Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bollywood Playback Face-off: Will Mohit Chauhan eat KK's lunch?

In the sharply competitive, shifting sands of the world of Bollywood music, Mohit Chauhan is having a moment.

He's steadily wiggled himself into the mind space of several music composers - key to getting steady work in playback. He's delivered a few good hits. He now gets considered for A-list work, thus perpetuating more hits.

And in the middle of all this, as icing on the cake - he started off A. R. Rahman's highly acclaimed soundtrack to Delhi 6 with a tune so catchy, it stuck to the back of EVERYONE's ears. Not only was Masakali a huge hit, but it was a much beloved one. More importantly, it made people ask "Who is that singer?" and  compelled them to remember the answer.

Increasingly the feeling I get is that KK's reign as the Bollywood King of Mainstream Playback might be under serious threat. And I'll tell you why.

At the outset Mohit and KK appear to be very different singers. Often because Mohit has sung a lot of ballads in his career - he is referred to as a singer with a silken voice. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Mohit's voice as a matter of fact, has more depth than that. It's a burr of a voice and carries a certain leaden weight, more like cloth woven with strands of washed denim. Its his strength - it allows Mohit to infuse his singing with a variety of emotions.

One other thing worth considering - in all the singing I've heard from Mohit, his singing leans towards more traditional Indian singing. It could be part of his training. He is most at ease when negotiating the wiggles in Indian notes. Often he'll sing straight pop numbers like a ghazal singer.

KK couldn't be a more different singer in some ways. Compared to Mohit, his voice is practically uni-dimensional. But KK has two things going for him - he possesses a breezy, stylish voice and he can hit those straight notes with an unforced ease. Both these bits combined make him an ideal singer for modern day songs. (You'll hear people say KK has tremendous range. What I think people really mean is that KK can sing a wide variety of songs available to singers in Bollywood today).

But the type of songs that will be made available to both - will be similar in the filmi music duniya. Most songs available to male singers today fall into well worn categories. There is (1) the rock song (2) the pop ballad (3) the dance dhamaka and (4) the comedy romp. Sure there are other genres of music in films today - but its a mere smattering.

Of the four types of songs, strike out (4) for this simple reason: comedies operate on a smaller budget (unless its a rare sequel like Golmaal Returns). This implies a new-ish (read: economic) music director with a smaller budget. So singers like Mohit Chauhan and KK are a little out of the financial range of this genre in most cases.

KK plays in all three genres that are left. But Mohit's full throated voice is ideal for (1) the rock song and (2)  the pop ballad. He'll end up scoring over KK in both these categories. So expect more work to go his way in these areas.

This leaves (3) the dance dhamaka. KK will still do well here because his voice bears the frothiness required to carry off this genre. Sure there is Neeraj Shridhar to contend with in this space, but Neeraj's voice isn't entirely convincing when matched up with some of the Bollywood superstars (they tend to look a little puny when they sing in Neeraj's voice). KK - on the other hand - sounds great when matched up with just about anyone.

Most fortuitously for us, the soundtrack of Sikandar gives us some fascinating data to play with. Both singers have sung essentially two songs with the same lyrics - a drink-of-life reflection called 'Gulon Mein'. Mohit takes a crack at the more ruminative version composed by Justin-Uday. KK renders the breezier version composed by Sandesh Shandilya.

It's a rare chance to listen to two competing singers bring their craft in compositions that play to their respective strengths. If you'll give each one a careful listen, you'll be able to understand both singers better. I recommend you do that before placing your bets.

Regardless of the outcome of this delicious match up, singers called Atif Aslam should definitely start praying.

KK's other most recent songs:
Chand Zameen Pe (42 kms)
Aisa To Socha Na Tha (Victory)
Mere Khuda (Sorry Bhai)

Mohit's other most recent songs:
Haafiz Khuda (8x10 Tasveer)
Kuchh Khaas - with Neha Bhasin (Fashion)
Is This Love - with Shreya Ghoshal (Kismet Konnection)


Parveen said...

Thanks for a much awaited writeup on Mohit , a singer from Himachal.

Perhaps at some point you may consider writing about Zubeen Garg , who did well after Ya Ali but seems to have died down despite great voice.

Cheers for a great writeup.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Parveen. You related or you just like the guy?

Parveen said...

Dear Aspi:
I am not related and live faaar away from these singers. I just like the guy and your writing skills.

Anonymous said...

Parveen, me too, 'Fan-e-Aspi'. Great write up Aspi. I have realized i read drift not only for the masala but also to find out about these new artist. I think your mention of Sikander is really good, because after all when 2 great singers come together you can see the awesome music they can make. from my POV, none of them will be eating others lunch, mumbai maa tiffin ki kamee nahi hai, thank god for that amchi bollywood industry. Both of these singer will have some good times..

P said...

Thanks Anon Ji - It is true that the Market for talented musicians is unlimited.
One can only have a USP instead of a cheaper clone of established artists. ( Though they can make their living by doing stage shows a la SRGMP run of the Mill Singers )

Missing Her Comments said...

Megan Kothaye ??????????

Unknown said...

Good discussion - because one of my goals is to find a friendly singer and ask them how much money they make off
1 - playback
2 - live public shows
3 - corporate parties
4 - private parties
5 - TV work

Unfortunatley most of the friendly singers have a well defined sense of boundaries :( so they won't talk about it.

Anonymous said...

Well Aspi, you got to look at it this way, if I asked you on drift, 'How much do you make in your full time salary?, even if I asked in the best way possible, would you tell?? it stands true for the artist too. After all, roji roti ka sawal hai..

Unknown said...

True, true. But I WOULD be able to tell you things like:

1. I make jack out of my blog
2. I get beggar's wages from consulting every now and then
3. My annual royalty check makes me smile but couldn't get me through a month

That should fly with someone if I put it to them the right way. But I might need to buy half dozen rounds of tequila shots first to loosen things up.

j said...

Read once a while back that singers dont get paid very much per song but then most of the good singers record a song under an hour so it is good money if you consider the effort. This was from a Sonu Nigam interview. Sukhwinder Singh charges the most per song.

Sonu was miffed that a lot of his good songs do not see the light of the day because a movie either doesn't hit the stands or is a flop in which case the songs do not get the publicity that they should.

Anonymous said...

Or you could say, 'I get to do what I love the most, pick and choose what I want to write about' Ya saab artist ko har samaya what they want karna ko nahi milta. At the end of the day, I agree these 2 singers have talent, what they charge for it, is 'beauty in the eyes of the beholder'...But, once again well written, maybe I will have to get you some tequila shots to get that # out of you!!!

Anonymous said...

re: salary...A diplomatic answer would be to say, "A person with my qualifications can make 100K to 400K per year."

Unknown said...

Sukhwinder charges more than Sonu? Wow.

Anon, tequila always works - but I should let you know I drink tequila with sangrita - slowly (it allows for mass consumption without ending up naked in a bar somewhere).

Anonymous said...

It is true that Suk charges more than Sonu but his recordings are less than Sonu.
Sonu is the richest singer ( Except Lata ) and has two huge Panthouses to live.
Other source of lucartive $$ is budding singers enter hosting TV shows.

Anonymous said...

Well in bollywood, good voices still have a limited media...or listeners. The major fan following still comes from songs recorded for movies which has a lot of variables a singer has to work with. Unlike, in hollywood, singers major source of income is albums and tours!! That is something which it may take a while to change,...

Unknown said...

TV shows is always a good source of income :) If you get paid on time (which basically means you stay away from certain channels, heh heh).

In terms of singers in the US - most of their money these days comes from tours. CDs now make money only for the big singers, and only if you sell upwards of a couple million. The rest comes from "other" sources - tours being one of them.

On the other hand if you are a onesie-twosie artist in the long tail (i.e. you sell steadily but not massively), then you pretty much rely on live shows.

Unknown said...

Hey Aspi,

I have read several interviews of playback singers over the years and no they do not divulge their income :-)) However I remember reading an interview of Alka Yagnik ages ago.

The intro to the interview had info on how much she charged then - Rs 50000 per song. And AY's comments were that she gets what she deserves. I assume she earns much more now. Not sure how accurate this article is but check this out..

Another interview (link attached) by Babul Supriyo had him revealing that he had got only Rs 7000 for the title song from Hum Tum..

Also I'd like to see some interviews of new female playback singers - Shilpa Rao, Shruti Pathak of Mar Jaawan fame *from Fashion) or even Richa Sharma (not new)..

KASOL said...

The website of Mohit Chauhan :-

Unknown said...

Deepa, brilliant link. Many, many thanks!

Unknown said...

I'm finding Mohit's voice on all my fave songs at the moment so i think he's well on his way to take over KK's territory but perhaps a parallel to Atif (die hard fan).

However what i don't get is how Sunidhi's bro has been struggling all these yrs to get a break?

Amirag said...

In my opinion both of them are very good singers, Mohit is good & he voice fit for te slow type of songs but KK is dashing , rocking, & he is associated with all the dance numbers as far as slow types , through his high range it makes his songs so xtra ordinary & different from others. So, he is the best & the great handsome singer in bollywood.

Cain said...

It's KK hands down: Listen to Zara Sa - Power Ballad, Dil Ibaadat Rock Version and Main Khuda (this last from the unreleased movie Paanch) if you want rock songs, and as for pop ballads, well, hey, Aasmaan Ke, Ae Aa O from Billu...

Also he's wonderful in the slow sort of song a la Ye Kahaan or Pyaar Ke Pal, as well as the comedy genre you brought up (Sitaram, Same Same But Different, No Way No Way.) Dance tracks like O Makhna Ve, Door Se Paas in club, O Jaana Remix for lounge, and he even excels in the limited suspense genre - Kaisa Ye Raaz Hai and Rabba Rabba.

Examples apart. I don't think there's any voice that can arouse more - or better - than KK's can.

Maybe it's just me, but there it is. Cheers.

Unknown said...

Cain you might be the biggest KK fan in the world.

Although I'd like to offer that the best voice in the suspense genre is probably Babul Supriyo. It's like Kumar Sanu but more ominous (in a good way).

Cain said...

Aspi, thank you for noting it; I'm proud of it and will always be.
I haven't much experience of Babul Supriyo, but from what I've heard of him I agree that he does sound similar to Kumar Sanu; however, I submit that it's for this very reason that he will tend to fall flat in the suspense genre. Can carry a tune, but can't carry the passion one needs to make something disturb you.

Anonymous said...

KK is the Best!
As Sonu Nigam says, "At Present, No One can challenge KK."

lubna anila said...

kk is the one of the best singers in bollywood.when kk sings he can touch any soul.i love his song pyaar ke pal

satellite said...

oh my god,i cant believe somebody said that mc could sing rock better than kk! KK is the god of indian rock.The only guy who i feel doesn't sing a song,HE LIVES A SONG.LoVE u KK!!

Abhinav Anand said...

On the contrary, i find Mohit's voice to be uni-dimensional, that suits only the soft romantic type songs!
On the other hand, KK is the most versatile singer today! May be you need to go through KK's discography again! KK is the only singer in India who can sing Rock songs! All of you must listen to the song Main Khuda from the unreleased movie called Paanch to understand what I mean!

Ankush Sharma said...

that is completely bullshit!!!! KK is much much better singer then Mohit... Mohit Chauhan is also a good singer m not telling that mihit is a bed singer but when we are comparing between KK and mohit, KK is very great... because he has melody in his voice and also versatility in his voice... he can bring high to low node from his voice and alsocan sing all type of song and mohit has limit..

Unknown said...

bc ye comedy article likhne wala maha-chutiya hai kya?
kahaan K.K. Sir ko gangu teli singer mohit 'ch'utiya se compare kar raha hai. K.K. Is 1 n only old, great singer who has been nominated in Globel Indian Music Awards. That's the power of KK's singing. Tere kehne se kuch nahi hota be, KK ALWAYS ROXXXXXX.....!

Unknown said...

Utter bullshit .
Just stopped reading after I read "KKs voice is unidimensional" Just shows your knowledge of music

Unknown said...

1.Tadap tadap ke - Qawali/sufi
2.Pyaar ke pal, oh meri jaan - Soft rock
3.Alvida - Hard rock
4.Door se paar - Trance
5.Awarapan banjarapan - sad song
6.Apdi pode - biggest tamil hit
7.innumerable romantic songs like tu hi meri shab hai , ajab si, zara si etc
8.Innumerable fast songs like its the time to disco , dus bahane , bardasht nahi kar sakta

Thats the range of the singer you just called UNIDIMENSIONAL.

KK is in the league of Kishore kumar , Rafi , Udit , Kumar shanu , Sonu Nigam etc

Please dont take Mohit chahan atif aslams name in the same breath .One is overated (mohit)by AR Rahman just like jawed ali and the other is basically shit (atif)

Unknown said...

KKs rock songs

Aap ki dua
O meri jaan
Main khuda

please tell me which song of Mohit do you call rock ? err do you even understand the meaning of rock ?

jitu said...

I.m.d bgst fan of kk no one cn bt him ok n his voice os incredble

Anonymous said...

If sachin gots out in zero then also sachin is sachin same applies to kk

Appu R Marak (Meghalaya) said...

When we say ''Sikander''...
Both KK and Mohit could've sang the Mohit version tune...
And Mohit KK's version of Sikandar....
Both Could've Tried ''Bheeni, Bheeni'' from the movie IQBAL....
Mohit Must try ''Alvida'' Life in Metro...
Mohit dares ''Tuka Guta Soy How, Tuka Pree Kata.. Oh Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.. Do u Know that I Love you(KK)''

Anonymous said...

U cant tell anything to kk he ia comparitively 100 times better than mohit....the qualities u wrote fr mohit are the qualities which kk has... N he is mesmerizing.....he sings wid heart... Ohhkkk dny dare to say anything lykdat...... Its kk's humble n polite behaviour which makes kk so good.. His devotion towards music... N respect for fan is d thing wch makes him diffrnt frm othrs... He has onr of the finest voice in industry which mohit doesnt have.....kk can adapt any mood whether it is sad romantic...rock... Pop...disco...or any mood he adapts him so well which mohit cant

Shanaya Kaur said...

KK is KK. Nobody can compare with him. KK is the god of the music who needs no any instruments. KK sings in a magic, not in a music. Infront of him Mohit Chauhan is a very very unidimensional, charmless and basic singer. Even sonu nigam fails infront of KK...Than who is Mohit??? Mohit has a bass, husky and rough voice where KK has a sweet, soft, melodious, mesmerising, delicious, hot and passionate voice. KK is a Honey-Bee who produces a sweet honey from his throat. I love U KK sir...Not only this, I respect and prefer only for U. Dont dissapoint us saying that KK is unidimensional. KK is a versatile singer. A person who has wrote this article might be a mad patient from a mental hospital. If his/her mental condition was OK than he/she would never say that Mohit...Sohit is better than my love KK. I am really furious...