Sister Act

Sisters Tulsi Kumar and Khushali Kumar of T-Series talk about recreating a popular song from Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, from concept to singing to the final look of the single. This year, T-Series has been busy reviving old classics, either as part of film albums or as singles. After successfully releasing Dheere dheere and Ae mere humsafar, the label has unveiled another classic, Mainu ishq da lagaya rog, from the Aamir Khan-starrer Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin. Sung by Tulsi Kumar, the song also marks the on-screen debut of Kumar’s sister Khushali Kumar. Khushali, who is an internationally acclaimed designer, visualised the concept of the song, which has been composed by Arko Pravo Mukherjee. Box Office India chats with the Kumar sisters, about the making of the song and the challenges behind recreating old classics. Excerpts from an interview:

How did the concept of Mainu ishq da lagaya rog come about? Tell us about the making of the song.
Khushali Kumar (KK): It was Raksha Bandhan when my brother (Bhushan Kumar) was discussing an idea of recreating a song from Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin with Tulsi. He wanted her to sing Mainu ishq da lagaya rog. When I heard him, I thought we could shoot a video and shared my concept with him. The concept is something every girl can relate to. It is about a girl who is busy with work and she suddenly spots her boyfriend’s cap and dreams about him. After he heard the idea, he was, like, ‘Since you know the story so well, we will shoot it with you.’ Also, there are different emotions in the song, ranging from happy, longing to being sad. We tried to show all three emotions through the song and Tulsi has delivered it beautifully. Her voice sounds modern yet glamorous and is filled with emotion and romance.

Tulsi Kumar (TK): At the beginning of the song, Khushali helped with her inputs since the entire concept is hers. I also had sittings with Arko. During these sittings, we decided that we would take the romantic essence of the classic song and modernise it to suit today’s times. As far as the tone is concerned, we wanted it to be sensuously romantic but not very sweet and dreamy. This song shows a different side of me as I got an opportunity to introduce a certain boldness into my singing.

You are recreating various classics – Ae mere humsafar, Dheere dheere and now this song. Do you think recreating old songs mars their originality?
TK: No, Ae mere humsafar received a tremendous response and our main motto is that the soul of the song and the melody shouldn’t die. We always keep in mind that we shouldn’t kill the essence of the song. In Ae mere humsafar, we changed some lyrics and the music arrangement, whereas with Mainu ishq da lagaya rog, the original track has pure Indian orchestration with tabla, dholak and harmonium in the backdrop. 

With the new version, we have just styled the music according to today’s times. We have changed the melody in some places but the hook remains the same.

KK: It is about reliving the past and making people aware that we had so many beautiful things in the past, just like Devdas. We are only packaging it differently, in a way that today’s youth can relate to the new version as well the classic. When Ae mere humsafar released recently, it brought back old memories.

TK: People tend to forget songs. Our new endeavour helps bring them back to life.

How challenging was it to create your own version and yet stay true to Anuradha Paudwal’s and Nadeem-Shravan’s track?
TK: We modulated the voice. I never wanted to sound like Anuradhaji, her voice is very sweet and melodious. I could have rendered that feel again but keeping in mind the concept, both the new and old one, we changed the pace of that song while keeping the melody intact.

Did you ever worry about being compared to yesteryear singers?
TK: From the T-Series point of view, it benefits us both ways because both songs are ours. It benefits us regardless of which song you like!

But as a singer, do you take it as a challenge …
TK: I don’t take it as challenge but I admit that when I was recording Ae mere humsafar I was sceptical. That song is a cult super-hit, romantic song. But Mithoon told me we would create the song in our own way and that all I had to do was render in a way that I was directed to. I followed his instructions and it turned out very soulful. I have been receiving generous praise for that track. Coming to Mainu ishq da, I had no apprehensions because the earlier song was received very well, and even Dheere dheere did well. The only thing I had to keep in mind was the concept.

Some have slammed the recreation of Dheere dheere…
TK: Everyone can’t love everything. Each one of us has our own likes and dislikes. There are several listeners who liked the song, and the fact that it has crossed 50 million views says it all.

You have been singing playback for many actresses. Is there any particular actress that you desire to sing for?
TK: I think I have sung for all of them, but from the current crop of girls, I would love to sing playback for Alia Bhatt. If I had to choose an upcoming actress, I would love to sing for Khushali, when she features in a film. Doing playback for her will be easy for me because I know her inside out!

Khushali, do you have any film offers?
KK: There are a few things… I want to become a good actor. I am reading a few scripts and stories, in fact there is a very nice concept in my mind but it is too early to disclose it.

What other projects are you working on?
TK: I have sung playback for Sanam Re and Hate Story 3. There is also Junnoniyat and Airlift which will release next year. Right now, T-Series is concentrating on singles and films. Outside T-Series, I have done playback for Kunal Kohli’s Phir Se and Ram Gopal Varma’s Secret.
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