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Exclusive: Shahid Mallya On Nepotism, Hit Songs And Remix Culture

Playback singer Shahid Mallya gets into a candid conversation and talks about his struggle, nepotism, the remix culture and his hit songs.

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Shahid Mallya is an Indian playback singer who has given hit songs like ‘Rabba Main To Mar Gaya Oye’, ‘Ikk Kudi’, ‘Bolo Na’ and ‘Rehguzar’.

Here’s an excerpt from our exclusive interview with Shahid Mallya:

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Tell us more about your journey to Bollywood?

I am basically from Ferozpur, Punjab. My maternal family belongs to Ganganagar, Rajasthan. Music wasn’t considered an ideal profession in our family. They always asked me to find an ‘ideal’ occupation.

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My father was an English professor in a college. He was a big fan of Mohammad Rafi Sahab. He left his work and came to Bombay in the 70s to meet Rafi Sahab. I was born in the 80s and I grew up listening to stories about Rafi Sahab from my father. And thus, I developed a passion for music. I came to Mumbai in the 90s to fulfill my father’s dream and thus my journey started.

What kind of struggles did you face when you first came into the industry?

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People who come from small towns face all kinds of problems. Firstly, they don’t know the streets to studios and production houses. And then, one has to mingle into the language, food and environment of this city. When people see you talking in your language like Punjabi or Rajasthani, people take you lightly and don’t think you worthy enough to give an opportunity.

Every person who leaves his town to come to Mumbai faces these problems and I didn’t face anything different. But I had come to Mumbai with my entire family. So, my struggles were a little bit more.

You have been in this industry for a long time. Do you still feel like an outsider?

Yes definitely! But I am thankful that I have got some great opportunities here and people have loved my work. And I think, one needs to keep moving forward instead of looking back.

In 2020, you openly talked about the existence of Nepotism in the industry after Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. It’s been almost a year. Have you seen any changes in the industry?

Right now, most things in the industry are stalled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We will come to know once the work resumes in full swing. But yes, people have developed a mindset that talented and deserving people should get a chance. Somewhere in their heart, they have got a message to not repeat the mistakes they have done in the past and that they should promote good talent.

Your recent song ‘Rehguzar’ from Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s upcoming film ‘Bole Chudiyan’ has been garnering a lot of appreciation.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a great artist. Working with him is like getting an award. I felt great working with him. ‘Rehguzar’ is a very different song. And this film is based on his personal life and his career to date. It was a pleasure to work with him on a very different project.

When your song is released on YouTube, do you check the comments and reviews or do you keep your phone aside and relax?

The first thing I do is reading the reviews. Reviews are my actual reward because reviews reflect your work. It helps me in knowing the audience’s taste. By God’s grace, I have received love for all my songs till date.

Secondly, when a new song of mine gets released, I listen to it about 200 times on loop and then I move on to my next project.

While making a song, do you feel pressured thinking that your last song was a hit and you have to do better than that? Or do you focus on work without any pressure?

I never felt any kind of pressure. This word never came to my mind. Even during my first song, I just wanted to deliver my best. I would call it excitement that I am doing a new song and I should give my best. When I was recording my first song ‘Rabba Mai To Mar Gaya Oye’, I never anticipated that it would become such a huge hit.

So, I don’t take any stress. I just focus on how to sing well and how I can improve.

Do you like to croon your own songs? If yes, what’s the recent song you are crooning these days?

I am crooning to ‘Rehguzar’ these days. It is a very beautiful song.

Remix culture is taking over these days. What according to you is difficult- making an original melody or a remix?

Of course, making a remix is easier. Making pizza with bread is easy but making bread is difficult. One needs to make bread, and only then you can put pizza stuffings on it.

I think that only those songs should be remixed that have been forgotten by the masses or the songs of music directors, singers and lyricists who have left for heavenly abode. Old songs are a heritage. It’s like an old building that should get reconstructed. There’s no harm in that but due credits should be given to the original makers.

It’s not that I haven’t done any remixes. I have also sung 1-2 remixes but those were the songs that are 60-70 years old. But these days, people are remixing songs that are 3-4 or 10 years old. If someone remixes my song ‘Rabba Main To Mar Gaya Oye’, with a new voice and beats, I will feel that I dedicated my whole life, my parents struggled a lot, and now someone else is taking away all the fame by singing it again and not even giving me the due credits. One feels sad knowing that whatever we are doing today won’t belong to us tomorrow. The coming generation would assume the remix version to be the original one. And it would take another 25 years to explain to them that the original version is something else. So, this is weird.

People in the industry learn to play instruments but they don’t know where to use them. They can only create noise and know very little about musical notes. There are very few DJs who create their own music. But there are some, who work on loop. They pick things from here and there and present it as their own work. So, that’s a very bad thing to do.

Music companies must be miserable. They must be falling short of money. That’s the only explanation why they do remixes.

Now, there’s a song ‘Aankh Maarey’ originally sung by Kumar Sanu. He must be watching its remixed version on TV. The lyricist also must be alive and probably watching it on TV. How would they be feeling seeing their work being used without giving them due credits? We sell the rights to these music companies and then they do whatever they want to. It is a pretty bad situation. Indian music needs to be protected.

Who is your inspiration in music?

I am a follower of Mohammad Rafi. But I also listen to Lata Mangeshkar ji, Ghulam Ali Sahab, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahab and Kishore da also. These are legendary people. They were not only great musicians of all times, but also good human beings.

What are your upcoming projects?

There are many films in the pipleline. And, I am also working on some singles in which I will be acting as well. I want people to recognise me. They know my songs already but I want them to know me as well. I have already worked on 5-6 singles. I hope people keep loving me the same way they have been doing so far.

How does your family react when your songs release? Do they give a positive reaction or do they criticize also?

They mostly criticize. I get love once in six months. Since everyone is a music lover in my family, they have sharp ears. So, they don’t appreciate if they don’t like anything. I have great critics in my house. But they are my well-wishers too.

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