Bollywood singer Javed Ali who has gone viral with hits like 'Srivalli' starring Allu Arjun
Bollywood singer Javed Ali who has gone viral with hits like 'Srivalli' starring Allu Arjun Image Credit: Supplied

Indian singer Javed Ali, who’s the dynamic voice behind the Hindi rendition of ‘Srivalli’ in Allu Arjun’s blockbuster ‘Pushpa: The Rise’, calls himself his own worst critic.

“Just earlier today, I stumbled upon an old album of mine and I was cringing because I feel I could have done it differently. My competition has always been with myself … I don’t talk ill about other singers or composers, I just assess my own work in the most clinical manner,” said Ali in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

The self-analysis seems to have worked wonders because Ali continues to remain one of the most relevant singers in Hindi and South Indian film industry. Seasoned composers such as Pritam and Amit Trivedi seek him out for their compositions even when he’s touring globally and wait for his return to India to record those songs.

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Bollywood singer Javed Ali Image Credit: Supplied

“When I was in the US recently I got a message from Pritam da that he wanted me to record Brahmastra’s theme song for Shiva and I asked him to just send it over. But he waited for me to get back from the US and recorded it in Mumbai. He waited for me and that felt good. Remember, Pritam da has all the singers in Bollywood on speed-dial but he chose me and that’s a huge honour,” said Ali in Hindi.

And he has never let them down. On Saturday, Ali will bring his rich repertoire of songs to Madinat Jumeirah Arena as he performs live in the UAE at a concert entitled ‘Salaam Dubai 2022’, organised by Oberoi Middle East.

Here’s his take on …

Performing at a live concert in Dubai after COVID-19:

“Due to COVID-19, there were many things that we missed out as an artiste such as the one-on-one interaction. No matter how many virtual concerts we hold or use technology to our advantage, performing in front of a live crowd is a different feeling. I am excited to perform at a ticketed event in Dubai. I will be singing songs that rarely make it to my concerts and I am looking forward to a great show. Expect a bouquet of my hits songs and also some interesting medleys where old and new songs are combined. My intent is to showcase songs that you least expect. Very often, my fans want me to sing classics of Mohammad Rafi and I will do that since I am a huge fan. Having said that, I will also be singing Kishore da’s [Kumar] hit songs. My concert will be a glorious mix of old and new. But you need to come to my concert to know more.”

His slow meteoric rise in Bollywood:

“Whatever fame and glory that I have witnessed makes me feel incredibly grateful. I am keenly aware that millions don’t get the platform or popularity that I got. I don’t look at my rise as ‘slow’ because I firmly believe that there’s a time for everything. Whatever songs that I have sung such as ‘Jashn-E-Bahaar’ (from the film ‘Jodhaa Akbar) have long-enduring appeal. Many singers would yearn to sing such songs. Since you asked, I am letting you in on this: one of my peers has even told me that there are many singers who come and go or vanish, but you will keep walking. I just want to keep walking … Remember COVID-19 robbed us of at least two years of our life. Many families lost their loved ones and some were struggling to survive financially, but even during that dark phase I had a Telugu hit song called ‘Nee Kannu Neeli Samudram’ (from the film ‘Uppena’) and it was a huge hit. After that, a series called ‘Bandish Bandits’ released and my songs from that series during a lockdown became a raging hit. Then the lock down lifted, I got offered ‘Srivalli’ from the blockbuster ‘Pushpa’ and that song had this magical quality about it. Whenever I sing it, there’s a different energy. I just feel grateful at all points in my life.”

Plunging into South Indian film industry:

“Initially, I faced a few issues over diction but now I don’t face that problem anymore since I have sung many songs in Tamil and Telugu. I had so many big hits in Telugu that I feel I have attained a certain market standard there. And the simple truth is that I have received so much love from South Indians that your confidence also sky-rockets. I feel accepted with every good song. My rise in South India has also been slow and steady. I didn’t become an overnight star in a year or two and then disappear. I didn’t reach this phase where people wondered where I was after that crazy leap. My career kick-started truly in 2007 and I have been in the music industry for over 15 years, but what sets me apart is that I have only improved year after year. I have never been in the business of speaking ill of others and all my efforts are towards trying something new and innovative. I am always exploring on how to sing differently with every composition. Check out my singles that have released recently and you will realise that a lot of thought has gone into singing each verse. It’s not easy to accept any new challenge. You often worry whether it will boomerang on you. Just like everyone else, I am also crippled by fear and lack of confidence, but you learn to power through it. If you listen to ‘Srivalli’, I have tried something new and people just embraced it. I didn’t try to ape the original Telugu version of the song while singing the Hindi version. The texture, voice modulations, the style – it’s a not a typical South song … I tweaked a few things for that song.”

Shoddy re-mixes and the death of original compositions:

“As an artist, I have always believed in shaping new thoughts … I am not going to comment on what other singers are doing, but I can speak about what I feel about the matter. It’s not cool to take a hook line from another hit song and then patch it with another new song. Your approach as a composer and a singer should be novel. There should be newness.”

Working with composers in different leagues like AR Rahman and Amit Trivedi:

“A composer and a singer often has a deep attachment to each other. The truth is that the composers choose singers, and it’s not the other way around. A song is a composer’s creation alone … Recently, I sang a song for Amit Trivedi. I was touring in the US when he sent across his track so that I could send it back to him. He showed such immense belief. My earlier song ‘Ishaqzaade’ with him was a massive hit too and composers like him are showing a lot of faith in me. And that’s a big win.”

Don't Miss It!
What: Javed Ali Live In Concert
When: October 22, Saturday
Where: Madinat Jumeirah Arena (Indoor)
Tickets: Dh95 onwards
Time: 9 pm (Doors open at 7 pm)
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