In her 53 years of life, Alka Yagnik has spent almost four decades lending her soulful voice to Bollywood. It all started in 1980 when she recorded her first song for Payal Ki Jhankaar. The following year, she sang Mere Angane Mein for Laawaris. Picturised on actress Rakhi, the song paved the way for many opportunities for her in the Bollywood, and she soon became the voice behind Ek Do Teen, Gazab Ka Hain Din, Mera Dil Bhi Kitna, Pardesi Pardesi, Gali Mein Aaj Chand and Taal Se Taal Mila, to list a few among the thousands of songs that she has sung so far. But, ask Alka about her four decades in the industry and all she has to say is that ‘time just flew by’.
Now, she is all set to feature as a judge in the reality show Superstar Singer, on Sony TV. The first episode will be telecast by the end of this month, and will also see Himesh Reshammiya and Javed Ali in the panel. “Reality shows can’t build up careers,” she admits, but adds, “They can only provide a platform to showcase your talent but it is no guarantee to success. Afterwards, how well their career shapes up depends on a lot of factors.”
Looking back at her own career, the versatile singer says that all she ever wanted to do was to sing. “I did nothing except going to the studio or on the stage, and sing,” says Alka, who grew up listening to Lata Mangeshkar on the radio. “I was perhaps three or four when I would sit with the radio and hum the songs. Seeing that, my mother realised that I have a talent for music and she pushed me towards riyaaz saying it is crucial to understand classical music to be a singer but I used to find it boring. I only enjoyed singing,” she recalls. While many would analyse their success chart, Alka was never bothered by the same. “All that was there on my mind was — How well can I sing? When I would go back home, I would listen to my song and analyse it and would jot down the faults so that I don’t repeat them,” avers Alka.
From the countless tracks that she has lent her voice to, the one song that stands out from recent years is Agar Tum Saath Ho from Imtiaz Ali’s 2015 romantic drama, Tamasha. “Interestingly, the song had to be done in a hurry, because the film had to be released soon and AR Rahman wasn’t in town. So, we got him on Skype and after giving me a few instructions, he said — It’s your song, you sing it your way. I know the way you will sing it will be the right way because this song belongs to you,” she shares. Undoubtedly, she owned the song.
When asked about the massive attention it received, Alka says, “I found the lyrics very touching but never thought the song would be appreciated so much. Perhaps, it was because it came after a long period of time, and my fans were probably missing listening to my voice (laughs). Also, the picturisation was very unusual. The way she cajoles him was very touching, it brought tears to my eyes.”
Talking about the picturisation, her song Tip Tip Barsa Pani, featuring Akshay Kumar and Raveena Tandon, caught a lot of eyeballs. The song is now getting recreated for Akshay Kumar’s upcoming film Sooryavanshi. Reacting to the same, she asserts, “I don’t stand for a remix at all. I feel what is original shouldn’t be touched. If you want to make those kinds of songs, make new songs. People say remixes make them popular, but these songs have always been popular. You are picking up a popular song only to remake it.”
We met the singer at INOX Insignia, wherein her conversation with renowned film critic Bhawana Somaaya, she admitted having a sensitive throat. “In my childhood, while other children would be having ice cream, I wouldn’t. You have to sacrifice on a few things… Like picnics, parties and going on holidays wasn’t for me and instead I was doing riyaaz and recording music,” she says. And, did working extensively for so many years take a toll on her personal life as well? “My personal life definitely got affected, there were problems because I wasn’t able to give enough time. I wasn’t able to go on holidays with family or pursue a hobby… For an average man, these things are a part of life, for me those were luxuries. When you are young, you work, work and work. Now, I have slowed down, I don’t want to work all the time instead I am now indulging myself in things that I couldn’t do it earlier like spending time with family and friends, going out for long drives, taking breaks and going on a vacation,” she concludes.