her personality, because she’s extremely fresh, bubbly, and chirpy. I think I should be crooning her songs now.
'Alia is cute and innocent. Arijit has a mesmerizing voice'
While among singers and composers, who’s on your list?
I wish to sing a song for A. R. Rahman. I have not sung with him. I think mostly I have covered everyone in the music industry. Arijit has a mesmerizing voice. He has a very good tone quality. When he renders the song it touches the heart. And that’s the best compliment any singer can get.
Which song can make you sentimental?
'Akhiyo Ko Rehne De Akhiyon Ke Aas Paas & ‘Tujhse Naraaz Nahi Zindagi’ these Lataji’s numbers are extremely close to my heart. It always kind of makes me emotional.