Play Sonu Nigam's TOIFA-winning song Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin from Agneepath, followed by Har Ek Friend Kamina Hota Hai from Chashme Baddoor; and you will know why he's called versatile. In an exclusive interview, the singer tells us about hitting the right chords. Excerpts...
Your song Har Ek Friend from Chashme Baddoor has become popular. We believe you were to act in the film too.
It is great that songs like Har Ek Friend... and Abhi Mujhme Kahin came to me at a time when I was particularly choosy. I wanted more time with my ailing mother over of years. I wish she could see that this song has become such a hit. During a recent tour, I was amazed by the kind of response Har Ek Friend received. It is beyond expectations. But I'm unable to enjoy it because we're still mourning my . About acting in the film, yes Davidji had offered me the role of one of the three guys in 2011. It made news then, but I guess it slipped out of people's minds.
What happened? Why didn't you do it?
Mere saath toh aisa hai ki doodh ka jala chaach ko bhi phook-phook kar peeta hai. 'Once bitten twice shy' wali baat hai. Davidji, and I mutually decided that I won't do the movie. But I think Chashme Baddoor had to give me something — if not a role, then a great song.
You won the TOIFA for Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin. How did it feel?
Everything in my life boils down to my mother. A tradition, which a lot of people do not know of, is that while I'd give my father the money I earned, anything that was special to me — like an award or an album — would be given to my mother. I wish I could give this one to her, too. All my awards were first kept at her feet. I am just happy about the fact that someday when these awards mark their 100th year, I will be remembered as the singer who bagged the first TOIFA for Best Playback Singer (Male). When Kal Ho Na Ho happened in 2004, I thought this was it, abhi iske upar kuch bhi nahi ayega, iske upar kabhi kuch ho nahi payega. Very rarely does something like this come your way; like for Lataji, it was Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon. After that, a song like Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin coming my way feels unbelievable. I'd say it was the blessing of my mother. Actually, 'hit' is not the right word — it has become a part of people's system. Whether I am performing for an elite crowd or a crowd of 20,000 people — asks for Agneepath, and I respond 'Agneepath chahiye?' the noise in the crowd, shows that this song has become huge. It also proves that some people in the industry are lying when they say the audiences don't like good songs and that only item numbers and ringtone-type songs sell.
You've also composed music for films. What do you think you are better at, composing or singing?
From childhood, I have been more of a musician than a singer. People close to me know how much effort I put into practising. Even when I am travelling, I have my tanpura on my iPhone. I am not a God-gifted vocalist in terms of harkat, range, vagayrah. If I stop practising, I will be . There are a lot of singers I know who hardly practise, yet sing well.