Arijit singh detests media interviews. He really does. Our calls and messages to his phone went unanswered for days. His publicist couldn’t confirm an appointment for the longest time. When she finally scheduled a meeting, it came with a rider. “Please be patient. He’s one of the most media-shy persons I have seen,” she said of the 27-year-old singer, whose ‘Tum Hi Ho’ (Aashiqui 2) transformed him into an overnight sensation. That is why, when we meet Singh (about an hour before midnight at a decrepit recording studio in suburban Mumbai), we ask: Why hide?
“I hate being a celebrity,” says Singh, running his fingers through a tousled mop of curly hair. “I came into music because I loved it, not because I wanted to be famous. My singing career happened by fluke.” Singh wasn’t even aware when ‘Phir Mohabbat’ (Murder 2), his first Bollywood song, got released in 2011. “I’d sung it in 2009 and had forgotten about it. It was only when a friend of mine told me that I knew it had released. Even after it became a hit, my desire for playback didn’t grow, I was too busy programming music,” he says.
In fact, when, as an 18-year-old, Singh lined up for the auditions of Fame Gurukul (a music reality show) in 2005, it was not because he wanted to be a part of the Bollywood music industry. “It was to check where I stood. Unless you compete, you won’t know,” he says. Having grown up in West Bengal’s Murshidabad, he trained in classical music under Rajendra Prasad Hazari. And it was his guru who insisted that he audition for the show because “classical music was a dying tradition”.
At the time, music reality shows were a dime a dozen: Almost every television channel had one. That Fame Gurukul had singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan in the jury helped Singh make up his mind. “He was the only reason why I joined that show. He has a classical background and astounding versatility,” says Singh. “Shankarji and I have shared a unique relationship. He has helped me in the years after Fame Gurukul and continues to guide me even now. I have turned to him whenever I have been in financial trouble and he has given me work.”
In his role as a judge of the show, Mahadevan handled many a young talent. Some winners, too. But he’s reserved the fondest words for a lad who couldn’t even finish in the top 5 (Singh was placed No 6 in the show). “There are certain people whom you meet and they stay in your mind forever. You know that person has genuine talent and has to come up in life some time or the other. Arijit is that kind of a person,” says Mahadevan.
Though Singh couldn’t win Fame Gurukul, it gave him an excuse to stay back in Mumbai. He then entered another reality show, 10 Ke 10 Le Gaye Dil, a musical face-off between the winners of Fame Gurukul and Indian Idol. Singh not only won the battle of the titans, but also pocketed the prize money of Rs 10 lakh. Some friends wanted him to buy a Mercedes, some others asked him to invest his earnings, but he went along with the advice of a recordist from the show and built a recording setup of his own. That is where his journey with music programming began. The self-taught programmer freelanced with industry heavyweights, including Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar and Mithoon Sharma.
Those were the days when Bollywood playback was dominated by conventional voices—ones that could fit any leading man—and opportunities for a character voice, as Singh regarded himself, were bleak. Mahadevan recounts his frustration when he once tried to convince a producer to retain Singh’s version of a certain song. “I told him Arijit was the voice of the future, but he insisted that he wanted a ‘popular’ voice,” he says. Mahadevan had to eventually get the song dubbed by another singer.
Check out our Festive offers upto Rs.1000/- off website prices on subscriptions + Gift card worth Rs 500/- from Eatbetterco.com. Click here to know more.
(This story appears in the 26 December, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)
Arijit Singh is my best singer. l m the biggest fan of arijit Singh and he is my inspiration machine......on Aug 8, 2016
Arijit....I am your....Fan..on Jun 23, 2016
Hii arijit sir I'm a huge n a greatest fan of urs sir I want 2 have a life like u sir everyday I listen to ur songs n everyday I practice those songs... U r a invisible guru for me and I'm a blind student of urs... My only dream in life is to meet to meet u a day sir... Thank you soooo much for everything u gave me sir... I love u sir... U r more than anything to me sir...on May 15, 2016
My favourite singer is Arijit Singh. I cannot complete my day without hearing your song. Your voice is god gifted.on Mar 31, 2016
Arijit sir,Music is nothing without you. Whenever i hear your song i start crying. You are my real Guru.on Feb 27, 2016
I cant even think of a day, without listening to your songs. I adore you. You are my biggest inspiration. I want to meet you.on Feb 11, 2016
ARJIT SIR YOU ARE A GOD GIFTED FOR ME IF YOU ARE NOT THERE THEN MIGHT I WONT DISCOVER MY MUSIC CAREER AND YOU ARE ALSO MY IDOL WANNA BE LIKE YOU. AND SIR YOUR ARE MY GURUon Dec 19, 2015
out standing singing \'\'the god is great that we can say from him \'\' and his songs are sweet memories for me and to became a singer who supported him. i really appreciate them. THANK YOUon Oct 20, 2015
arijit u r my best singer. i cannot complete my day without listening your songon Aug 2, 2015
Arijit singh god of Indian music He sang the song directly from heart Without his voice my day is totally incomplete My six years old son rishi is also a big fan of arijit and already watch two live show of Arijiton Jul 1, 2015
Most talented superb singer in Bollywood we have. Arjit sings from his hearton Jun 24, 2015
i love you arijit singh and i love your all song butt especaliy sannso ko jene ka sahara mil geyaon Jun 22, 2015
Hello Arijit da ,kemon acho ,khub miss korchi Kolkatar showgolo. Come soon to Kolkata to meet your fans we r waiting for u . with lots of love and respect from this little sister cum biggest fan of yours.tataon Jun 11, 2015
Arjithsingh jii... ur wrds such an inspirable written n forbes... smply I luv it.. really u a common man wid gr8 heart...♡on Jun 3, 2015
what a voice yar......... ARIJIT SINGH is no.1 idol of India. you are number one and awesome singer on earth. I love your all song of AASHIQUI 2. .............. TUM HI HO.....on May 29, 2015
I AM Big Fans of U....Love Uon May 4, 2015
I just love your songs , they are awesome .I 11 years old and you have inspired me to sing.It has been 3 years since I have been working on music.I just want to say you are the BEST.on May 3, 2015
am a big fan of urs sir and i wanna become a singr like u ....i luv al ur songs ....!!!on Apr 21, 2015
I m big fan of your voice...I really loved iton Apr 4, 2015
arijit u r da bst singer..... love u arijit may god bless u kyun ki tum hi ho....on Mar 29, 2015
I love u Arijit Sir n ur voice too my cuteeeeee piiii. U always mesmorise me from ur voice....:-):-):-):-):-)on Mar 19, 2015
I love u n ur voice tooo..... U know that u r my cuteeeeee piiiiiiiiii...... u always sing n mesmorise meon Mar 19, 2015
what a voice...sir...i\'m sure that one of the most singer in this earth is u...only u...keep it up.. god bless u sir.. ASHIS KUMAR SINGHon Mar 16, 2015
Arijit sir I m big fan of you.....I love your voice & songs you are solid& best singer in the world.......tum hi ho singer tum hi ho......take careon Feb 8, 2015
Arijit sir I love your voice and songs you are best singer in the world I m big fan of you .....your voice really nice.....you are the solid &best singer....on Feb 8, 2015
I\'m ur big big big fan. You &your voice both are awesome. Keep it up All the best ................on Feb 3, 2015
Arijit sir I'm biggest fan of yours. You r the best singer of the world...god bless youon Jan 19, 2015
Totally luv his voice.ALL his songs are superhit. Other singers should be scared now.on Dec 27, 2014
Very fine piece. One of the first I have read on Arijit Singh. He is a good singer no doubt, but only time will tell if he is the best.on Dec 20, 2014
Sir g u r jst awsm gd bls hop I meet u 1dy rly u r a genius..........ma al tm favrt.......on Dec 20, 2014
Arijit, I can\'t get enough of your voice, you have the most amazing voice I have heard in a long time. Thank you for being a singer.on Dec 20, 2014
Arijit you are the next singing superstar..Wish to meet you personally someday..Best wishes for 2015 and years to come:-)on Dec 18, 2014
You are awsome singar....godbless youon Dec 17, 2014
its awesome to know about u so much Arijit. Really u r the expression of 21st century. God bless u keep singing.on Dec 17, 2014
Arijit has got an awesome voice but really miss KK now. He was the best.on Dec 17, 2014
You are awesome, keep it going - The way you feel is right. Thats your might :)on Dec 16, 2014
I really love Arigit Singh\'s songs very much.and that has inspired me to be an upcoming classical musicians. I love You Bro. much love.on Jan 16, 2019
The oxygen of song..... Heart of all...... Living legend.. ARIJIT SINGH ❤💙🙂on Jun 10, 2020