Blending classic Hindi songs with Westernised music and English lyrics, Neeraj Shridhar made the term ‘cover’ (remake and recreation of old songs) a cool trend in India in early 2000.
The lead vocalist of Bombay Vikings, a pop and rock band, Shridhar created the now famous remixed versions like Kya soorat hai, Woh chali, Chod do anchal, Hawa mein udta jaaye. Neeraj, who has also belted out film numbers like Hare Krishna Hare Ram, Tum mile, Tumhi ho bandhu, Character dheela, Papa toh band bajaye, is all geared up to release his first single this July.
“I am working on a new line of compositions of which I will be releasing two in July. I am looking forward to a lot of individual projects under the brand — Bombay Vikings,” says he. Here’s more from the singer:
You have a long journey spanning two decades where you have given us some beautiful songs. How would you describe your journey as a band?
My journey has been very interesting with a mix of challenging as well as milestone moments. When I started, I would think a lot on what kind of music would please the crowd and appreciate my efforts. There were a lot of hardships too.
For instance, my studio was robbed while the song Woh chali was in the making. Therefore I had to re-do my stuff, the lyrics etc and pull myself back to do its recording. When life threw challenges at me, I never gave up. When I look back today, I say ‘wow!’ to myself and I am also grateful to people for their love and acceptance.
Your songs are a unique blend of old classic hit Hindi numbers and English lyrics. How did you think of it and how do you select the songs?
When I was in Sweden, I had formed the band Bombay Vikings and we would have our rehearsals often. One day when I was on my way for my rehearsals to a town 45 minutes away from Sweden, the train was empty.
The landscape and scenario at that moment reminded me of the song Meri sapno ki rani from Aradhana and I started singing the song. I suddenly forgot the lyrics so I started humming English words in the same tune, not realising what I had done.
I sang the same during our rehearsals and the boys loved it. I came back home, recorded it in my small personal studio. People close to me loved the composition. This is how I kept recording one song after another.
You have also been actively doing playback in films. How different is it from singing for your band? What do you enjoy the most?
I definitely enjoy doing my own stuff more. Any composer or artist would love creating their own music as you can give shape to words in your own way. To play your own instrument, mix songs and presenting it to the world in your way is fun. While working for someone else, there is not much scope to mix and match, or change the lyrics as it is already confined to a script/story/film.
You created remixed songs in an era where it wasn’t a huge trend. What challenges did you face in creating an acceptance for the genre?
I have faced both appreciation and criticism for my work and bring in a new form of music. A very vivid experience I hold is of a person saying to me at a press conference, ‘You are spoiling our language’. This he uttered in English! There were some more comments that ‘I have spoiled the songs that the industry has produced’.
I completely disagree with such remarks as I have only made the songs more respectful by remixing and changing the lyrics. That is what fetched acceptance for my kind of songs.
What is your comment on the current trend of remixes in Bollywood? Despite their popularity, a lot of musicians are criticising them for the lack of originality and creativity.
Music should always come with a message and when the message is altered or disrespected, it is not acceptable. While remixing a song, one should always do it thinking that the youngsters will follow it and take it further. It is a composer’s responsibility towards the song’s audience. People should think over it.