Sonu Nigam is a Bollywood personality with many feathers in his hat. He is not just a playback singer. With a versatile personality, Nigam has tried his hands at singing, anchoring, acting, and mimicking as well. Seeing his multifarious talents, we can say that he is definitely more than a singer. And that doesn't undermine his ability as a singer. When he sings, even the ones who are not really 'into' music, listens. He is in fact one of the most successful playback singers of all-time. Moreover, he has been instrumental in making some of the best-selling pop albums in the country.
Nigam's journey began way too early. Born in Haryana's Faridabad, he was a child prodigy who started singing at the age of four. He would sing during stage shows, parties and functions along with his father Agam Kumar Nigam. Back then, people loved hearing him sing “Kya hua tera wada". Singling Bollywood great Mohammad Rafi's songs were his style. In his own admission, he was influenced by Rafi.
His father took him to Mumbai when he was around 18 years of age and the rest is history. Although trained under Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, it was tough for him to make his space in Bollywood. His first song – "O Aasmaan Wale (Aaja Meri Jaan)" – was released in 1993. He went on to sing in many other movies as a playback singer. He tasted success when he sung "Achha Sila Diya' in 1955 release 'Bewafa Sanam'.
During the same time, the singer was also roped in to anchor a show – 'Sa Re Ga Ma' – on Zee TV. In an interview with Karan Thapar for BBC in 2001, Nigam said that the show was conceptualised around him. He told Thapar that before 'Sa Re Ga Ma' was offered to him, ace producer Gajendra Singh wanted him to anchor “Antakshari”. Singh, impressed by Nigam, wanted to replace the anchors and rope in the new singer on the block.
When Singh offered the job to Nigam, he suggested the producer to make 'something new'. Two months later, Singh approached Nigam again, this time asking him to host a new show – 'Sa Re Ga Ma'. The show was instant hit and stayed at the top between 1995 and 1999. The audience loved the new anchor, who also performed impromptu gigs while anchoring. Then on, Sonu Nigam became a household name.
Not only this, his playback singing career also flourished during that time. After his successful “Accha Sila Diya” in 1995, he sang the Anu-Malik composed song “Sandese Aate Hain” in 'Border'. The song elevated Nigam's reputation as a singer. Despite receiving numerous accolades, Nigam said he was also typecast as a singer who would sing sad songs. In 1997, he sang Nadeem-Shravan-composed song “Yeh Dil Deewana '' from the movie 'Pardes'. The song changed his image in the industry and for the audience. With it, Nigam was touted as a versatile singer.
What followed was a great singing career in Bollywood. From pop to romance, Nigam explored all genres. His album – 'Deewana' – was released in 1999. The romantic numbers were blockbuster hits among the youth. The album's soulful songs made many hearts melt. Even today, people like to hear those songs and often refer to them as gems from the glorious era of 90s Indipop. He went on to release many other albums in subsequent years. The soul of all those albums were the same. They were all romantic songs. After 'Deewana', he recorded 'Jaan', 'Yaad', 'Kismat' and 'Mausam'.
The versatile singer then went on to prove his mettle by changing his style of singing for different actors. He would sing differently for Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan, making him a favourite among the music composers. In his prime, he lent his voice to many actors. He sang in all-time hits like 'Sangharsh', 'Kal Ho Na Ho', 'Main Hoon Na', 'Lage Raho Munna Bhai', 'Saathiyaa', 'Parineeta', 'The Legend of Bhagat Singh', 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham', 'Om Shanti Om', 'Veer-Zaara', 'Dil Se', 'Agneepath', 'Raaz: The Mystery Continues', 'Border' etc.
Nigam, undoubtedly, ruled playback singing once. He has sung more than 2,000 songs in 10 different languages like Hindi, Bengali, English, Gujarati, Kannada, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Tamil and Telugu. When he was on the top of his game, he surprisingly decided to cut down on playback singing in 2006 to concentrate more on personal projects and stage performances.
Apart from singing, Nigam is also known for his talent to mimic many other singers of his time. He can mimic Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan and others flawlessly. He excelled as a mimicker too. Even the singers he mimicked took his acts sportingly and were seen enjoying with the audience. Nigam has, time and again, proved that he is more than a singer.
Although Nigam had cut down on his playback singing, he was never out of the scene. Soon after the demise of Pop icon Michael Jackson, he released a song – 'The Beat of Our Hearts' – to pay a tribute to him. In 2008, he took part in a three-city tour of the United Kingdom where he sang many Rafi songs with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). In 2011, Nigam had collaborated with Britney Spears on a remix of “I Wanna Go” track. He had also collaborated with DJ Avicii for a song “Indian Levels.”
Aptly, we can say that Nigam is not just a singer but a rockstar with versatile talent. CitySpidey wishes Sonu Nigam a very happy 48th birthday. May you continue to entertain us the way you always have!