A versatile entertainer, Shekhar Suman is once again pushing the envelope by lending his voice to hit songs of the golden era of Hindi film music. The actor will perform live at New Delhi’s Pearaylal Bhawan this Saturday. “It is not as new as it seems,” says Suman over a telephonic conversation. “I have been at it for a long time as I have been taking lessons in classical music for 8-10 years now.” He had also cut an album in 2008 but singing live with an orchestra is a different challenge. Suman says he has learnt under the guidance of Pandit Paresh Jana and Devapriya Das. “In between, I got busy with other projects but I didn’t allow my passion to subside as it is part of my identity.” Explaining the thought, Suman says being a thorough theatre practitioner, music has been part of his training as an actor. “We used to do musicals in Delhi which demanded live singing. Music gives an actor the idea of rhythm. If you are musically trained, your acting gets enriched. It also helps in the spiritual growth of the actor.” Even for a layman, Suman adds, our film music plays an important part in life. “You start identifying with the hero and when he sings a romantic number you feel that you are singing to your beloved.”
The event is part of his multi-city Dil Se concert series as Suman believes singing has more to do with heart than throat. No wonder, he is a big fan of Mukesh and the event is a tribute to the popular playback singer. “Mukesh was not as classically trained as Mohammed Rafi but the pain that he carried in his voice was unmatched. It was only when I started understanding the nuances of music that I realised the real worth of Rafi. His effortless elegance in high notes is magical.” But still Mukesh remains his idol. “When I sing his songs, people say that they get a reflection of Mukesh’s voice but I don’t copy him. I sing his songs keeping my own experiences in life in mind and perhaps I could also convey the emotions that these timeless songs carry.”
Suman has been following Mukesh since his school days in Patna. “Once he came to the city with Mahendra Kapoor and there was so much crowd in the stadium that the police had to resort to lathi charge. Even as a 10-year-old I somehow found my way to backstage to have a glimpse of my favourite singer. I was so moved by his songs that at times I felt that my heart beat would stop.”
His favourite Mukesh numbers are those which were penned by Sahir Ludhianvi. We all know that Suman is playing Sahir these days on stage in Ek Mulaqat. “I really like the Dil Hi To Hai song, ‘Tum Agar Mujhko Na Chaho To Koi Baat Nahin, Tum Agar Kisi Aur Ko Chahogi to Mushkil Hogi’. It is the height of love. I also like the one penned by Neeraj in Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal, ‘Dekhti hi raho aaj darpan na tum, pyaar kaa ye mahurat nikal jaayegaa’. It captures the philosophy of life.” Besides these, Suman has a long list of Mukesh songs ranging from “Ye Mera Deewanpan Hai” to “Door Kahin Jab Din Dhal Jaye”.
Talking about Sahir, Suman says while playing the poet on stage he forgets that he is Shekhar Suman. “Such is his impact, it has not happened with me before. He is the last word on the subjects that he wrote. How can you express romanticism better than ‘Abhi na jao chhodkar ki dil abhi bhara nahin’. It is a strange mix of simplicity and depth or take ‘barbadion ka shok manana fizool tha, barbadion ka jashn manata chala gaya’. He used to give a new meaning to situations. One could feel his calm yet rebellious ways. Playing him, I felt a change in me.”
But Sahir’s unfulfilled love story gives him a different hue, and knowing the vulnerability of your hero doesn’t always leave you with a happy feeling. “I feel if your ideology and love are not falling in the same line, it is better to sacrifice the latter. Love will still linger,” reasons Suman. “The romance that becomes complete is not love. It becomes a habit. Love is like infinity, it can’t be reached and its beauty lies in its incompleteness.”
Value of pain
Isn’t it hard to explain this to today’s know-all generation? “Absolutely, they are becoming robotic and emotionally manipulative. I wish I could show them the mirror. I want to take them on the fertile ground of emotions and relationships. I want to tell them that there was time when one expressed through letters and waited for a response for months. That anguish gives birth to love.”
In India, the line between actors and playback singers is distinct. Perhaps that’s why we don’t have many stage performers. Suman reminds that many years back when Amitabh Bachchan had sung some of his songs, there was huge demand for his concerts. “He did some, but, perhaps because of work pressure, could not continue. This space needs to be explored.” Purists might protest? “They should know music is one of the arts that a true actor should imbibe. For me, it is not just a way to explore new avenues. It is one of the many experiences that nourish my acting.” His stint in politics, he informs, is another one.
Interestingly, his son Adhyayan is also busy belting out singles. “These times demand multiple talents. Priyanka, Alia and Shraddha have already proved that they could sing as well. Unlike me, Adhyayan is a natural singer.” Well, Suman is a natural actor!