In Hindi films, of which songs are a lifeline, singers contribute a great deal to the success of actors. Can you imagine Shammi Kapoor without his voice Mohammed Rafi? Isn’t Raj Kapoor incomplete without Mukesh, or Rajesh Khanna without Kishore Kumar? This trend of actor-singer camaraderie, which was nearly lost, is now gradually coming back with the Ranbir Kapoor-Mohit Chauhan pairing.
Chauhan, who is lately being recognised as Ranbir’s voice, especially post-Rockstar, is now on a high with the success of the title song of the actor’s new film, 'Barfi'. The secret to their teaming, as Chauhan vouches, is that he sings it with all his heart.
“When you do playback, you know you are singing for an actor. So, you start modulating your voice to suit the actor’s personality. In Ranbir’s case, I am just being ‘me’. I sing naturally. We get along well and I see this as an advantage,” says Chauhan.
But Chauhan’s identity is not restricted to being Ranbir’s voice alone. He is behind some of the biggest chartbusters in recent years. From 'Masakali' in 'Delhi 6' and 'Pee loon' in 'Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai' to 'Abhi kucch dinon se' in 'Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji' and 'Khwabon ke parinday' in 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara', Chauhan’s mellow voice is easily distinguishable from the rest of his peers.
Small wonder then that he is among A R Rahman’s hot new favourites. It was with Rahman’s 'Khoon chala' in 'Rang De Basanti' that Chauhan rose to prominence. Originally the front-man of the Silk Route band, Chauhan says working with Rahman is a learning curve. “I first met Rahman in 1998 as part of the band,” he recalls.
Rahman inspires the best in him, Chauhan urges. “Rahman has a devotional quality about his work. He doesn’t produce work that people want to hear or something that is commercial saleable. He works from the inside, very instinctively. I have observed him closely and just to see him at work is sheer delight.” He adds, “He trusted me with Rockstar. I am never going to forget that.”
Although Bollywood playback is increasingly becoming his calling card, Chauhan, who is not professionally trained, says that albums give him another kind of satisfaction. “In albums or if you are part of a band, you can express more freely. In Bollywood, you have to sing for a situation. That can be in a way limiting,” says the singer who released his solo album titled Fitoor in 2009. Funnily enough, he says he got into Bollywood accidentally. “Somebody heard my songs and suggested I try my luck in playback. I wasn’t sure but when an opportunity came, I said, ‘Why not?’”
He says his biggest fear is not to get labelled or straitjacketed. “It’s good to sing all kinds of songs and in many various ways as possible.”
Other than an upswing in his career, he also got married earlier this year. So, it’s been an important year that way. His wife is more like a friend with whom he shares many passions, naturally which includes music. “We exchange ideas all the time,” he says. “She is a writer and I am a singer but she cannot sing like me and I cannot write like her,” he ends, on a lighter note.