I do not like singing for films: Parveen Sultana
She has sung iconic songs such as ‘Hamen tumse pyar kitna’ (Kudrat; 1981) and ‘Aan milo sajna’ (Gadar: Ek Prem Katha; 2001) but she identifies herself as a classical singer. Parveen Sultana believes that her Bollywood numbers became hit because they were based on classical ragas. “Classical music is the base for any kind of song,” says the singer, who has been enthralling audiences for decades. She adds, “People give me lot of love; for my concerts, halls are always full. This has been going on for 40 years.” Excerpts from the interview:
How has classical music changed over the years?
Sixty years ago, classical music used to be completely different. We used to have big mehfils, and we would perform around 9 to 10 shows in a month. However, now the time has changed, and we have to adapt and adjust according to the changing times. Earlier, we used to perform ragas for one to two hours, but now we hardly sing a raga for more than half an hour or 40 minutes. The entire scenario has changed. The main reason behind this is that people hardly have time nowadays and the next reason is money.
We get little sponsorship for classical music concerts. Besides a couple of famous artistes, sponsors don’t want to put money in anybody’s shows. And such famous people are few and far between. The rest of the people from our generation and our next generation, who are not too famous, are facing a lot of difficulties. They don’t get proper places to perform because organisers don’t get enough sponsorship to organise these shows.
Even if you have to book a small auditorium today, you have to pay around two to three lakh rent. On top of that there is this event management thing that has become big today. They organise everything so well but they also charge money. Small organisations conducting classical music concerts don’t have 10-20 lakh to give away to event organisers. So that’s why classical music, semi-classical music, folk music, folk art and ghazals have completely died out. There was a time when ghazals and sufi music was a rage. That’s not the case today. However, thankfully, classical music has held its ground in the society. The audience for classical music is very different.
How is the current generation of classical musicians different from your generation?
There is a lot of difference. Nowadays, people are very commercial. They imitate us when it comes to singing. I don’t mind it but imitate us properly — do it with proper knowledge of the subject and maintain your identity in the process.
Kids nowadays don’t want to work hard. After learning music for one or two years, they seek a chance to come on television. To such youngsters I say that if this is the kind of music you want to learn then don’t come to me. People don’t have manners today; they don’t know how they should talk to their gurus and how to sit in front of their gurus. Shorts aur minis pehen ke shastriya sangeet nahi hota hai, yeh hamari dharohar hai, hamari sanskriti hai (You cannot learn classical music by wearing shorts and mini [dresses]. This is our heritage, our culture).
Watch the full video of ‘Hamen tumse pyar kitna’ here:
How difficult it is to pursue classical music today?
Learning any art, which is beautiful and soothes your soul, will be expensive. Be it leaning music, cricket, football or anything else. You tell me one thing where you do not need money today? There is so much competition in every field and the same holds true with classical music. But there are also many organisations, which organise competitions and they give a platform to new musicians to sing and practice with veterans.
You have very few but iconic songs in Bollywood. Was it a conscious decision to stay away from Bollywood?
Yes, I don’t like singing for films because whatever songs I have sung in Bollywood, they are so nice that afterwards whatever offers I got, they didn’t match up to the previous ones; they didn’t reach my soul. And unless the song appeals to you, you shouldn’t sing it. If you don’t get satisfaction from your job, what’s the point of doing it? Whatever I do, I do it sincerely. I love music but somehow when I sing classical, I see God in it… I see my lover in it… So, that’s why this [classical] music is different for me.