BENGALURU: If you ask Mohit Chauhan about his musical journey, you’d be surprised to hear that the playback singer is actually a Masters graduate in geology and made an ‘accidental’ switch to the arts. “Many in my family were bureaucrats and I almost joined the army or civil services too,” he told CE when we meet him at Howard Johnson by Wyndham Bengaluru Hebbal. In the city for a performance – presented by Alive India – Chauhan recalled how he got his first paid musical job, which was a jingle for a brand of rice sold in Europe.
Post his Masters degree, the singer approached a friend’s brother in Delhi, who worked at an ad agency, for a job. Having come across recordings of Chauhan’s jam sessions, the acquaintance suggested Chauhan take up music instead. “But I had never seen the inside of a recording studio so who would even give me a job?” recounted the singer who is well-known for his Bollywood songs Pee Loon, Sadda Haq and Tum Se Hi, to name a few. Chauhan, however, was wrong since his jingle didn’t just get approved but also got him a big paycheck.
“There was a three-month lull phase after this but I became friends with many musicians in Delhi, and I eventually went on to form Silk Route,” he said, adding that he penned the band’s popular track, Dooba Dooba, in Himachal Pradesh. While the quartet may have disbanded, Chauhan went on to become one of the most sought after playback singers in Bollywood, even having the entire album for the film Rockstar to his credit.
“These days, it’s rare for a singer to get even three songs in a film. Getting a whole album is something that would happen in the olden days, with the likes of Kishore Kumar. So Rockstar is definitely special to me,” he said, adding that the entire process was like a band coming up with new music. “Imitiaz Ali, Ranbir Kapoor, Irshad Kamil and I would get together every 15-20 days to record a song. Usually, with songs for films, you just go to a studio and record it. But here, the lyrics were penned and songs were put together in front of me,” he recalled.
While it is difficult for Chauhan to pick one song that has been his favourite to record, his thoughts on the music scene in namma ooru are more prompt and firm. “The city has a reputation of having a rich Indie scene,” he said, adding that Silk Route would always be happy to perform in Bengaluru since it gave them a chance to experiment here. “The city has always had that special status in terms of music.”
Show at 15,000 ft
Chauhan is a man with many passions, including wildlife and the great outdoors. The singer, who is also the green ambassador for Sikkim, has even adopted a rhododendron tree in the region. In fact, Chauhan even performed for the army at the border posts in Sikkim, at an altitude of 15,000 ft, in December. He said, “I did seven concerts in total, all free of cost, because I wanted to do something for the army.” Instead of professional musicians accompanying him on stage, Chauhan performed with the army band and even sent out a list of songs for them to practise prior to the show. “So these were all rugged guys with guitars playing songs like Pee Loon and Sadda Haq,”he said, while calling it one of his most memorable performances.