I select songs that have some meaning – Kavita Seth
Listening to Kavita Seth sing has always been a pleasure, conversing with her has been equally gratifying as she shares her experience of working on Neerja and how she strives to create value and contribute to society through her music. The talented singer and music composer doesn’t mind waiting for good work, work that resounds with her philosophy of music. Here are excerpts from the conversation.
Have you been trained in music?
I have done my MA in music. I started my training in Gwalior Gharana, and went on to learn a little in the Jaipur Gharana. I am still learning and there is a lot more to learn.
Can you tell us a little about the song that you’ve sung for the upcoming film Neerja?
It’s a beautiful song and Prasoon Joshi has written it with so much love. I am very happy with it. Many people think that I am very choosy and picky with my songs, but I was waiting for the right song to come my way. After Tumhee ho Bandhu from Cocktail, there were many offers that came but most of them were item numbers. I am glad that I waited because now I got the opportunity to sing such a lovely song. It’s got beautiful lyrics and the composition is also very heartwarming. The song comes towards the end after Shabana Azmi’s dialogue gets over, as was shown to me by Ram Madhvani (Director). It’s a song that would be relevant to anyone who is struggling with something in their life or is undergoing some form of stress; it is a very motivational song. As of now it is being used as a promotional song for the film but somewhere it is relevant to anyone and everyone. It says – Jeete hain chal (Let’s live) – You have to get up and move ahead, don’t let anything stop you. You can’t stop, because time doesn’t stop and you can’t either. Keep moving forward.
What was the brief that was given to you for this song and how did you go about meeting it?
Two years ago, director Ram Madhvani told me that he is starting a film and would want me to sing in it. I definitely like to work with him as he is such a sensible director and I know that I would be doing good work. I have worked with him in ad films and he has never given me work that isn’t up to the mark. Then then months back Vishal Khurana who is the Music Director (of the film) gave me a call. They were very clear in their vision and knew what they wanted. He asked me to hear the sound track and said that he would finally record it in my favourable pitch but that I should listen to the music first. I really liked the lyrics as they sounded so sweet.
My scale is very different; it is not the usual range in which people generally sing. So they need to make a special track for my voice. Generally the track can be made and then anyone can sing it. But for my songs, we need to rehearse and practice the song, the scale needs to be matched and then the track is recorded. So when I went to record the song, they first asked me to understand the situation and scene of the film and sing accordingly. When I saw the film I was stunned as Shabana ji has done such a wonderful job in playing the role of Neerja’s mother. The song starts playing once her speech gets over in the film.
Ram likes to experiment. He asked me to first softly sing the song to match the voice of a mother who has just lost her daughter. He knows that I have a very powerful voice and wanted to make sure that it matches the character. So for the first recording I sang very softly. Then he said that we should also try to record it in my original Sufi style, just to keep options open. And after hearing the second track, he decided to go with it. The motivational mood came out better in the Sufi style than in the soft tone. The message is not only about what the mother is feeling but also what everyone would feel after the film is over. It was a lot of fun working with him. Specially, because he knew what he wanted to bring out through each lyric.
So do you have a specific criteria for selecting a song or a film?
I don’t have a specific criteria for selecting a film. The only important thing for me is that the movie should be a clean film, there should be no rubbish in it. And I select songs that have some meaning. Like Jeete hain chal is relevant to people everywhere; whoever is suffering will connect with it.
Like for the song – Ore manva tut oh (Wake Up Sid) I have had so many people come up to me and tell me that this song elevates them from a sense of suffering. Whenever they are feeling low they listen to the song and it makes them feel better. That song is also written so beautifully and has such a beautiful message in it.
God has given us wisdom and a good mind, so why not use the two to help people all around. Party songs are also good, but as an artist it becomes our responsibility to make a song which has a message and encourages people around, giving purpose to our art and making us feel like we are contributing to society. This is such a beautiful medium and we can touch so many lives by using it well.
Which composers do you love working with?
I haven’t done too many songs in Bollywood and the good part is that whichever songs I have sung, have all been impactful. So I don’t record every day, I only want to do good work and for good work one has to have patience and has to wait. And I keep composing my own music. But I have worked a lot with Amit Trivedi, his songs are like poetry and I really enjoy working with him. I have worked a bit with Pritam da as well and that too has been a good experience. I am hoping to soon work with A R Rahman. I think as long as the song and the poetry is nice, I would work with anyone.
You have also been the music director for a couple of films. Do you wish to actively pursue this line?
That has happened very incidentally and I have never really pursued that. I compose music on my own and it has so happened that someone has liked it and wants to use it because it fits a situation. But if life makes me do this in the future, I would be fine with doing that as well.
How was your association and experience of working with composer Vishal Khurana?
It was been great. I am sure he is going to create good work in the near future. He has been working very closely with Ram on the project for the past two years now. His talent under the guidance of Ram will definitely create an impact. Being from Delhi, he has an understanding of poetry. We were speaking with Prasoon Joshi over Skype to understand the feel of this music and Vishal knew the nuances of the words and the song. He has worked very intricately with the song and is very serious about his work, something that I really liked. He is also a very fun loving man. I am very hopeful that we have found a very good composer in him.
Are there any other upcoming films for which you have given your voice?
Luvshudda is coming out and I have sung a very sweet song in it. It’s a version of Atif Aslam’s song Mar jayen.