Has playback singing changed over the years?
Music mirrors the changes in the society. Times have changed and so the kind of music that's being made have changed too. You cannot compare today's time with the 50s or 60s as they were an era. Today's music represents the youth. That's why we have so much of fast numbers that honestly do not have a long shelf-life. But songs with longer shelf-life still exist; only the proportions have changed. I can even see a change from the time I sang for Devdas till now. It will continue to change and I know I will witness many such changes as long as I am in this field.
Technology plays a huge role in today's music. How has this helped the new generation singers? Has it become easier for them?
True, some songs composed nowadays are quite easy to sing because there is hardly any singing needed. It's more about the music. Those songs do not really need a merit or a real skill from the performer. But there are songs which cannot be done without understanding or an interpretation. Songs which are fast and peppy might sound easy but if a classical singer is made to sing that song it would not make the much-needed impact. Bollywood does not have a particular genre; it's a potpourri of everything — from classical, rock, peppy and pop. There is an audience for every genre. Of course, there are some genres which are not being done enough. Hence the audiences who want to listen to soulful and soft melodious songs are feeling deprived. Thankfully they are still being composed. Maybe the ratio is less.
Was the shift from soulful songs like Wada Raha to item numbers like Chikni Chameli in recent times intentional?
In films a playback singer has no say in the kind of music till they start working on independent music. You cannot make your own decision. Devdas songs and Wada Raha kind of numbers happened because people wanted those kind of songs. Right now if I have sung Chikni Chameli it's not my call. It was not my decision either. Of course, I have the choice to say whether I want to sing it or not but the fact that the song came to me was my composer's choice. So if they thought I was fit for the song I said, 'why not do it'. But there has been songs that came to me in recent times to which I said no because I felt it was not right for me to foray into those genre. Doing an item number is fine but not at the cost of crossing the line. It might hamper my image as a singer.
Your favourite genre?
I prefer to sing songs that have some kind of a calling. It need not always be a soft and soothing one; it can be a fast one too. As long as the melody has something to connect to me as a music lover, it is absolutely fine. That's why I am in Bollywood. I love the challenges and the versatile nature of my profession. But at the end of the day if I have to listen to a song on my iPod it would always be songs that are less cluttered with music. Different composers have different style of working, different ways of teaching and even have different restrictions.
While some composers allow you to do your own thing, there are others who want me to stick to just what they want. Then there are some composers who give just a little framework and allow me to take a flight from there. That kind of bonding between a singer and a composer affects a song a lot. Having lent your voice to so many actresses, who do you think suits your voice the best on screen?
Vidya Balan and Kareena Kapoor do a fantastic job. They are very expressive. There are a couple of actresses who do not open their mouth while lip-synching. They are more concerned about their shot and how they look. So it seems unnatural sometimes. Vidya understands music as she can sing too. She goes to concerts and Indian classical music shows. Hence she is very expressive in lip-synching. Kareena comes from the Kapoor khandaan and I guess it's there in her blood.
Do you miss the ordinary life?
I have an ordinary life